1 Nezuru

Fun Art History Assignments

See also posts and resources shared on AHTR (gohvso.prodejce.cz)

First Day of Class Assignments

In addition to providing important information about the class, my primary goal for the first day is for me to learn about students&#; existing knowledge, skills, and familiarity with art and art history.  While the class is arriving, I often have slides of well-known artworks on screen (ie: Starry Night, a statue of the Buddha, the pyramids at Giza) and ask students to write a few sentences telling me anything they might know about one of the objects.  I sometimes have them repeat this exercise with the same images at the end of the semester as a measure of how their skills and knowledge have changed.

In some classes&#;especially those where I want to incorporate social media or other technology based platforms&#;I send out advance google form surveys to learn more about the skills and social media preferences of the class.  I also included some &#;learning profile&#; questions in this surveywhich helped me frame a student-led course.  I&#;ve recently begun emphasizing information about student learning in my first meeting with a new class.  See this blog post for details.

To solve two common problems (the need to learn many names/faces and the need for them to actually review all the information on the syllabus), I devised these other assignments:

Selfie Introductions: This is a quick assignment students can do after class or during a break.  I ask them to take a selfie and write one or two sentences saying what their image says about them.  I have them upload these to their e-portfolios (I&#;ve been using Google Drive lately for these) and I review/comment on them before the next class.  They&#;re also great to have for reference throughout the early part of the semester.  

&#;Best Class Ever&#; Course Evaluation:The goals of this post-class reflection paper are 1) to have students review closely syllabus details such as class schedule, planned topics and discussions, and required assignments; and 2) for me to learn the range of students&#; expectations, interests, and individual learning objectives for the class.  I use their responses to make subsequent decisions about specific content and to address any misperceptions about what the course will address.  

Prompt for Reflection Paper #1 (Spring )

Flash forward to May.  It’s warm outside, and you’ve just turned in your last project. Now that classes are all over, you can’t believe how great your experience in Art Matters was this semester!   Write a brief post of words (about double spaced typed pages) describing what you found most interesting and what you think will be most valuable to your work in the coming years.  Refer to specific assignments and topics (use things on the syllabus or make up other you think might also achieve the course objectives) and explain how they contributed to your experience in the course.

Writing Assignments and Rubrics

Semester long writing project: 

The three assignments below were designed to be iterative in order to provide students formative feedback to improve their art history writing skills.  Students choose an object from a local museum at the beginning of the semester as the basis for all papers in the course.  Each writing assignment is preceded by a classroom discussion and collaborative practice, and students must turn in a draft for peer/instructor review that is included in their final grade.  Students have the option to revise and resubmit previously graded papers with their final portfolio, which is due at the end of the semester;  these must include their original graded paper, their revised paper, and an inventory of how they addressed specific problems or responded to instructor comments and feedback.

3-in-1 Description (adapted from Jennifer Hock, MICA) with Grading Rubric
Learning objective: Students should write clear descriptive statements using strong active verbs and carefully chosen words, which might be used in longer subsequent assignments.  

Formal Analysis (includes rubric)
Learning objective: Students should rely on their own observations and critical analysis to support their interpretation of a work of art

Interpretative Research Paper (includes rubric)
Learning objective:  Students should use art historical methods and academic research, including appropriate citation of sources, to support their interpretation of a work of art. 

Active Learning Methods and In-Class Activities

Class Debate (Proposition: The notion of artist as genius is a myth)
This is an easily managed fun activity that engages most students, and encourages reflection and metacognitive processing on ideas raised by outside readings, research, and class discussion.  It can easily be adapted to class sessions of different lengths by requiring students to prepare outside of class, and used to address different topics and issues in a range of humanities classes.

For a 3-hour foundation-level class where we&#;d been discussing the historical role of artists, I assigned students  Linda Nochlin&#;s &#;Why have there been no great women artists?&#;; Vasari&#;s chapter on Michelangelo from The Lives of the Artists; and asked them to watch The Agony and the Ecstasy (available on Netflix.)   In class, our discussion first addressed the notion of &#;artist as genius&#;&#;focusing on Vasari&#;s biographical approach to art history, the Hollywood representation of this concept, and Nochlin&#;s critique of systemic patriarchy in art&#;s institutions.

Students draw their roles (pro; con; or judge) randomly from a bag, and break up into small groups to research and develop their arguments.  I work with the &#;judges&#; who decide the rules of the debate and develop rubrics that they then share with each team&#;they also observe each team&#;s research process to help assess group engagement and participation. Typically, the judges choose to assess the logic and consistency of the team&#;s argument, participation of everyone on the team, and ability to defend their position against counter arguments.  After the debate, we discuss the merits of both sides&#; arguments, and the judges must write up a summary of their reasons for their determination of the winner.

