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Found 60 Collections


Remembering Dr. King: Six American Artists Respond

April 4, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. These six artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection were created between 1968 and 1996, and respond to Dr. King's legacy in different ways. What does the date of each artwork tell us about the context during which it was made? What can we learn from looking at them as a collection?

Created for a March 1, 2018 webinar for alumni of SAAM's Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art. 

#saamteach #martinlutherkingjr #mlk

Phoebe Hillemann

The Paradox of Liberty: The Declaration of Independence and Slavery

This collection will be used to supplement students' rhetorical analysis of The Declaration of Independence. Earlier in the year, students discussed the paradoxical nature of the Puritans arriving in the New World to escape religious intolerance, yet they were exceedingly intolerant of other religions (i.e., Quakers). In a similar fashion, we'll examine the Declaration of Independence and a critical portion deliberately removed: references to abolishing slavery. We will examine a variety of works of art, noting the clues they give us regarding our founding fathers' often complex ideologies. #SAAMteach

Annette Spahr

We the People: a Deeper Understanding of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution

This lesson works best for 8th grade U.S. History, after students have learned how the original plan for government (the Articles of Confederation) was failing the newly independent America and how the state delegates met in the summer of 1787 to correct these failings and ended up writing a new Constitution. 

Students start by using the VTS thinking routine to examine Preamble by Mike Wilkins, an engaging and accessible way to 'read' the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution.  

After 'decoding' the words and noticing all the details they can, students use a handout to analyze the language of the actual Preamble and discuss word choice and intended meaning (they might also look at the photo of the actual Constitution at this point to compare the original with Mike WIlkins' work).  

They then read and analyze 4 quotes from The Federalist Papers defending the Constitution to the states who were about to vote to ratify it as a jumping off point to discuss what the Constitution was meant to achieve for the newly formed states.  Discussion about reasons why states would not want to join this union will also add to the understanding of what was at stake for each state. In addition, looking at a graphic organizer showing state and federal powers under this plan for government will help students see how this system divides power between the states and the national government.

Students then return to the original artwork, and decide if analysis of the meaning of the Preamble and the ideals of the Constitution affect how students 'see' the artwork. Using the 'connect/extend/challenge' visual routine, teachers can record what the students connected to, what new ideas pushed their thinking in different directions, and what is still challenging or confusing about the artwork or the Preamble.  

Some possible extension ideas are included in the collection to highlight the differences between the states as well as their similarities/unity, such as creating another artwork using an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence (while adhering to state DMV rules for vanity plates), and  comparing front pages of different states' daily newspapers. #SAAMteach

Aileen Albertson

This Other Eden: Pilgrims, Puritans & the New Promised Land

"European sailors told of being able to smell the pine forests of North America before they were within sight of land. Early explorers sometimes described possible settlements along the coast in tempting terms. Captain John Smith of Virginia made a whaling expedition to New England [which he is credited with naming] in 1614; he subsequently published a book describing the region's genial climate, fair coasts, and natural harbors...Immigrants endured hardships on their journeys and in their first years in America. Some portion of each new settlement perished from hunger, exposure, disease, or conflict, yet the stream of settlers kept coming. They crossed the Atlantic for many reasons: some for wealth, some to escape political or religious institutions they saw as oppressive or corrupt."

However, some "early colonists came to the New World expecting to gain wealth through some combination of luck and hard work and return to their home cities or towns to enjoy their prosperity. The names of the places they settled - New Spain, New England, New York, Nova Scotia - and the nature of the portraits they commissioned tell us that they did not think of themselves as Americans, but as transplants."

The artistic world and the literary world share much in common with respect to this approach. They were not writing "American literature" yet - - because in a sense such literature did not yet exist. Rather they were writing as transplanted Europeans, in a European voice and style. However, many American literature courses will begin with this period because in a sense, works such as John Smith's Historie of Virginia and William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation became our nation's first attempt at literature.

* All quoted material from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's America's Art" #SAAMteach

Annette Spahr

The Scarlet Letter


Annette Spahr

Reconstruction & Mark Twain

As he traveled the South, post reconstruction, while researching "Life on the Mississippi," Mark Twain was appalled by what he saw as the failure of reconstruction. This collection will help share some of the "alternative facts" Twain faced as he harshly critiqued the south. Additionally, this collection will share some of the images that forced America to confront the "South's peculiar institution" and its lingering effects. #SAAMteach

Annette Spahr

Brother Against Brother

Collecction of paintings and photos to be used in conjunction with a variety of Civil War era works of literature, specifically those featuring elements of the following literary movements:

* Realism

* Naturalism

* Impressionism

Works to be used in conjunction with artistic examples include:

1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce

2. An Upturned Face, by Stephen Crane

3. An Episode of War, by Stephen Crane


Annette Spahr

Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance: Asserting their own identity

Dorothy West, Zora Neale Hurston, and their contemporaries will be profiled in this unit. Lingering themes and a lasting legacy will be discussed, prompted by a contemporary work of art. #SAAMteach

Annette Spahr

Frankenstein - Novel to Film - Film to Graphic Art & Classic Halloween Costume

Published nearly 200 years ago, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" has not only stood the test of time, but clearly evolved and changed in response to cultural influences. One prime example would be the lasting imprint left by Boris Karloff's interpretation of the "Creature" - which, with his portrayal - assumed the name of Shelley's original "mad scientist." #SAAMteach

Annette Spahr

Manifest Destiny Through Art and Music

Looking at different representations of Manifest Destiny. Comparing and contrasting paintings to more current songs on the topic.  SAAMteach

Stephanie Raphel

Internal Dialogue


Katie Cahill

Photojournalism: A Study of Perspective

This collection contains a series of photos from Camilo Jose Vergara.  The students will be asked to rate a series of photos for their chronology and how those photos can be interpreted by the viewer.  In the end, students will be asked to document an important part of their family history through photo journalism and then write about their choices and the importance of their selected art. #SAAMteach

Danielle Clayton

September 11, 2001

Collaborative Poem exercise


Brittni Doyle

Walt Whitman Poetry and Art

SAAMteach - High School Level English classes

Lesson concept is included in resources

Anne Ruka

Gender Inequality and Identity: Childe Hassam's Tanagra (The Builders, New York) 1918

This collection includes a multi-day lesson plan built around Childe Hassam's Tanagra (The Builders, New York), 1918, and is designed to explore the effect that gender inequality can have on identity. Lessons are designed for an eleventh-grade, American Studies, Humanities-style course, and the historical context is the Gilded Age and the Women's Suffrage Movement. The plan for this mini-unit includes the analysis of visual, literary, and historical texts, and while it has a historical context, the goal is also to make connections to American life today. The essential question for this mini-unit is this: How can unfair gender norms affect what it feels like to be a human being? Included, you will find a lesson plan as well as digital versions of the artistic, literary, and historical texts needed to execute that plan. #SAAMteach

William Connell

Interacting with Our Environment: Whose Home Is It?

Photos and paintings of Algonquin Provincial Park are grouped with Tom Uttech's "Mamakadendagwad."  What is the impact when someone or something enters an environment or ecosystem?  Lesson could be an introduction for multiple content areas.  In science, students could study mammals, birds, and insects of Ontario, Canada; ecosystems; and invasive species. In history, what is the wilderness? It could be paired with Charle C. Mann's argument about Native American and European impact on land in Jamestown.  It could also be paired with Juane Quick-to-See Smith's painting "State Names" to consider how humans name places they settle.  English students could extend the discussion by reading Iroquois creation myths and Joseph Bruchac's "Snapping Turtle."  #SAAMteach

Deborah Howe

Complications of Mobilizing the American Homefront 1942-1945


This collection examines artwork paired with both primary and secondary sources  that illustrates the complications of mobilizing the American homefront between 1942-1945.  


Professional Development

This collection was created for the purpose of presenting professional development to my colleagues at Longleaf School of the Arts.  #SAAMteach

Brittni Doyle

A Just Society

This collection, first of all, is a work in progress and may change as time goes on. The collection includes pieces that are meant to prompt students to think how to create a "just society" and potential consequences when those ideals don't become reality. #SAAMteach

Nikysha (Nikki) Gilliam

Iceman Crucified #4

Reading American Culture Through the Lens of Various Texts

Read, write, and think like a college-bound high school student!


Kim Frazier

Projecting a Message through Portraits

Examine your portrait with your partner.  Answer the three questions in your writer's notebook, being sure to write the portrait's name and artist in your notebook for reference!  What OBSERVATIONS have you made?  What INFERENCES have you made?  

Be prepared to courageously share your findings with your classmates!


Michelle Streed

Memoir Story Arc: The 3000 Word Essay

Students will examine a series of images by one photographer. They will pull themes from those photos that they see in common and imagine the answer to the question: what message does this collection communicate? Then, they will create a series of images to communicate a message about their life.

***used as a scaffold for personal writing, including a draft of a college essay


Michelle Streed

American Revolution

Lesson plan for 5th grade (90 minutes) for use with Mike Wilkins Preamble, Schoolhouse Rock video, etc. #SAAMteach

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