Art Masters Guide

For a printable version of the Art Masters Guide, please access the file below:
2012-2013 Art Masters Volunteer Guide

Art Masters Volunteer Guide

Art Masters volunteers are a particularly dedicated group of individuals and many people have contributed to the success of the program. Special thanks to Natalie Turner who chaired Art Masters for numerous years and compiled the information this guide, as well as, gathered many of the resources, ideas, and lessons used throughout this program.

The Mission of Art Masters

Art Masters is an art appreciation program for students in kindergarten through Grade Six. For over 20 years, dedicated volunteers at Cedar Hill School have prepared and presented short lessons in Art History, the great masters of art, artistic styles and traditions.

The goal of Art Masters is to educate students and help them look at, discuss and appreciate great works of art. By exposing students to more art throughout their elementary years, students have an opportunity to become “art literate” and to recognize, value and enjoy art throughout their lives.

Volunteers choose an artist, technique, style or time period, show examples, provide background information and encourage observation and discussion. Volunteers may reinforce the lesson by preparing a hands-on project for students. Please keep in mind that this is not an “arts and crafts” program; Art Masters lessons focus on an artist, artistic movement, genre or technique.

Volunteers do not need to be an artist or have a formal art education – just a commitment to furthering art education in their child’s classroom!

There is no set syllabus or time for Art Masters. Volunteers arrange schedules with teachers and choose topics of interest. While there is no formal “reporting” process, volunteers are asked to inform the chair(s) of scheduled classes in order to ensure the availability of prints and supplies. Volunteers are encouraged to share successful lessons with the chair(s) and use The Highlighter to let the school community know about what’s happening in the classroom.

How to prepare a lesson: Setting Schedules and Choosing Topics

At the beginning of the school year, teachers are given the names of the Art Masters volunteers in their classrooms. Volunteers are responsible for working with teachers to schedule each session. Art Masters is typically scheduled once each month for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the class’ schedule. If there is more than one volunteer in a classroom, one person should work with the teacher to set up a schedule for the group.

Volunteers for each grade are encouraged to work together to plan Art Masters lessons for the year. Responsibility for planning the lessons rotates, so that each volunteer needs to prepare only a few lesson plans to share. Working together gives all students in the grade exposure to the same artists, making planning lessons in subsequent grades much easier.

Volunteers with more than one child will find that a good lesson plan can be used in several grades, with information adapted to meet the needs of younger and older students.

Art Masters volunteers in Grade One through Grade Five create a lesson on the topic of their choice. Sometimes a teacher may suggest an artist based on a topic being studied or ask that the volunteer coordinate a lesson with an event such as Black History Month (February) or Women’s History Month (March).

Art Masters has coordinated with the Kindergarten teachers to create a specific curriculum to develop and enhance the Kindergarteners’ basic art and drawing skills.

Art Masters in Grade Six follows the Social Studies curriculum. Volunteers emphasize the importance of art in various cultures throughout history, beginning with cave painting. Lesson plans with PowerPoint presentations and sample projects have been developed and are available for use in Grade Six classes.

How to prepare a lesson: Online Calendar

Art Masters has embedded a calendar into the Art Masters website.  The calendar includes the date, time and class scheduled.  Volunteers can only view the calendar. Contact the chair(s) to add an Art Masters class to the calendar. Note that sessions using different prints and/or supplies can be scheduled at the same time.

 How to prepare a lesson: Check Previous Years’ Curricula

Please check the Curricula link on the Art Masters website to ensure that you do not repeat lessons that the students have recently studied.  From the dropdown menu, select Past Curricula by Class Year.

How to prepare a lesson: Inspiration

The Art Masters program has a collection of more than 400 reproductions, depicting works from prehistoric times through modern art. The print collection is a wonderful source of inspiration. The print collection is stored in a specially designed case in the Old Library. See Appendix A for a complete list of works in the collection.

Prints are cataloged using the first few letters of an artist’s name and a number. Works from ancient civilizations are cataloged with the letters CIV, while masks are grouped and cataloged under the word MASK. (See page 4 for information on catalog numbers for prints that are part of the Picturing America grant collection.) Volunteers must sign out prints and return them in good condition to their proper place in the storage file.

