Teacher Guides and Resources

Teacher Guides

Museum educator speaking to students

Teacher Guides are listed with corresponding standards and grade levels; most are in PDF format. Student worksheets and other printable resources are also available. Be sure to check back periodically or sign up for our Teacher Resources e-mail list (select "Teacher Resources" checkbox).

Content Links

These features contain interactive or media-rich content. In addition, we'd encourage you to explore our Current Exhibitions, Past Exhibitions, and Videos for primary source content such as artist interviews, that may be relevant or useful to you, whatever subject you teach. For additional Smithsonian resources, see the Smithsonian Learning Lab.


Investigate paired works of art that bring to life key moments in our nation's history. Explore the thematic threads that connect artworks across historical eras.


Primary Subject and Grade: US History 5-12 Primary Subjects and Grades: US History 5-12, Language Arts 5-12, Visual Arts 9-12, Civics 9-12

Components: Contextual Essays, Primary Sources, Literary Connections, Observation and Interpretation Activity, Media, Interactive Timeline, Glossary, Curriculum Connections, Core Concepts

Standards: U.S. History Content Standards, Common Core Standards – English Language Arts, Historical Thinking Standards

    Updated site coming Fall 2018.


    Primary Subject and Grade: US History 5-12

    Secondary Subject and Grade: Civics 9-12, Language Arts 5-12, Visual Arts K-12

    Components: Images, Background Contextual Information, Artist Bios, Audio/Video, Interactive Timeline, Lesson Plans, Glossary, Bibliographies


    U.S. History (From McREL 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks)

    • Standard 8: Understands the institutions and practices of government created during the Revolution and how these elements were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights
    • Standard 28: Understands domestic policies in the post-World War II period
    • Standard 29: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties
    • Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States

    Civics (From McREL 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks)

    • Standard 1: Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government
    • Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
    • Standard 14: Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life
    • Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities

    Language Arts (From McREL 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks)

    • Standard 6: Uses skills and strategies to read a variety of literary texts
    • Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

    Visual Arts (From McREL 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks)

    • Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts
    • Standard 4: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures


    What can young viewers learn about American art and artists through online tutorials?


    "Cappy" the giraffe takes young children through an activity-based exploration of art and artists of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    Primary Subject and Grade: Visual Arts K-4

    Components: Visual Media, Activity suggestions, Artist Bios


    • Visual Arts K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes; K-4.2 Using Knowledge of Structures And Functions; K-4.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas.


    How can artists express their experiences through their artwork?


    Many Latinos have immigrated to the United States. Whether their experiences are told firsthand or handed down from parents and grandparents, they seek to communicate the importance of their journeys and their culture.

    Primary Subject and Grade: Visual Arts 9-12

    Secondary Subject and Grade: Social Studies 6-12, Language Arts 9-12

    Components: Images, Video, Artist Bios, Posters, Lesson Plans


    • Visual Arts: NAEA 1, NAEA 3, NAEA 4, NAEA 5
    • Social Studies: NCSS 1, NCSS 5 Groups, NCSS 10

    Civic Ideals

    • Language Arts: NCTE 1


    What happened to Native Americans, their ancestral lands, and the western landscape of the United States during the 1830s?

    Take a virtual journey to meet American Indians of the 1830s with artist, ethnologist, and showman George Catlin. This site compiles paintings, historical documents, and commentary from contemporary experts so you can explore the intersections of two cultures, both in Catlin’s time and today.

    Primary Subject and Grade: Visual Arts, U.S. History

    Secondary Subject and Grade: Language Arts, Social Studies, Geography, Life Science, Music, Dance, Theatre

    Components: Multimedia Interviews with Transcripts, Images with Exhibition Labels, Timeline, Maps, Database containing Catlin's writings and hundreds of his artworks, Lesson Plans. 


    Visual Arts: NSAE 1-6

    U.S. History: NCHS 1-5, USHS Era 4, Era 6

    Language Arts: NCTE 1-9, 11, 12

    Geography: GESP 4, GESP 6, NGS 4, 6, 9, 10, 12-16

    Life Science: NSES 3

    Dance: NSAE 1-3

    Music: NSAE 7

    Theatre: NSAE 1-2, 5


    How do poster artist's choices in technique, style, and process change the meaning of the message they are trying to portray?

    Posters are a means of communication; each has a message or purpose. But there is more to it! Posters that demand attention reflect conceptual and design choices by the artist as well as artistic achievement. See posters from the artist’s point of view.

    Primary Subject and Grade: 7-12 Visual Arts

    Secondary Subject and Grade: 7-12 Social Studies

    Components: Online guide, Artist audio, text explanation of process.


    Visual Arts K-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines; K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures; K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols and Ideas K-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques and Processes.


    How can the work of William H. Johnson help us to understand the Harlem Renaissance, segregation in the Army, the rural South, and the history of civil rights in the United States?

    This guide, which comes complete with inquiry-based classroom activity suggestions, looks closely at the work of William H. Johnson in the context of the U.S. social climate.

    Primary Subject and Grade: US History 5-12, Civics 7-12, Visual Arts 5-12

    Secondary Subject and Grade: Music, Language Arts

    Components: Student Activities, Inquiry-based lesson ideas, Artist Bio, Annotated Images, Video (available for purchase), Glossary of Art Terms, Artist Chronological Timeline


    US History Era 5 Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877); Era 7 The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930); Era 8 The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945).

    Civics K-12.1 Civic Life, Politics and Government; 5-12.3 Other Nations and World Affairs; 5-12.3 Roles of the Citizen.

    Visual Arts K-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines; K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures; K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter.

    Music K-12.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture.

    Language Arts K-12.1 Reading for Perspective; K-12.2 Reading for Understanding; K‐12.6 Applying knowledge.


    Explore an interactive timeline of the Civil War to see how America's artists represented the war and its aftermath.


    Explore the 1930s through paintings, historical documents, music, and video in this virtual 3-d movie theater. Virginia Mecklenburg, Senior Curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, guides your visit.


    The Root Monster, a mischievous folk art sculpture, has mixed-up artworks at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Young students learn art concepts as they solve mysteries and set the museum right.


    Visit Speaking of Pictures and use your mouse to reveal interesting insights and information about our artworks.