I offer extra credit for participation.  The winning team receives 3 points; the losing team receives 1 point; and the judges receive 2 points.  The surprise of this activity has consistently been the engagement of the judges and seriousness with which they approach their tasks.

Also see my  blog post on collaboration in the classroom for descriptions of collaborative writing, and a project to translate a scholarly article into a graphic novel&#;great for studio art students!

For research on using group work effectively in this article by Alison Burke, Using Group Work Effectively, The Journal of Effective Teaching () and in Brame, C.J. and Biel, R. Setting up and facilitating group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively ().

Research and Critical Thinking Assignments

How to Study On-line: This short discussion-based activity was designed to ensure students engage with assigned on-line resources in an active and critical way.  It resulted from student feedback about challenges with on-line content delivery, as well as my own experience transitioning to e-books and multi-media OERs that demand new models of reading, note-taking, and organization.  

Click here for a pdf of the assignment: How to study on-line.  (Update Fall  I now have students complete a Google form  which is submitted anonymously.  It allows them to self-assess how well they retained information and helps me know what tools I need to discuss during class).

It&#;s best to have students review the on-line materials prior to class because of 1) user limitations on library subscriptions to on-line journals, and  2) the tendency to engage with podcasts and videos more passively in a group when they cannot pause or otherwise control the material. 

Note: This activity was the final part of a workshop  &#;The Technology of Modern Art,&#; conducted during the first week of class.   The workshop&#;s goal was to introduce students to key technologies they&#;d be using routinely throughout the semester (on-line readings, podcasts, blog posts, and electronic portfolios) by having them perform different tasks on their laptops, while working in small groups.   Additionally, the class spends time brainstorming different approaches to studying on line materials.  This is also a good opportunity to share information about notetaking apps.  Some I&#;ve found useful include Evernote, Notability, gohvso.prodejce.cz, and SuperNote.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Access on-line materials for study purposes
  • Distinguish passive and active methods of viewing videos and podcast
  • Identify strategies and/or technologies for remembering information delivered on-line
  • Recognize different approaches used to read and interact with on-line text

Women in Art On-line Assignment:  I designed this activity to solve a practical problem I discovered the  first semester I taught at Georgetown.  Although the registrar says classes must be held on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, GU students rarely attend.  That first year only ONE student (out of 34 in Intro. to Art History) actually showed up.  My solution the next time I taught in the fall ( Intro to Modern Art) was to develop an assignment that could be done completely on-line (on campus or remotely) and had to be submitted by the end of the scheduled class.  

It also addressed a  major pedagogical concern for my survey courses:  Due to the large class size and quantity of material, I didn&#;t have a strong research assignment, so students didn&#;t learn where to find or how to discern good critical and academic resources for study in the field.  

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify and access academic on-line resources for art historical research through the university library&#;s website.
  • Use an academic resource to conduct art historical research.
  • Assess one&#;s existing knowledge about female artists in the 20th century.

Looking for Printed Treasure:  I recently began working with Anna Simon, Research and Instruction Librarian at GU&#;s Lauinger Library, to develop assignments that would have students perform basic research tasks using library resources on-line and in print.  It grew out of our conversations about what students (and scholars) may lose through increased reliance on digital materials and electronic research methods.  For example, we often find useful resources serendipitously while browsing library stacks for an unrelated text, or perusing the tables of contents and footnotes in journals.  Although we are still developing specific learning outcomes and assignment details, our primary goal is to have students recognize the benefits of engaging directly with archival and print materials. If you&#;re interested, take  a look at this presentation about this issue in relation to our use of JStor. 

Bring a Book to Class Day 

(ARTH website)  (download document)
This assignment was designed to supplement a class discussion of Fauvism and Expressionism in the early 20th century.  Students had been given on-line readings and podcasts to learn about the topic.  After completing the readings, they were tasked with performing some basic research using the library&#;s on-line catalog, and then choosing a book to check out and bring to class the next day to share as a &#;show and tell&#; in small groups.  I also had them submit via e-portfolio the relevant bibliographic information and a brief explanation of why they chose a book.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Use the library&#;s on-line catalog to perform a subject search using key words
  • Locate/check out print resources from the library stacks
  • Distinguish different types of art historical publications including monographs, anthologies, collections of primary source documents, exhibition catalogues, and survey texts
  • Discern usefulness of a resource based on introductory matter, illustrations, and brief review of text.


Notably, more than one student in the class commented that this assignment was the first time they had actually checked out a book from the library.  In addition to the planned outcomes, the assignment was helpful for introducing material and methodological approaches to the topic that I had not included.  For example, one student brought in a book on Expressionist portraiture, which addressed more representational artists associated with the movement after WWI.  Another found an exhibition catalogue that focused on the preliminary study and production process of a single work by Kandinsky, which challenged her assumptions that nonobjective painting required little thought or planning.  Also, several students mistakenly chose books on Abstract Expressionism, which offered the opportunity to distinguish the later American movement and to call attention to pitfalls one encounters when using key words to search for resources.  

Object-Based Learning Assignments

Teaching around DC, I want students to take advantage of the wealth of local (mostly free!) resources for engaging with art, but it&#;s difficult to schedule required trips for an entire class.  Moreover, taking 35 students for a one-hour visit to a major museum doesn&#;t offer much opportunity for active learning.  Below are a few assignments that I designed as individual and group activities to engage students and encourage them to think more critically, both about art and its exhibition in a museum setting.

Adaptable Ideas and Strategies(Note: there&#;s extensive literature on museum education/gallery teaching techniques that can be adapted to support learning outcomes for a variety of courses and learning levels.  A good place to start is gohvso.prodejce.cz)

  • Index cards can be your best friend in museum galleries.  Have students look for a designated time on their own and write down on their card a question, an observation, a connection to class based on one object. Then ask them to exchange cards, pair-share, or facilitate a group discussion in the gallery or post-visit. See how many made similar comments. They can also be useful for reflective writing that you can collect as a means of assessment.
  • Close looking activities: Have students look quietly at the same object for a sustained time and then go around sharing one observation. Group them in twos or threes and choose a work to talk about for 7 minutes. Give them a menu of possible conversation starters. Sketch-based activities can also encourage close looking and are great for acknowledging how sculpture/architecture is seen differently from different points of view. Have them consider curatorial decisions around display, juxtapositions, and viewer access. All of these work best with some preparation before the students visit the museum.

Art and Experience in the Baltimore Museum of ArtI designed this activity with several goals in mind:  I wanted the students to visit the museum where they&#;d choose an object for study throughout the semester, but I also wanted to encourage them to think about different ways we engage with visual objects today.  Inspired by Jennifer Robert&#;s blog post &#;The Power of Patience,&#; museum educator Rika Burnham&#;s work on slow looking, and my own curiosity with how we distinguish the &#;experience of art&#; virtually and in real life, this assignment is typically done on the students&#; own time as preparation for a series of formal writing assignments that take place throughout the semester.  

SAAM Scavenger Hunt: This activity forces (yes, that&#;s the right word) students to visit a brick and mortar museum and familiarize themselves with the collection, layout, and experience of looking closely at primary objects.  (Designed for an introductory modern art survey covering present, I chose the Smithsonian American Art Museum in order to expose students to a broader range of American art than what&#;s covered in the course, and to encourage them to think about what&#;and why&#;information is left out of the classes they take.)  

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify different types of art on view at the museum.
  • Find information using museum didactics and object labels.
  • Talk about the impact and possible reasons for the way objects are displayed in museums
  • Point out visual or thematic relationships in two or more works of art.
  • Develop a written explanation supporting their opinion about a work of art

Audioguide Project:

Update to Assignment (Fall )
This project, which has developed with the support of GU&#;s CNDLS TLT staff, builds on formal analysis papers I&#;ve traditionally assigned in introductory art history courses.  Students work individually and in groups over the course of the project, which develops over the last two months of the semester.   Although students were initially apprehensive, their feedback was extraordinarily positive at the end of the project.  One of my favorite comment came from a senior non-major who had never taken an art history course.  Smiling broadly after her final presentation, she told me:  
&#;It was neat&#;getting to be the teacher.  I&#;d thought I could not ever do that.  But, I did.&#;

Learning Objectives:

  • Create an original visual analysis based on observation of an object in the National Gallery of art.
  • Demonstrate ability to communicate ideas about art (orally and in writing) to audiences with either specialized or general knowledge.
  • Apply appropriate terminology and concepts in a discussion of art.
  • Collaborate and contribute to a team project.
  • Use technology to create a shared educational resource.

Art History Teaching Resources asked me to write guest posts detailing this project.  See the following links for a more extensive discussion of the details, challenges, and successes:Developing a Student Audioguide, Part 1 (rationale and logistics)Developing a Student Audioguide, Part 2 (evaluation and reflections)
Grading Rubrics

AACU Value Rubrics

Formal Analysis RubricAudioguide Podcast Rubric

Group Project/Teamwork Rubric

Art History Can Be Fun!

Ideas from Teachers

Submitted to Getty TeacherArtExchange
Middle School and High School - ElementaryArt Games
Many of these ideas are adaptable for different levels.


Artist's Un-Birthday Party - Submitted by Christa Wise

In my high school, students have a lot of fun with an un-birthday party. They randomly draw an artist's name from a "hat." They must look up this artist and read enough about him/her that they can come up with six items that would make good gifts for the artist. They wrap the six presents in a box that is constructed/painted in the artist's style. At the "party," each student opens his/her box and explains why these items would be appreciated by the artist and show examples of the artist's work to help everyone understand the style of the wrapping for the present. Naturally we also have cake and milk.

For instance: In a clear plastic box with black electrical tape edges ("beams,") a student presented the International School work of the architect Philip Johnson (best known for his glass and beam home in Connecticut). Included were a small set of blueprints, round black eyeglasses (his signature look), and other stuff I don't remember. In the Monet box we found a small Japanese bridge, artificial water lilies, and sunglasses that this "plein aire" painter would have found useful. Renoir got arthritis cream among other stuff, Frank Lloyd Wright got blocks, and Mary Cassatt had a baby doll.

I think this kind of project requires the students to read and use higher order thinking skills to synthesize what these artists might have valued in their lives -- maybe makes them more real than a report often simply down-loaded from the internet. Adapting the style of the artist to the wrapping for the present is a different spin on the time-honored assignment of working "in the manner of" a famous artist.

We display the final pieces with a small 3 x 5 ( x cm) card next to each of the six present items to explain why these things were chosen for the box. There is a lot of interest in looking at each others' presents, and I think this is a pretty good way to expose students to a lot of artists at once. It isn't deep, but I think it is pretty effective and fun!


Christa added in a separate email: Sometimes I do this before visiting an art museum. I choose artists whose work we will be seeing getting everyone a little familiar. When kids split in groups, there are four "experts" on four artists in every group.


Sara Gant did the Unbirthday lesson with her students and they had a party to celebrate. From Sara: The kids did do birthday invitations to teachers who had planning periods at that time, as well as admin/office people etc. I had one class doing it. I brought in a cake and they brought drinks, brownies, cookies, etc. The birthday presents truly showed that the students were making connections and had learned about their artist. One boy did Dali and had put a mustache trimmer in his box Someone else did Keith Haring and had put a condom in it- knowing full well the artist had died of Aids. See Sara's Lesson plan


Artist's Trading Cards - Submitted by Christa Wise

Before taking an overnight trip to Chicago, I had students choose a topic from my list (of stuff I knew we'd see). Each student had to make four trading cards, like baseball cards, for their topic. We had a standard template they could find on the computer. We printed up all the cards (30 students times four -- cards) and made a set for each of the participants.

Then, when parents were present at the at final details meeting before the trip, we had students sit with their roommates (four to a group) and had a Quiz Bowl about the facts on the cards. The winning team were declared kings/queens of the trip, and got to have "first pick" of everything -- where to sit on the bus, bigger candy bars at break, choice of rooms.

It was good preparation and gave them a lot of information. We had lots of carry-over, students spieling off information from the cards to impress docents or peers. It got to be a game.


See sample cards (PDF's): Sample front showing photograph/portrait and imageSample front (no images) Sample back - You just need a blank template for inserting the information on the back of the cards.

Sample template and box pattern - from Chia's Rubber Stamp Art

See the Art History Timeline high school lesson


Gallery Talk - Submitted by Marcia in Illinois (See also Living Painting)

I use drama with my senior studio class. Each year they create and perform Living Paintings at the Student Art Show opening. (See examples of the integration of art and drama) They act (as the figure in the painting) in tableau in front of their (life-sized) painting while another student "docent" talks to the audience about the artist and the time period. This information has been researched by the "docent" and the art student. We perform this as if it were a "Gallery Talk", moving from painting to painting. My friend, the Drama teacher, has her class help with costuming, props and dialogue. We spend one month on these for 2 hrs. of performance. We haven't ever really linked this to the State Standards in Art or Drama - but I know we should. (Note from Judy - There are many connections to the art curriculum. Marcia is going to try to get images to share the next time she does this)


Acting the Part - Submitted by Marvin Bartel

Many students enjoy acting out something about an artist. Students form small groups. Each group selects an artist from a list of names supplied by the teacher. They research the artist and prepare a short skit. After the skit they hand out review sheet for the class or post a poster for the class to review. The skit can be like a talk show interview or the artist in her studio explaining a painting she did. The group can discuss a large reproduction or a projected image based on a prepared script. The actor playing the artist answers questions about her sources of ideas, composition, difficulties, special interests, her own childhood, her training, and so on.


Living Paintings - Submitted by Renee Berge

My 8th graders did a "Living Art" project. There is a professional group in Laguna Beach, California that does this type of production. Sunday Morning did a feature on it. I wrote CBS and they sold the segment to me for $ It was worth it. The students picked a painting, usually with people in it. They research the artist, interpret the painting and write a paper as a group of 2 to 5 students. They then recreate the painting in large format, they create the background with a variety of materials and then put themselves as the characters into the famous artwork by creating costumes. The students set up there background and props then pose for 5 minutes as a curtain is lifted to show them. One student is picked to narrate the history of the artists and explain why the artist created the work. We entered a contest at a museum for middle school and high school students. My favorite rendition was the Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.


Sara Gant did Living Paintings for her Art Night. The student were a huge success. See Living Paintings by Nancy Walkup.


Life Size Figures - Artist Research - from Barbara Andrews
Level: Middle school - high school (Adaptable to upper elementary)

Collect a number of corrugated boxes for this. Students can work in groups. For more permanent sculptures - make wood boxes (collaborate with the Industrial Technology classes).

Students research an artist and art style that has figurative work. Students also research Marisol Escobar.

Students assemble boxes (these are life size figures) - apply layers of Paper Mache - paint with a base coat. Select a figure from one of the paintings of your selected artist. Paint the figure on all side of the boxes (showing front - side and back views of what the figures might look like). Note: two students painted American Gothic as basketball players for their school so students do show some creativity. For wood boxes - students can use house paints making them more permanent (priming with a good oil base primer). Wood sculptures can be displayed on the school grounds.

Note: Barbara gets house paint donated from local hardware and paint stores. They do a lot of mural painting in the community. She began her student centered class with one class and now has five periods a day. Offering student centered art has made scheduling nightmares go away. Students can repeat the class year after year. All levels are in the same period. Students are highly motivated.


Bi-fold Painting - Artist Research - Submitted by Renee Berge

Another project I really liked for art history research was a bi-fold with a mirror on one side, the students painted a portrait of the artist on one side and it reflected in the mirror. Around the mirror was a 3" border and the students recreated bits and pieces of the artist into a collage painting. For example, one student picked patterns from a variety of Matisse's painting and used them. On the back of the bi-fold was a biography of the artist. (See example on Renee's Web Page.)


Art History TimelinewithArtist Research Paper - Submitted by William Van Horn


Artists Poster - Submitted by Kimberly Hutts

An idea that I think I got from the NAEA Conference is to have them do research "posters" instead of papers. I offered this to my Jr. high students as extra credit last year. They were required to research an artist and type up a short biography as the main part of the poster. They also had to include a small print of a work of art created by that artist, a time-line of important events during the artist's life, a picture of the artist, either an informal critique of the work of art that they included or historical information about that work of art and a list of references on the back of the poster. I graded of accuracy of information, readability, neatness, composition of poster, and inclusion of all required components.


Artist Poster Lesson- Submitted by Dorothy MorrisArtist Research Worksheet

Artist Research - Accordion Fold Book- Submitted by Kara LiCausi

E-Reports Web Pages- Submitted by Lazelle Parker (Archive)


Assignment: To create an electronic report about a 19th or 20th century artist.

  • Each individual "website" has a page of biographical information, a page analyzing an artwork by the featured artist and a page for the bibliography as well as "About the Webmaster."

  • The students used the links provided on the Art History Research Links page to fill out a worksheet. (Archives)

  • For the design of their web pages, they used images from sites found on the Webmaster Info and Links page. (Archive)

Cross Curricular Art History Research - Submitted by Stephanie Corder


Students select an artist of their choice, research, then create a composition of an area of their school "in the style of" the artist of their choice. They write a report to share with the class. Shown: Welcoming Stairway in the style of Chagall.



Open media (within reason)
18 x 24 (46 x 61 cm) Drawing Paper
Visual resources/prints for a variety of artists from several time periods

Modern Movements - Submitted by Dawn Stein

Day 1 - Students visually sorted postcard images of each of 6 time periods. Child Sized masterpieces (below) has good sets of images if you don't already have a collection.

Day 2 - I had the students break into groups and do online research in the LMC. (I have the gathering info sheet they used at school - let me know if you're interested in it)

Day 3- Students worked together to created a poster for their art movement - that would be used by them to introduce the movement to the rest of the class. They had additional text resources available for continuing the project.

Days 4 and 5 - Students worked on ways to present the info in the spirit of Gardner's MI theory; meaning they could use anything they wanted to present the info. Rap, Newspaper edition, Newscast, Act out a image. (I think most teachers would be uncomfortable with this much leeway. I also plan to have a booklet available to tell them specifically how to go about each option, with job roles.)

Week 2 - They made a 5 minute presentation and then I followed up with a project that was made in that style.


Slide Jam (BC Periods) - submitted by Dawn Stein

When I introduced the BC art periods, I found that most of them had a pretty good feel for the work (we have an awesome History/Social studies dept apparently!) So, I broke them up into groups, they did some reading and then we had a "slide jam."