Contact the Art Masters chair(s) if there is a print – or prints – that should be added to the collection or replaced due to damage. New prints will be purchased and cataloged based on available funding.

How to prepare a lesson: Prepared lesson plans

An ongoing effort is made to catalog lesson plans that have been used successfully in the past. (See Appendix I.) Volunteers must sign out lesson plans and return them intact to the filing cabinet.

Please do not write notes on existing lesson plans!

Feel free to make a copy of existing plans for notes. Volunteers always are welcome to add a separate sheet with additional notes or a sample to an existing file. See “Sharing Successful Lessons with Others” on page 8 for information on adding a lesson plan to the file.

To make the process even easier, we are in the process of digitizing all of our lesson plans. You can find the on-line version of prepared lesson plans on the Art Masters website.   You can search Lesson Plans by Artist or Lesson Plans by Genre of Art.  If you create a new lesson plan or update an existing lesson plan, please let us know so that we can add them to our database.

How to prepare a lesson: Research and Sources

Volunteers need to present a brief biography of an artist, details about a painting, history of a particular movement or artistic theme. (Lessons for Grade 6 require a more detailed overview of each civilization presented.) Tailor the presentation to the students’ grade level. Interesting quotes from an artist can enhance the lesson, especially for older students.

The Art Masters filing cabinet contains files with biographical information on many artists. (See Appendix B.) Feel free to enhance an existing file with information from reliable sources. Please contact the chair(s) before adding a new biography. Please do not add lesson plans to the biography files. Books that are solely about a particular artist are filed with that artist’s biography. The book section of the filing cabinet also includes 501 Great Artists: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of the Art World, a book with brief biographies (one-half to three pages) of major artists.

Appendix B includes a list of guides and books on art appreciation and art lesson plans that can be found in the Art Masters filing cabinet. Prints in the Art Masters collection are cross-referenced with the guides and books wherever possible. The Cedar Hill library also has an excellent reference book, A History of Western Art: Prehistoric to 20th Century.

Appendix B also includes a list of topics files and art calendars and other miscellaneous visual aids.

Volunteers must sign out printed materials and return them promptly to the filing cabinet

 The Children’s Library at Warwick Public Library on Sandy Lane has a variety of books on artists and artistic movements. These books provide biographical information specifically geared toward children. Other books contain lesson plans that easily can be used for Art Masters. Books by artists and about artists are available through inter-library loan.

The Internet in a great source – and a terrible source – for information about artists and activities. How can it be both? Reliable sources, such as museums and academic websites, provide accurate biographical information and innovative lessons. “Fan” sites and “unofficial” sites often provide inaccurate information. Be careful of Wikipedia – a free, on-line encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

To search the Internet for an idea about a hands-on project, include the words “lesson plan” in the search criteria (for example, search “Monet lesson plan”).

Many museums post lesson plans on their websites, often in an “educators” or “family” section. Teachers often share ideas on the Internet. Some excellent, reliable sites to visit (in no particular order) for lesson plans and general art information can be found in Appendix C.

Please contact the chair(s) with links to other reliable websites so information can be shared with all Art Masters volunteers.

How to prepare a lesson: Picturing America Grant Materials

Cedar Hill School is a proud recipient of a 2009-2010 Picturing America grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grant materials included 40 high-quality reproductions of American art and a Resource Book with ideas on how to use these images in the classroom. Materials are available to Art Masters volunteers and Cedar Hill faculty.

The reproductions are stored in a cardboard portfolio in the Art Masters cabinet in the Old Library. These reproductions are double-sided, so they cannot be intermingled with the rest of the Art Masters collection. Each print has a number and letter designation ranging from 1A/1B to 20A/20B. The letters “PA” (for Picturing America) were added to this designation when cataloging these prints for the Art Masters collection. For example, the four prints in our collection by Grant Wood are cataloged as follows:

American Gothic…….. WOOD1

Stone City, Iowa…….. WOOD2

Return from Bohemia…….. WOOD3

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere…….. PA-3A

The Resource Book is available in the school’s library and in its entirety on the Internet at:

The Resource Book includes information about the works of art, artists’ biographies and teaching activities. Grade level is indicated in each of the teaching activities. Additional resources and lesson plans are available at the Edsitement website.

