Teachers in a teacher workshop, in the museum galleries

Teacher Workshops

Be inspired to use portraiture in your classroom. No matter what subject you teach—social studies, English, or visual arts—you will learn and practice techniques to involve your students in creative and innovative ways. By using portraiture as a springboard into deeper discussions about biography and our collective history, the Portrait Gallery strives to create an unprecedented experience for teachers as we gain a glimpse into the past and examine the present.

All workshops require preregistration and include interactive tours of a selected exhibition, hands-on components, and take-away resources that provide teachers with innovative ideas and techniques they can adapt for classroom use. All programs begin in the National Portrait Gallery’s Education Center, Room E151, in the “American Origins” exhibition on the first floor (unless otherwise noted).

Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute

The Summer Teacher Institute takes a broad look at the Portrait Gallery's collection. During the institute, the museum's curators and historians provide in-gallery content lectures, introducing the collection. Utilizing an interactive approach, NPG educators model a variety of "learning to look" strategies—unique ways to hook and engage students when they look closely at portraits.

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Museum curator presenting at the Teacher's Institute


Integrating portraiture into the classroom provides exciting opportunities to connect students with history, biography, visual art, and many other subjects. The National Portrait Gallery collection presents the wonderful diversity of individuals who have left—and are leaving—their mark on our country and our culture. The museum portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.

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Perspectives in Portraiture

Saturday, October 22, 2016
9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

What do Alexander Hamilton, artist’s statements, photography, and currency all have in common? These are all lessons your fellow teachers have created utilizing the National Portrait Gallery’s collection! Join us for this one–of-a- kind workshop where the Portrait Gallery’s Teacher Advisory Board will share their ideas for integrating portraiture into the classroom and model strategies that can help achieve greater success for your students.

Painted portrait of Alexander Hamilton

Engaging Students in Design Thinking

Presented with the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Saturday, November 5, 2016
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Back by popular demand! Artists can raise our awareness of issues of the past and present and help us imagine alternatives for the future. In this workshop, museum educators will use artworks as a springboard for engaging participants in the design thinking process: discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution. Teachers will then consider how to integrate design thinking into lessons that challenge students to identify and address problems that scientists, historians, and writers have been grappling with throughout American history.

Portrait Gallery educator talking to teachers in the museum galleries

Using Portraiture to Teach a Socratic Seminar

Saturday, March 18, 2017
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

The Portrait Gallery has teamed up with an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher to consider the Socratic seminar in the context of portraiture. The Socratic method involves a shared dialogue between teacher and students—the teacher leads by posing thought-provoking questions, and students engage by asking questions of their own. In this workshop, facilitators will model the method, considering text, both visual and written, from nineteenth-century U.S. history. Participants will then participate in a Socratic seminar, and finally time will be given for participants to create their own seminar . . . all through the lens of portraiture!

Painted portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune

Express Yourself: Creating a Visual Journal at the Portrait Gallery

Saturday, April 1, 2017
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

How can journaling transform the way your students experience museums and individual artworks? A classroom art teacher and a Portrait Gallery educator have teamed up to introduce ways to incorporate journaling into your classroom. Participants will explore the metacognitive benefits of using art journals in both the classroom and museum. This workshop will include both gallery and studio experiences. Be ready to create!

Teachers in museum galleries during workshop

Be Moved by Portraiture!

Presented with Educational Theatre Company
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
5:00–8:00 p.m.

How do you engage your kinesthetic learners with portraiture? With movement, of course! The Portrait Gallery has teamed up with Educational Theatre Company to introduce participants to a variety of methods to examine portraits in a new way. Exploring physicality, language, and emotion are just a few activities planned! Be ready to participate and put yourself in the learner's shoes.

Painting "Men of Progress" showing notable American inventors all in one room