Teaching Tools and Resources

How-To Guides for Teachers

How to Read an Artwork as a Primary Source (PDF)

Learning to Look: Integrating Social Studies and the Visual Arts (PDF)

Teaching Posters

Mrs. James Smith and Grandson (PDF)

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (PDF)

A Visit From the Old Mistress (PDF)

Storm King on the Hudson (PDF)

In the Garden (Celia Thaxter in Her Garden) (PDF)

Bar and Grill (PDF)

Dust Bowl (PDF)

The Library (PDF)

Preamble (PDF)

Tar Beach I (La Playa Negra I) (PDF)

SAAM on Smarthistory

Watch the videos, read the essays and lesson plans, and take the quizzes.

Roger Shimomura, Diary: December 12, 1941
 “Superman, World War II, and Japanese-American Experience”

Millard Sheets, Tenement Flats
American Resilience and the Great Depression”

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, State Names
 “What’s in a Map? Reading the United ‘States'”

Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
 “The Painting That Inspired a National Park”

Emmanuel Leutze, Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (mural study for the United States Capitol building)
 “Envisioning Manifest Destiny during the Civil War”

SAAM Teacher Guides and Resources

Explore dozens of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s free educational materials. Discover how to integrate art into your classroom—whatever subject you teach!

The following in-depth resource has been created specifically for a K-12 audience:

Smithsonian Teacher and Student Resources

Collecting Their Thoughts: Telling a Painting’s Stories  – Smithsonian Education

  • In this activity your students can express their unique responses to art by writing stories inspired by paintings in an art museum. Before they put their imaginations to work, each person will have a chance to get to know a painting by observing it closely, making a list of its details, and writing a description of it. Such an exercise will help them understand the value of careful observation as a precursor to descriptive and creative writing. It may also help them learn how to look at and truly see a work of art for the first time.

Art to Zoo: Using Museums to Inspire Student Writing – Smithsonian Education

  • In this resource Art to Zoo, students tap into the tales stored in museums. Teachers will find ideas for using museums and other community resources (such as nature centers, historic buildings, public sculpture, and landmarks), as springboards for various forms of writing. Includes worksheets, a bibliography of resources, and a pull-out page in English and Spanish.

Beyond the Frame – Smithsonian Education

  • These lessons encourage students to delve into the meanings of artwork and the history of the artists and their subjects. Features pieces from Smithsonian collections.


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