Lesson Plans

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3D “Special Space” Painting

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

In Child’s Blue Wall, 1962, Jim Dine combines painting and sculpture to create both a realistic depiction of a child’s bedroom and an abstract painting of a night sky. Through the inclusion of physical objects and the re-creation of a domestic scene, Dine also elicits emotion from the viewer. Child’s Blue Wall invites memories of childhood spaces. In this lesson, students will make connections between art and their own experiencesStudents will re-create a space that has a personal special meaning in the form of a three-dimensional painting.

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Animal Sculpture

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Throughout history, artists have found inspiration in their fellow artists and past artistic styles and movements. While Edgar Degas, Louise Nevelson, and Marino Marini each have a unique artistic style and process, each has used the horse as a subject in their sculptures. Through the study and comparison of these artists and their sculptural works, this lesson plan examines different artist styles through the theme of animals. Students will create a sculpture of an animal inspired by the style of one of the artists studied in this lesson.

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Beyond Landscape

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Best known for his monumental textured paintings, German artist Anselm Kiefer’s encrusted surfaces of thick impasto confront themes of memory, history, identity, and culture. Through texture, Kiefer’s landscape paintings portray rough emotions and symbols with meaning to the artist. In this lesson, students will explore the principles of texture and landscape while reflecting on the personal significance landscapes may have on different people’s lives. 

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Creating a Print: Line Etchings

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Twentieth-century French artist Georges Braque made many contributions to the art world. A co-founder of Cubism along with Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Braque created works that contain geometric shapes, a variety of lines, and simultaneous perspectives. Braque started his career as a painter but his art evolved over the course of his life. His etchings, which he created toward the end of his career, embody his Cubist ideals. Inspired by Braque’s printmaking, this project explores the process of creating an etching. 

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Exploring Art and the Senses

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

During the nineteenth century, when French paintings often depicted romanticized scenes of daily life, artist Gustave Courbet chose to paint “observed realities,” making bold statements on society with his artwork. Criticized for painting peasants and workers, Courbet captured life including scenes from his home region, Ornans, France. One of the area’s natural wonders is the source of the Loue River, which flows through Ornans. Courbet was fascinated by the geologic structure of this caved grotto. In La Source de la Loue, ca. 1864, Courbet painted this special place realistically, adding textural features intended to awaken the viewer’s senses. This lesson explores the way art can be experienced through the senses and how the senses can inspire artmaking.

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Grid Self-Portrait

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Artist Chuck Close creates large-scale portraits in a unique way. Through the use of a grid system, Close creates paintings that are composed of many squares. Like an illusion, when viewing one of these paintings close up, one sees an array of squares filled with abstract shapes and colors. Upon further observation, and when viewed from a distance, a portrait appears that is formed by these separate square compositions. Close’s mathematical approach to structuring his work, combined with his abstract flair, results in energetic portraits. This lesson—which is inspired by the different elements of Close’s portraits—reinforces the elements of shape, color, and value in creating unique self-portraits. 

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Kinetic Art Mobiles

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

With a degree in mechanical engineering and a passion for the arts, Alexander Calder experimented with Kinetic art through the creation of two different types of sculpture: the mobile and the stabile. Composed of delicately balanced components that respond to air currents, Calder’s mobiles are graceful and poised. In contrast, stabiles are non-moving sculptures. The Cone, 1960, combines elements of mobile and stabile sculptures. This lesson is inspired by the mobile art of Alexander Calder and the theory of kinetic energy, with a focus on the principles of balance and movement. 

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Memory Collage

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8)
Lesson Type: Collection

Known for his narrative collage work, Romare Bearden created scenes that reflect traditional stories and contemporary life. The themes in Bearden’s works are often relatable, containing modern commentary on well-known parables. For example, Bearden reimagined the parable of the Prodigal Son in his 1967 collage Return of the Prodigal Son. In this lesson, students will study both the ancient parable of the Prodigal Son and Bearden’s more modern collage, exploring the similarities, differences, and themes of the two works. Inspired by the story’s tone, students will create collages that reflect family memories of their own in the style of Romare Bearden. 

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Monochromatic Assemblage

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Royal Game I, 1961, is a golden monochromatic assemblage composed of found materials that the artist Louise Nevelson collected around the city. Nevelson transforms these random bits of wooden furniture, scrap materials, and frames into a unified and harmonious sculpture. In this lesson, students will learn about the artist and her compositions, and create their own found-object assemblage sculpture. 

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Narrative Diorama

Grade Level: Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

In France in the late nineteenth-century, Paul Gauguin was among a group of artists who believed that color, line, and shape could be used to portray feelings and emotions rather than simply rendering the visible world. The symbolic narrative of The Yellow Christ, 1889, depicts pious devotion and folklore from the Brittany region of France. Enhanced by the colors and images in the painting, the foreground, middle ground, and background of The Yellow Christ reads like a scene from a story. In this lesson, students will make connections between the foreground, middle ground, and background of a story and an artwork, while creating their own diorama emphasizing those layers.

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Painting an Impression

Grade Level: Elementary School (Grades K–5), Middle School (Grades 6–8), High School (Grades 9–12)
Lesson Type: Collection

Impressionist paintings are categorized by bright colors and loose brushstrokes meant to represent the impression a viewer has on a moment. The effects of light on a scene are also a characteristic of many Impressionist paintings. Claude Monet’s Chemin de halage à Argenteuil (Towpath at Argenteuil, Winter), 1875–76, gives the viewer an impression of a cold gray winter’s day in a suburb of Paris. In this lesson, students will become inspired by Impressionism and create their own technique and styled landscape painting.

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