Please note that grant materials cannot be replaced. Please be sure to sign out items and return them promptly and in good condition.

How to prepare a lesson: Using Technology in the Classroom

Cedar Hill is fortunate to have a SMART Board in the library and one Grade 6 classroom. This device allows users to connect to the Internet or show a PowerPoint presentation on a screen large enough to be seen by the entire class. The SMART Board is not portable; it is permanently installed. The SMART Board can be used to project images of works of art that are not part of the Art Masters’ collection.

The SMART Board in the sixth grade classroom is available for Grade 6 Art Masters only.

Use of the library SMART Board needs to be arranged at least one week in advance with the librarian and classroom teacher. It is available only during “open” library time. While it is simple to use, volunteers need a quick lesson from the librarian. Keep in mind that moving students in and out of the library will take some time away from scheduled Art Masters time. The library should be used only for the SMART Board portion of a lesson. Projects must be completed in the classroom.

The library also has an InFocus projector, a device that projects images from a laptop onto a screen or white wall. This is a portable device that can be used in the classroom on the roll up projection screen. Instructions and necessary PC connections are in the case with the projector. (Mac laptop users need a special DVI to VGA display adapter to connect to the InFocus projector. The library does not have this adapter.) Anyone interested in borrowing the InFocus projector must contact the librarian at least one week in advance to check availability and make arrangements to get the projector at a time that does not disrupt library sessions. (Volunteers who have never used the InFocus projector are encouraged to make arrangements to borrow the device in advance to become familiar with how it works.) Plan to pick up the projector 15-30 minutes before an Art Masters lesson begins to allow enough time to make connections and be sure it is functioning properly. Please return the projector promptly to the library with all instructions and connectors.

How to prepare a lesson: Advance preparation

Advance preparation for a lesson is time well spent. First, take the time to try it out. A lesson plan that looks good in a book or on the Internet simply may not work, or require much more – or far less – time than anticipated. Create a sample to show students. Sometimes, a series of samples is needed to show students each step in the process. Consider these questions:

  • Will children in this grade understand the information about the artist or painting? Are they being told too much – or too little?
  • Is the information appropriate for this age group? (It is always appropriate to indicate that an artist “had a difficult life” without providing details.)
  • Can a child do the project? Can every step in the process be completed during class? This is important in lessons that require cutting or drawing people or animals.
  • Are there steps that can be taken in advance that won’t detract from the lesson, but will make the project run more smoothly? Consider precutting, making grids, bringing templates, etc. if it will make the project “doable” for all students in the allotted time.
  • Will students need to choose materials? Organize and label items, setting limits if necessary (for example, write “take 2” on the label). Consider setting up two or more “stations” for students to select materials or bagging some basic materials in reusable zip top bags or containers to get students started on a project. Limit the number of items students initially choose and let them select additional items as they make progress. Remind students to return unused items.
  • Is paint involved? Bring a clean jug for water, small cups and a bag for wet brushes. Allow enough time before the lesson begins to fill cups with poster paint or create palettes of paint on a Styrofoam plate.
  • Is the project potentially messy? Bring newspaper to protect desks from paint and permanent markers and to ease cleanup after clay or glue. Before starting a messy project, remind students that markers and any paint can ruin clothing – even if the container says the product is washable. Inexpensive baby wipes can be used to clean paint off hands, and then used to clean desktops.
  • Is the focus of the lesson making observations about a painting? Prepare enough questions for every student to give an opinion or find an object. (See Appendix D for ideas.) Consider passing out numbers or questions on index cards, if one or two students routinely dominate the conversation.

When in doubt, ask a child to try it out. This method can provide a good indicator of whether directions are clear, if all materials are available (and in ample supply), whether the project will take 5 minutes or a full hour – or needs to be rethought completely.

Finally, consider preparing a label for the back of a completed project or a separate note explaining what the student learned. This can help families talk about art at home. Here’s an example:

Art Masters!

This project was inspired by the work of artist Victor Vasarely. Hailed as the inventor of “Op-Art,” Vasarely’s images create a sense of movement and the illusion of three-dimensional space.