Students sat in their groups (so they could communicate with each other) and I showed a work of art. If they claimed the art period's slide, they got a point. (I also asked why it belonged or didn't belong) If they missed one that belonged to them, they lost a point. Another group could also get a point for recognizing the period it actually belonged to. They also lost a point (or maybe two) for guessing the wrong one. A student kept a tally of points for me.

They seem to like anything that's competitive in 6th grade. They really had fun and wanted to play this one again.


Sentence Puzzle/Scramble - Submitted by Janet

One thing I did once was type up the information about the artist I wanted the kids to know, then cut the paper up into strips and numbered them. As the students entered, I handed each student a strip. The stood in a line, in order and took turns reading the information. I also had a complete handout for them to put in their folders.


Six Traits Workshop Ideas - Submitted by Kimberly Herbert (also for elementary)
You take a passage about any subject, format it so each sentence has one line, and cut them apart. The students work in groups to put the passage back in a logical order. Another activity that they showed us that can be adapted for any subject is also fun and incorporates writing. The teacher makes a list of facts, non-facts (false facts), and opinions about a subject. Students work in groups to organize the bits into the proper categories. Then they individually write a paragraph using only the facts.


Scavenger Hunt - Submitted by Michal Austin (also for elementary)

I have my students go on a scavenger hunt - put up several reproductions and a list of things to find. Or, put up one painting and have them see who can come up with the most objects that can be seen in the painting.

I like to break up the info into smaller chunks, and include children's books whenever possible. It is amazing how even the most jaded high schooler will sit and listen quietly to a picture book - I usually open with a "just humor me on this, OK?" Picasso can be introduced with "When Pigasso Met Mootisse," Van Gogh has several books written about him, and more books about different artists are coming out all the time. I am planning on sharing several of these with my high school students and having them write and illustrate some children's books about different artists. Paul Harvey always has interesting tidbits about different artists. Students love the gossip and memorable stories about artists - I like the book "Artists, their lives and what the neighbors thought" (title may not be accurate).


"Blind Date" (from NAEA presentation by Diane Asay) - Kimberly Hutts

"Let's Get Visual: Using Images in Art Classes" presentation by Diane Asay - "Blind Date": Using prints with figures as their main subject matter. Ask students to speculate as to what it would be like "if these two went on a blind date." ~ Kimberly Hutts

Maggie White adds - I've used her "blind date" idea with my art history classes and it's a lot of fun. My favorite couple are David and Judith (who assassinated Holofernes - Warning, some teachers in the U.S. may find this image troubling.). Both were ordinary Jews who did something heroic to save their people, though by different means. Pick out any two famous works of people and send them on a blind date.

Naming tables after famous artists (Submitted by a number of teachers)

Name the tables where your students sit after different artists then study those artists over the course of the year. Many teachers change those names each year. Each table would do an independent study of their artist and then present to the class sometime through out the term. Put artist names in a hat to see who goes first - second and so forth. Provide a lot of help for the first group to get the ball rolling. Less help will be needed for the next groups. Maybe even have each group present a brief hands on lesson? Set up learning centers in your classroom for each artist. If possible, provide web page resources. See Woody Duncan's Table Artists pages. Assign one lesson where students develop their OWN project inspired by their table artists. This might be a culminating lesson towards the end of the term.


French Cafe - Submitted by Jeremy Wehlan

My area is drama so that would be my solution and I have an idea for you

That was a very interesting period (Surrealism was the topic) in art and almost everybody was in Paris at the time. I've been teaching for twenty years so I know that classes are made up of kids with mixed ambitions, some are driven and others coast. If you can get some of your more ambitious students to each pick an artist that was living in Paris at that time, or not, just an artist from the time, who maybe went to Paris. Get them each to pick one artist and to do some basic research on that artist, read a biography or something like that. They all had attitudes about each other, some were friends, others hated each other. Then fake a French cafe set in the classroom and have them do an "improv" as these characters inhabit the cafe. Don't forget the costumes, that is a real selling point. It can be as simple as a scarf, a hat, a cane, etc., but any attempt at costume adds a level of excitement/fun that should not be missed. If the other students get excited by the idea, let them find another artist of the time or even before that time, just an artist with an attitude and let them join in. It could be a once a week thing. Everyone can get into the act as bartenders, waiters, dancing girls, etc. More ideas can be found on Jeremy's Website.


Interview a Famous Artist - from Harold Olejarz

Famous Artist Interview Projects - Students selected and researched a famous artist. One of the students played the artist and another interviewed the artist. See the student videos on Harold's site.


Shoe Box Gallery - Submitted by Kathleen Arola

Lesson plan by Laura Shifflett- Students study an artist via the Internet and collect images. They create a mini gallery of the work. (Archive)


Artist Game - Art History Research - Submitted by Jeannie Sandoval

Jeannie Sandoval sent in this link gohvso.prodejce.cz
You can print off this template - or have students design their own.


