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Lessons & Activities

NGA Classroom Reinvented

Organized into thematic units, each grade-level-specific lesson plan focuses on a single work of art and can be executed within one to two class periods. These lessons meet National Art Education Association (NAEA) Visual Arts curriculum standards.

Modern Art
Grade Level: 9–12

Explore the artistic movements of the late 20th century, including pop art, conceptualism, neo-expressionism, and post-modernism, and develop studio projects for your students. Lessons included in this unit are:

A Sense of Place: France
Grade Level: 9–12

Featuring stunning film footage in France, these lessons are centered on the landscapes, studios, and living quarters that inspired artists to create some of the National Gallery of Art's most famous paintings. Activities encourage students to fully immerse themselves not only into the settings featured in the films, but, also into their own surroundings. Lessons included in this unit are:

Who Am I?: Self-Portraits in Art & Writing
Grade Level: 5–10

Designed to help middle school students begin to answer the important question: "Who Am I?", these lessons use self-portraits from the National Gallery of Art's collection to inspire students to create their own self-portraits, poems, speeches, and letters. Lessons included in this unit are:

The Elements of Art
Grade Level: 1–4

The goal of this unit is to introduce students to the basic elements of art and to show students how artists use these elements in different ways in their work. In the unit, students will answer questions as they look carefully at paintings and sculpture to identify the elements and analyze how they are used by different artists. Individual lessons focus on each element of art:

Counting on Art
Grade Level: 1–8

Students will explore the paintings of Horace Pippin and Wayne Thiebaud and the mobiles of Alexander Calder to discover and practice math and visual art concepts. Background and biographical information about the work of art and artist, guided looking with class discussion, and activities with worksheets using mathematical formulas and studio art provide the framework for each lesson. Lessons included in this unit are:

New Angles on Art
Grade Level: 6–10

Do art and math have anything in common? How do artists and architects use math to create their works? In these lessons, students will explore the intersection of math and art in the works of two artists and one architect for whom mathematical concepts (lines, angles, two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional polyhedra, fractions, ratios, and permutations) and geometric forms were fundamental. Lessons included in this unit are:

Greco-Roman Origin Myths
Grade Level: 5–6

Mythology is a powerful vehicle for teaching students about symbols and the ways people have sought to explain their relationships to nature and to each other. Teachers can use these lessons and works of art to introduce or examine the role of myths in explaining human customs, mysteries about nature, or the reasons why things exist in the world. Lessons and myths included in this unit are:

Art & Ecology
Grade Level: 5–8

Artists are often particularly keen observers and precise recorders of the physical conditions of the natural world. As a result, paintings can be good resources for learning about ecology. Teachers can use these lessons to examine with students the interrelationship of geography, natural resources, and climate and their effects on daily life. These lessons also address the roles students can take in caring for the environment. Lessons included in this unit are:

19th-Century America in Art & Literature
Grade Level: 5–8

In the United States, the nineteenth century was a time of tremendous growth and change. The new nation experienced a shift from a farming economy to an industrial one, major westward expansion, displacement of native peoples, rapid advances in technology and transportation, and a civil war. In these lessons, works of art from the nineteenth century are paired with written documents to be used as primary sources for students to reconstruct the influence of technology, geography, economics, and politics on daily life. Lessons included in this unit are:

Heroes & Heroines
Grade Level: 5–8

Students will look at works of art depicting military, religious, political, and everyday heroes and heroines and discuss their lives and the effects of their deeds. Teachers can use these lessons to introduce or examine in depth the concept of heroism through discussions of heroic actions and character. Lessons included in this unit are: