Teaching with Art Resources

Why teach with art?

Integrating the arts into teaching opens up new possibilities for connecting with students on a deeper level. It helps students move beyond a first impression of what they see to make connections with others, with the community, and across time and culture. It builds skills to develop self-awareness, empathy and appreciation for the world.

Teaching with art also provides opportunities to make connections across disciplines, to solve problems, reinforce creativity and imagination skills and prepare students for future learning. This resource will offer suggestions for how to enrich your experience of working with museums and cultural institutions as a teaching and learning resource to help your students.

Watch:  Teaching Through Art with the Lehigh University Art Galleries Team




Teaching with art can be broken down into seven different steps. Each of these steps builds upon the previous. Click to navigate to a specific section.

Know Your Audience
Setting a Goal & Making a Plan
Selecting Artworks
Sequencing Artworks
Using Questions Effectively
Activities to Deepen Understanding
Further Resources



Know Your Audience

When planning goals or outcomes for your visit to the museum or art gallery it is important to consider your audience. There are many different ways individuals process and retain information. It is important to employ a variety of teaching approaches and strategies to connect with diverse learners.

What makes a person who they are?

  • Genetics
  • Environment/Culture
  • Learned Behaviors
  • Age
  • Other
Howard Gardner  & The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner is a Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the harvard Graduate School of Education. Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences expands the idea of intellegiences beyond academic ability. It breaks down intellegience into 8 different categories. 

  1. Visual & Spatial Learners
  2. Naturalist
  3. Rhythmic/Musical
  4. Logical/Mathematical
  5. Bodily/Kinesthetic
  6. Intrapersonal (by themselves)
  7. Interpersonal (with others)
  8. Linguistic

By developing teaching agendas that overlap between modalities you can develop an effective, educational, and engaging lesson that will reach diverse audiences. 

Learn more about Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences: here

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Setting a Goal & Making a Plan

When teaching with art it is important to recognize that you can’t teach everything. As educators you can focus on what you are teaching using several different methods.

For a narrow selection of works you may use an existing exhibition, or focus on an individual artist or artwork. To bring together a wider range of art from different time periods, styles, mediums, etc. you could use a theme or an essential question.

  • Theme: A big universal idea that can be talked about on its own, and is also visually evident in the works of art.
    • Examples: leadership, power, community, daily life, beliefs, environment, identity, transformation
  • Essential Question: An engaging question that provides a clear and compelling focus.
    • A framing question that is:
      • Open-ended
      • Thought provoking and intellectually engaging
      • Calls for higher-order thinking or critical thinking
      • Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.
      • Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
      • Requires support and justification, not just an answer.
      • Recurs over time
  • Theme vs Essential Question: Themes can be used to develop or center essential questions.
    • Example:
      • Theme: Today we are to talk about Power
      • EQ: Today we are going to consider, “What makes someone powerful?” or “What makes someone a great leader?”

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Selecting Artworks

With countless artworks to choose from, how do you know the right pieces to choose for your teaching purposes? First, and foremost you should always pick work(s) of art that you are interested in or passionate about. If you are using more than one work of art, choose pieces that support your theme or essential question from a range of angles and perspectives. And lastly choose artworks that are visually compelling and/or tell a “story.”

Things to Consider:

You want to choose works of art that connect art to people's lives by choosing objects that reflect the complexity and diversity of human cultures and experience.

  • Important to provide accurate, pertinent information to provide context
  • Enable each visitor to have deep and distinctive experiences with works of art
  • Develop visitors’ observation and analysis skills
  • If you are teaching in person, consider the size of the artwork and location
Integrate Relevant Information

Once you have selected your works of art, write down three - five facts you would like your audience to know.

Watch:  Tips for Teaching with Art

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Sequencing Artworks

What is the role of Sequence in teaching?

Sequence can be the order in which you present the works of art, pose questions, provide information, introduce an activity or other modality in your teaching, and how the program concludes.

How to order selected artwork(s)

     Think about the following questions and how they relate to your teaching goals.

  • Description
    • What do you see?
    • Engage senses, what would you hear? Or feel?
  • Analysis
    • Which elements or principles can you identify?
    • What makes you notice them?
  • Interpretation
    • What do you think this means?
  • Judgement
    • What should others notice?
    • What is worth remembering about this?

Now take a step back and look at each of the works you have selected for teaching and think about your audience. Arrange the works of art in an order that will best connect with your audience and aid your teaching goals.

Watch: Sequencing in Musuem Teaching, Isabel Barone '21

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Using Questions Effectively to Create Meaningful Conversations

Why use questions?
  • Encourages critical thinking
  • Creates open dialogue and natural conversation
  • Gives feedback on viewers existing knowledge on the subject
Tips for developing questions:
  • Consider your essential questions and/or theme to focus viewers attention
  • Use open-ended questions that draw on learners’ observations or personal experiences
  • Avoid closed questions that cannot be answered through close observation or require prior knowledge
  • Introduce key pieces of relevant information as you discuss and explore the artwork
  • As learners form inferences or interpretations about the artwork, ask them to support their statements with evidence
  • Encourage debate, discussion, and peer-to-peer learning by asking follow-up questions such as “Does everyone agree?  Disagree?  Are there other possibilities?”

Watch:  Using Questions Effectively, Trevor Thenga '22

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Activities to Deepen Understanding

There are lots of different types of activities that can be used to further engage students and deepen their understanding of art. When thinking back to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, these activities can be used as a way to overlapp learning modalities.

Activities to try:
  • Sketching or Drawing
    • Spend one minute looking and then another minute sketching what you saw.
  • Word association or poetry
    • Write a Haiku to describe what you see
  • Kinesthetic (body movement)
  • Imagining and/or Hypothesizing
  • Connecting with additional primary sources

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Ending each lesson with a good conclusion is important as it incites thinking and leaves your audience satisfied. There are different ways to conclude lessons, each one continuing learning and growth through the end.

Good Conclusions:
  • Ask the audience if they have questions
  • Promote reflections and review essential questions
  • Summarize the lesson
  • Connect topics to present day
  • Start a discussion on what the audience liked or learned

Watch: Conclusions in Teaching, Juliana Forero Arevalo '24

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Further Resources

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