I can see this working as a group artist research project. Teachers can pre-select a list of artists for the students to consider. Each groups picks a different artist from the list.


Divide the students into groups of three. Make the game boards with spaces in three different colors. One student will write questions about the life of the artist -- those will be keyed to one color of the board. Another student will write specific questions about the art of the artist - and that will be a different board color. The third group member writes questions about the times of the artist (world events and artist's contemporaries). Maybe have each student come up with ten questions (some may be eliminated by group discussion)

Some questions could even have a bonus! - The students take a trip to the gallery and select a small laminated print to keep featuring a noted work by the artist. Maybe even have a fourth pile of cards that are more challenging questions - student gets to move double spaces if answered correctly.


The group decides on game colors and the design of the three piles of cards. Students read over all the questions written and select the best ones for printing (integrating technology). The group also settles on a token design.


After the project is finished - Groups exchange games for a day to play. Students can easily make copies of the games to take home. The original game is laminated and kept in the art room for other classes to play.


Elementary Ideas

Letter to the Artist - Submitted by Kathleen Arola

This is good for elementary through high school. I think it would be really fun to have kids address envelopes to past or present famous artists (either the same artist for the whole class, after studying that person's work, or different artists for everyone, after individual research, depending upon the grade level). The envelopes could be covered with designs inspired by the artist to whom each one is addressed. If time permitted, letters could be written to the artists (either before or after designing the envelopes) and placed inside them. The letters would have to show an understanding and knowledge of the artist's work by the questions that are asked.


Added by Judy Decker: Oh definitely do the letter too! students would have to write the letter referring to things from the artist's life Like pretend Vincent just got to Arles and ask if he has settled in and where. Ask if he has heard anything from his Gauguin Tell him you heard the Sun flowers are gorgeous around there - ask him if he has considered painting them Kids would have to be familiar with that area of France, too, and ask if he has been to such and such a place yet Ask if he has met a "friend" of theirs - the postman -- and so on. Maybe the first year - do all the same artist for your own sanity. Have groups do different time periods in the artist's life Like Picasso - so many different styles!


Some could even do his young work as a kid - like be a "pen pal" - Pretend that they are answering the last letter they received - so students would have to figure out what Picasso (or whoever) would have written to him/her first. The artist might have said "I just finished such and such a painting and give a thorough description Older students could actually write two letters - one from the artist and one to the artist. You could give guidelines like: Letters must include description of at least one major work. Letters must include date/time period - location - three facts about the artists life. Make similar requirements for what the should should share about them - Maybe include three facts (in a creative way) about their location from the same time period. What was going on in USA (or your country) when Picasso was growing up?


Artist on a Box - from Sandy Jahnle

(In response to the envelope idea) My students used boxes in a similar way this past year -- students did their research on an artist and their product was a six-sided box with a drawn example of the artist's work on one side, a short bio on the second side, and the other four sides were devoted to Description, Analysis, Interpretation, and Judgment of the art. See the following website for more ideas:


gohvso.prodejce.cz~projects/critic. This idea is suitable for elementary through high school. (Archive)


Dress up as the Olde Masters - Lesson plan by Valerie Kerwin. See background information on this page.


Putting on an Act (Matisse) - Submitted by MaryAnn Kohl

This is something MaryAnn did for a young artists conference in Ferndale, Washington. She had four different groups of kids, from age K They wanted her to focus on a great master, and do an art project in that style. She chose Matisse, because she has always loved his paper cut-out phase. When the kids entered the room, she was dressed as Matisse, sitting up in bed (his last years were such), cutting paper and talking about "his" art. Then they did some paper cut-outs as a follow up. She also showed them some pictures of Matisse and his work. She found some beautiful quotes from Matisse that were part of her dialog.


  • Matisse draws blindfolded and says, "I wanted to see if I had the image in my fingers."

  • "My drawing effort (cutting paper) is flowering after 50 years of effort."

  • Matisse draws in the air before drawing on the paper, saying "When my hand makes a strange journey of its own, it is that I had not yet begun to sing."About being bedridden: "I can't get up any more. So I had my bed moved to the largest room in the house, and here I work." He is covered with a yellow blanket with red flowers. Working with large scissors, he cuts away at paper. He tapes charcoal to a fishing pole and draws on the ceiling and wall.

  • He once said, "I feel all the curiosity of a traveler in a foreign land. I go forward totally in my expression of color."

  • About cutting paper, "I am like a medieval sculptor carving into stone." and "With only scissors and paste, I set a dancer free."

  • Having drawn his grandchildren on the ceiling over his bed, "I drew my grand children on the ceiling today., They keep me company."

  • When asked if he would go back to painting. "I have plenty of time for that - I'm only 83!"

Other quotes:

  • My work is like peering into a mirror that is steamed over.

  • Copying objects is nothing. One must express feelings!

  • My life is an effort that stems from my search for the truth.

  • I want my art to fill rooms with gaiety, a place to make people happy.

Naming tables after famous artists (submitted by a number of teachers)

Name the tables where your students sit after different artists then study those artists over the course of the year. Many teachers change those names each year.


From Linda Woods:

I bought 6 books for my table artists that have full page illustrations. I determine my table artists each year on what post card collections I find, or what book I find to cut up. Not too scientific. This year my table artists by "default" are O'Keeffe,Escher,Renoir,Matisse, and Audubon. I cut out six foam core shapes, spray painted them glossy black, drilled holes for hanging, and splashed each artist's name on them in silver with some zippy little pattern backgrounds. I'm hanging two back to back illustrations from these books from the foam core with fishing line. From the bottom of the posters, I am dangling cutout words relating to each artist. These will hang over each table to give my table groups "identity." My bulletin boards will be more pages cut from these 6 books and all about the table artists. On my first day, we'll play some game about the table artists briefly.


Last year's artists were Van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, Botticelli, Degas, and Vermeer.


Suggested "First Day Games" for table artists:

1. Artist "Scavenger Hunt" (Submitted by Michal Austin) - Come up with a list of things they need to find in the paintings/works you have on display. Have them work in teams. The first team to find all gets a reward - like each member will get a small laminated mini print of their table artist (I am giving you permission to make prints from your resources for this purpose) -The prizes could be postcard size - with info about the artist, a self portrait or photo and image info on the back). Now - the problem is - you won't know who will win so have no clue what prints to make up in advance. My answer to this would be to have a page of digital images printed off for each artist and let the kiddies who win pick out the one they want (four on a page for each artist - just four would be enough) They will order their prize so maybe have an arty treat too as an immediate reward.

Got any Sax product freebies? or fancy pencils?

2. Letter/Email to the artist (idea submitted by Kathleen Arola). Have each team come up with a series of questions they have for their table artist. Look at all questions each group came up with at the end of the day Select five or six per artist and then set up an email account for each one on Yahoo (Can you Yahoo from school? Many schools have Yahoo mail blocked). Use the same password for each Yahoo account [email&#;protected] - [email&#;protected] and so forth (you might find that some may already have Yahoo accounts. You will email the artist from your own school account. When the kiddies aren't around - you would work on answering their questions (even call upon the art ed list experts to help if you are stumped - some list members may be "experts" on certain artists) - then mail back the answers -- and include a book (from your library) - or web sites where they can find out more. You might consider getting a parent volunteer to be the artist and have the parent volunteer send the email (make sure the questions you give them are ones the parents can easily find answers to). This was sparked by seeing Kathleen's letter post - I added the technology twist to do email. Naturally - I would like to put a sample series of questions ( a student sample letter) and answers on IAD for this. Each kid could write a letter to the artist and decorate the envelope "in the style of" (a self directed lesson - no added teaching on your part - you just provide the materials - Colored Pencils. Crayons and/or markers would be easiest to monitor).


Linda reinforces her Table Artists everyday - From Linda:

Sometimes I tell my kids to do things as they walk to the door things that have to do with their table artists. For example, one of the posters I have on the wall for Escher is the Waterfall where the river flows uphill on a rooftop. One day I told them to move like a river flowing backwards to the door. one day I told them to turn from day into night as they walked to the door. I told the Renoirs to dance a waltz to the door. On another day I told them to pinch their cheeks till they were really rosy and walk in their most elegant clothes to the door. The Matisses had to form a group organic shape while holding hands as they walked to the door. One day the Matisses had to walk in a pattern to the door. O'Keeffes had to walk like a skeleton to the door, slither like a desert snake to the door, and one day had to hold GIANT flowers as they walked to the door. The Seurats had to pretend to ride on a circus horse to the door, imagine that their feet were paint brushes and paint a dotted line to the door. Audubons have had to quack to the door, fly to the door, and pretend to be taxidermied as they walked to the door. They love that game. (Linda comes up with all of these ideas on the spot - she has shared many more with me).


Artist Activity Cards - Submitted by MaryAnn Kohl

I've just posted some "art activity cards" for the regular elementary classroom, though may be used in art rooms as well. The cards are taken from my book, Discovering Great Artists, and you have permission to print them one time for classroom use, but not for distribution (please). Go to: gohvso.prodejce.cz - choose "Activity Cards" - Download pdf file


Note from Judy: These would be great for your "Free Time" Art Days. Print out these Art History Activity cards and laminate them. Add to them with some of your own favorite artists. Place cards in your various media centers.



Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *