My Favorite, No-Fail Art History Lessons [Member News]


We all have our go-to lessons–the ones we know will work. The ones that both make us inspired to do our jobs and make the students successful and keep them learning and happy.

In case you’ve missed them, here are my go-to lessons that fuel my love of teaching.

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Categorizing Classical Sculpture

This lesson is so fun. I print out a bunch of pictures of sculptures from Ancient Greece and Rome and have students analyze the style and
divide them into groups based on their observations. I could tell them all about Archaic vs. Classical vs. Hellenistic, but this way, they can
figure it out for themselves! Get the lesson here.

Aesthetic Puzzles

I love teaching aesthetics! In this lesson, each group of students gets one aesthetic puzzle (from the book Puzzles about Art) to contemplate and discuss.

Is a painting made by chimpanzees art? What about a piece of driftwood given a title by a famous artist? A man with a sign that says “Look! I’m art!”? What about when Rauschenberg erased a de Kooning drawing?

This lesson gets to the heart of defining art and helps students understand art in a more conceptual way. Get the lesson here.

If it’s not Baroque…

Italian Baroque art is one of my favorite topics to teach. The art is raw and emotional and powerful, but it is also super easy for students to grasp.

After doing some compare and contrast (with Renaissance art) group work, I place two representations of Judith Slaying Holofernes side by side. Students must compare and contrast the two paintings, and then discuss which was made by a woman and which was made by a man.

It’s always eye-opening to hear their different viewpoints and no two class discussions are ever the same. Get the lesson and watch a video about the lesson here.

Cultural Art Presentations

I know, I know. We all collectively hate group projects, but I do them anyway! Some of my favorite aha moments have happened in the classroom while a group of students were teaching us about another culture and their art instead of me being at the front of the room.

Having students research and present about a different world culture and their art allows them to develop their academic skills, teamwork, and
fosters personal connection to works of art from around the world. I almost cried in my classroom when one Muslim student had a conversation
with another student about his culture and their art. That student left the classroom with a profound new understanding of another group of people.
I get goosebumps just thinking of that moment.

I’ve got all of the handouts you could ever possibly need for such a project at this link.


Art Class Curator

P.S. I look forward to seeing you at NAEA! Here are the opportunities for us to get together:

  • Friday, March 15 at 8am Eastern – Presentation – How to Look at Art with Kids (Location: Center/Meeting Room 300/Level 3)
  • Saturday, March 16 at 3pm Eastern – Presentation – Rethinking Art in the Dark: How to Teach Art History Without Lecture (Location: Center/Meeting Room 111/Level 1)
  • Saturday, March 16 from 5-7pm Eastern – Art Class Curator Happy Hour Meet and Greet at Back Bay Social (867 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199) (No reservations needed, but let me know to look for you by RSVPing to this Facebook event.)