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.

Learn more and apply >>

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.

Register for workshops >>

Hispanic Heritage Month: Understanding the American Experience 

Presented with the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Saturday, October 14, 2017
9:30 a.m.—1:30 p.m.
Location: MacMillan Education Center 

Whether you are a teacher of social studies, English, Spanish, or visual arts, this program will add nuance and depth to your classroom. Educators will learn how to use art and portraiture by Latino artists or of Latino figures to enhance their students’ understanding of our collective American history.

Woman looking at portrait in the museum galleries

The Great Debate: Portraiture and Primary Sources

Presented with Teaching with Primary Sources Northern Virginia
Monday, October 23, 2017
5:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Location: NPG Education Center

Have you ever wondered if a portrait is a primary source? In this workshop, we will examine portraits from the Portrait Gallery, along with primary sources from the Library of Congress, to consider this question and explore connections between the two distinct collections. Participants will brainstorm and come up with strategies to incorporate these rich resources into their English and social studies curriculum.  

Two women in the museum galleries looking at a book in a display case

The Sweat of Their Face: Exploring Portraiture and Social History

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
5:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Location: NPG Education Center

The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers combines art and social history with representations of American laborers. During this workshop, participants will explore portraits in a variety of genres and media to learn about the changing landscape of labor in the United States. Encompassing slave laborers, child workers, miners, railway workers, and steel workers, as well as the gradual disappearance of the worker that has become a topic of conversation today, portraiture artists’ depictions of American workers are capable of revealing much more than the worker’s story.


Express Yourself: Creating a Visual Journal with the Portrait Gallery

Saturday, December 2, 2017
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m
Location: NPG Education Center

Back by popular demand! 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 the museum. This workshop will include both gallery and studio experiences. Be ready to create!

Hands with a pen, writing in a book

Art and Portraiture: Seeds for Storytelling

Presented with the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Location: MacMillan Education Center

Saturday, January 20, 2018
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Harness the power of descriptive language. Challenge yourself (and your students) to step inside artworks and gather ideas—and inspiration—for an imaginary world that is rendered in evocative words and a compelling narrative. Connect art and portraiture to character, plot, and setting in your classroom instruction. Register >> 

Painted portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune

A STEAM Approach to Exploring Identity with Your Students

Saturday, March 10, 2018
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Location: MacMillan Education Center 

How is identity constructed? What role does biology play? During this workshop, a Portrait Gallery educator and a high school IB Biology teacher will model how portraiture can be integrated into the science classroom. Participants will make connections between identity and genetics and will explore identity from a broader perspective. A dialogue about how to foster interdisciplinary connections in the classroom will follow.

Teachers in museum galleries during workshop

Perspectives in Portraiture

Saturday, April 21, 2018
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Location: MacMillan Education Center 

What do Socratic seminars, currency, and an artist’s style 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 where they will model strategies that can help achieve greater success for your students.

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