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.

Read more about this program >>

Curator giving a talk to a group of teachers


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: Exploring the Theme of Social Justice

Saturday, December 7, 2019
9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Location: NPG Education Center

Social justice and activism are common threads throughout the American story. Join us and learn from fellow educators who have been immersed in the Portrait Gallery as multi-year advisors to the education department. We will take a broad look at the Portrait Gallery’s collection to examine how to use portraiture as a tool to explore these themes in your classroom. We will introduce stories of social justice and model strategies that encourage activism through art, writing and action.


group of people picketing

Three-Part Webinar Series, Fall 2019:

A Woman’s Place Is in the Curriculum: Women’s History through American Art and Portraiture

  • Who Tells Your Story: Exploring Women and Identity
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 (5:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST)
  • Remaking the Rules: Exploring Women Who Broke Barriers
    Thursday, December 5, 2019 (6:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST)

Join educators from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery for a series of three interactive webinars on women’s history. Learn how American art and portraiture can bring diverse women’s stories into your classroom, connecting with themes you may already teach. Discover strategies for engaging your students in close looking and critical thinking across disciplines.

Participants in the live webinars will receive a free set of six classroom teaching posters featuring artworks from SAAM and NPG. Limit one poster set per teacher. Participation in all three webinars is encouraged but not required.

Click here to register.

Woman in a red dress with a straw hat against a patterned background

Women’s History Month Workshop at the National Portrait Gallery

February 25, 2020
5:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: NPG Education Center

Teachers, join the National Portrait Gallery for a Women’s History Month workshop! Practice using portraiture to explore the importance of American women in the history of art and design, science, politics, and beyond. Take a deep dive into discussion of history, art, and biography connecting to the theme of extraordinary women in history. Using the elements of portrayal—visual clues found in our portraits—we will practice reading portraits and analyze visual clues for deeper meaning. Participants will receive the book, “Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection.”

Click here to register.


sepia tinted photo of a woman with long dark hair

Culturally Reflective Teaching in the Museum

March 31, 2020
5:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: NPG Education Center

Explore how portraiture can elevate culturally responsive teaching! In this workshop participants will learn about the components of being a culturally reflective teacher. Discover how art can be integrated into the classroom to create a learning environment that affirms students’ strengths, insights, and experiences. Participants will start to build a personal virtual teaching collection for their students.

Please note: This workshop is open to participants who have attended previous professional development workshops at the Portrait Gallery.

Click here to register.


woman in a long blue dress carrying a painting through a woods