Language Arts Teacher Guides

Discover how to integrate American art into your language arts classroom

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's educational materials are free for your use. Teacher Guides are downloadable PDFs, listed with corresponding standards and grade levels for your convenience.

Ekphrastic Poetry Lesson

How can an image inspire a poem?

This lesson plan guides students to write a ten line poem inspired by a work of art.

Untitled - 1965.18.43 - 64716

Lily Furedi, Subway, 1934, oil on canvas

Primary Subject and Grade: 4-12 Language Arts, 5-12 Visual Arts

Secondary Subject and Grade:

Components: Lesson Plan, images, Student Activities

Standards: Language Arts K–12.1 Reading for Perspective; K–12.4 Communication Skills; K–12.5 Communication Strategies.

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.

Download Teacher Guide (PDF)

Harlem Heroes

How do Carl Van Vechten's photographs illuminate leading literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance?

This teacher guide provides contextual information, key images, and discussion questions to accompany the exhibition Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten, featuring writers Nora Zeale Hurston and Langston Hughes.

Untitled - 1983.63.149 - 122852

Carl Van Vechten, Richard Benson, W.E.B. DuBois, from the portfolio 'O, Write My Name': American Portraits, Harlem Heroes, 1936, printed 1983, photogravure

Primary Subject and Grade: 5-12 Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts

Secondary Subject and Grade: Music 

Components: Teacher Guide, Looking Questions

Standards: This teaching resource supports these Common Core-based concepts:

  • Cite pieces of visual and textual evidence to support analysis and inferences drawn from the text.
  • Determine the central ideas of an artwork and how they are conveyed through particular details.
  • Determine the meaning of symbols as they are used in a visual text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings. Analyze the impact.
  • Analyze the structure an artist uses to organize a text, and how it fits into the overall structure and contributes to the development of the ideas.
  • Determine an artist’s point of view and explain how it is conveyed.
  • Compare and contrast a visual text to audio, video, or multimedia sources, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject.
  • Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims presented, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not. Assess whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  • Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

Download Teacher Guide (PDF)

Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell

How does Norman Rockwell tell a story in a single frame?

Artworks featured in the Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell teacher guide

This teacher guide provides background information, key images, and lesson plans that can be used either in conjunction with a museum visit or in the classroom.

Untitled - 2011.34.3 - 82209

Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want, 1943, offset color lithograph on paper

Primary Subject and Grade: US History 512, Visual Arts 512, Language Arts 5-12

Secondary Subject and Grade:

Components: Lesson plan, images, Student Activities, background information

Standards: US History Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930); Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945): Era 9 Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s).

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.

Language Arts K12.1 Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world.; K12.3 Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

Download Teacher Guide (PDF)

Download Artworks (PDF) featured in the Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell Teacher Guide