K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Related pages

  • Learning to look at art: Strategies for helping students develop visual literacy in looking at paintings and other forms of visual art.
  • ArtSpace: Tour ArtSpace or participate in one of its programs to bring the world of art to your students.
  • Vessels in Greek art: Museum visit: This lesson focuses on the uses, shapes, importance, and historical storytelling on Greek vessels in art.

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The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.

— James Baldwin

What essential questions may be considered when you learn to look at art? Build critical thinking skills while you build visual literacy with these art-related activities.


Art Access encourages the examination of objects for style and in historical context. Objects are classified in the following categories: Ancient Indian Art of the Americas, African American Art, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Modern and Contemporary Art, American Art to 1900, and Art of India, Himalayas & Southeast Asia. Articles describe the work in context, linking throughout to a subject-specific glossary with audio pronunciation of all terms, like this glossary for the African American Art collection. Also available are arts-integrated lesson plans: Ancient American Art and Geometry (Grades 7-8 Math), Ancient Gold Working (Grades 3-5 Social Science), and Sport as Social Ritual (Grades 4-6 Social Science).

The Artist’s Toolkit: visual elements and principles

Explore the tools that artists use, such as line, color, shape, and balance, to build works of art. Experience each visual element or principle by watching an animated demonstration, finding examples of the concept in works of art from museums, and creating your own composition. Don’t miss the Artist’s Toolkit Encyclopedia.

In Print

Visit the library and look for Eye Spy: An Alphabet in Art or I Spy Two Eyes: Numbers in Art by Lucy Micklethwait. Examine the works of art to discover an object beginning with that letter of the alphabet or count your way through great works of art. Either way, the youngest students are exposed to a variety of fine art while building visual skills and working with numbers and letters!

I am an Artist by Pat Lowery Collins celebrates the world we see and encourages children to see beauty in the natural world around them. This title is also available for preview in electronic format from Google Books.


Visual thinking strategies can be assessed and taught. Research in this area is based upon a theory of aesthetic development by Abigail Housen. Ms. Housen has identified five distinct patterns of thinking about art which she described as aesthetic stages. Where are you (or your students) in your aesthetic development? For more information see Visual Thinking Strategies and Thoughts on Visual Literacy (in PDF format) by Philip Yenawine.