How to prepare a lesson: Safety

Student safety always must be a priority when planning a lesson:

  • Never allow students to use a hot glue gun or other heated device, even on a low setting.
  • Do not use aerosols (such as hairspray to set chalk drawings) in the classroom.
  • Do not use especially strong-smelling products in the classroom, like certain adhesives and paint products.
  • Never allow students to use X-Acto tools, knives or similar products.
  • Do not provide snacks or treats for students or use food items (cereal, pasta, candy, etc.) in projects to eliminate allergy concerns.

How to prepare a lesson: Success in front of the classroom

These 10 tips for success in front of the classroom are based on guidelines from a similar program in Phoenix:

  1. Be cheerful and friendly. The class will have a good time if the volunteer is enjoying the lesson. Smile and have fun. Prepare well in order to enter the classroom with confidence. Be ready to roll with it – the kids may take the lesson in a wonderful, unexpected direction!
  2. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. Spread it around the classroom. Sustain it through each presentation.
  3. Involve the kids in the presentation. Generate enthusiasm by involving as many students as possible in the discussion. Ask stimulating questions. Involve shy kids by asking questions that give them a choice. Try to avoid “yes” and “no” questions so kids can express feelings and opinions. Say, “let’s move on” or “last comment” if students stray too far from the topic.
  4. Don’t bore the kids with too many facts. Avoid dry details. Substitute interesting facts and anecdotes about the artist, technique or painting. Include a brief history of what was occurring at the time, if it sheds some light on the painting. Be spontaneous.
  5. Let the children discover the work of art. Encourage them to share their interpretations by asking them questions.
  6. Vary the presentations. Try different approaches. If a presentation tool works well, share it with others.
  7. Use direct eye contact. Look at and speak directly to the children. Call them by name. Make nametags or look for nameplates attached to students’ desks.
  8. Adapt the presentation to the grade level. Don’t talk down and don’t confuse them with a PhD’s approach. A lesson prepared for an upper grade often can be revised to work in a younger sibling’s class.
  9. Avoid telling a child that an answer is wrong. Substitute “I hadn’t thought of that” or “that’s interesting”.
  10. Don’t impose personal opinions about art. Let kids make up their own minds about a painting. Let them react individually. (Volunteers may be surprised by how their own opinions change over the years!)

Here are some additional tips for a successful lesson:

  1. Highlight information that is really interesting or unusual. If students walk away with one interesting fact or observation that they connect with an image, it will help lock it into their memories. For example, Norman Rockwell included a little trail of smoke coming from the wastebasket in his self-portrait. He was making reference to an accidental fire that burned his studio to the ground!
  2. Encourage thoughtful observation! Sometimes the volunteer just has to let the students look closely at a work for several minutes, before starting the discussion. This may be awkward at first, but the discussion will be based on the students’ feelings and observations. Another method is to make a list of things for students to find in a painting. A good example is Seurat’s A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, which includes more than 50 people and a monkey on a leash.
  3. Encourage students to look for art and art references in their community. How many buildings on Main Street in East Greenwich have columns? What fine art images or posters are on display in a mall store window? Can they find any references to a famous work of art in a print ad or parody? Art is everywhere!
  4. A little geography helps. Use a map or globe to show students where an artist lived or where the subject of a painting is located. If the location is in the U.S. (or a common travel destination), ask students if anyone has ever been there.
  5. Don’t feel pressured to have a “pretty take-home.” Sometimes the best lessons have no finished project, but allow the students to experiment or experience a new technique, a different medium or make keener observations. An example would be a texture bag, where students try to identify various materials concealed in a sack by using only their sense of touch, then comparing the material with those depicted in a great painting. Velvet, lace, jewels, glass… the list is endless. (And there’s no clean up!)
  6. Include references to science or math. Connecting art to science or math can draw more students into the discussion. For example, have students stretch out pieces of precut yarn to show the actual size of a very large or very small painting. Or, explain that artists actually see the blues, purples and pinks they paint in snow-covered landscapes because snow is made up of ice crystals that can reflect those colors.
  7. Use music where there is a connection. Each classroom has a CD player that can be used for a lesson. (Using Don McLean’s “Vincent” for a lesson on van Gogh’s The Starry Night is one example.) When copying music from a computer to a CD, make sure to choose “Audio CD” when burning the disc. The CD players in the classroom cannot play music in MP3 format.
  8. Encourage students to imitate the people depicted in the painting. Whether it’s facial expressions in a Rockwell painting or the effort by the laundress to move clothes with a washing stick in Jacob Lawrence’s “migration” panel, students connect to the image when they act out what they see.

How to prepare a lesson: Communicating with the teacher before the lesson

It is always a good idea to send a note to the teacher a day or two in advance confirming the next scheduled Art Masters session. Request that students have clear desks except for any routine supplies that are needed (a sharp pencil and ruler, for example). Prepare a notice for all students if a messy project (paint, permanent marker, etc.) is planned. For example:

Dear Parents:

On Thursday, November 6, an Art Masters’ project is planned for Mrs. Smith’s class. Students will be learning about Abstract Expressionism and using paint to create their own modern masterpiece.  Students should dress in appropriate clothing or bring an old shirt to wear over school clothes, since paint splatters may occur.

Thank you!

Volunteers are responsible for copying the notice and getting it to the teacher at least two days in advance. Ask the teacher to send it home with students – not wait for the next Friday folder. Please try to put multiple notices on one sheet to save paper. (There is a paper cutter in the supply room near the Old Library.) Volunteers can use the copier at school. Classroom counts are provided to volunteers at the beginning of the year and are available in the school secretary’s office.

How to prepare a lesson plan: Sharing successful lessons with others

If a lesson is successful, share it! New lesson plans are constantly being added to the file for volunteers to use – and use for inspiration. Please notify the chair(s) when a new plan is available. Please note that only lessons that support the mission of Art Masters will be included in the file. Ideally, a lesson plan should include:

  • Detailed instructions, including a full list of materials (and quantities) needed for the project
  • A biography of the artist or other research information
  • A list of sources
  • A sample or photograph of a completed project
  • Notation of the grade(s) in which it was used
  • A CD copy of a PowerPoint presentation or music, if used for the lesson


The school’s PTO provides Art Masters with its operating budget. Most of these funds are used to purchase general supplies for use by volunteers.

Volunteers must obtain prior approval from the chair(s) to be reimbursed for supplies purchased for an Art Masters lesson. Use the school’s tax-exempt form when purchasing supplies, since sales tax cannot be reimbursed. Original receipts are required for approved purchases.

Contact the chair(s) if there is a supply that should be purchased for use by all volunteers. Volunteers who purchase and donate supplies for use in the classroom can receive a letter acknowledging the donation. Send a request with a copy of the receipt to the chair(s).


Supplies for Art Masters lessons are available from several sources: Art Masters materials, supplies borrowed from the art room, materials supplied by volunteers, students’ supplies and materials borrowed from other volunteers.

Art Masters has a supply of durable goods as well as paper, Sharpies, paint, adhesives and other resources. Items can be found in the Art Masters filing cabinet and on specified shelves in the supply room. Make sure supplies are returned and properly stored after a lesson. Please notify the chair(s) if supplies are running low.

Durable supplies can be borrowed from the art room. Please try not to take paper from the art room or from teacher supplies, since the school’s budget for disposable supplies is very limited:

  • Send the art teacher a note in advance detailing the supplies to be borrowed, quantity and date needed
  • Complete the supply sign-out sheet located on the clipboard just inside the art classroom
  • Please try not to disturb a class in progress! There is a crate just inside the art classroom to pick up and return supplies
  • Please check the “Returned” box on the sign out sheet when supplies are brought back
  • Paintbrushes must be washed and placed bristles up
  • Supplies must be returned promptly and in good condition

It is appropriate to ask students to use regular school supplies for an Art Masters lesson. Most students have scissors, colored pencils, markers, crayons and rulers – and are willing to share with classmates who don’t have these supplies.

Volunteers often are willing to loan durable supplies to other volunteers. Please return borrowed materials promptly and in good condition.

Volunteers often bring in their own supplies for use by students. Some sources for inexpensive supplies include dollar stores, weekly coupons from local arts and crafts stores, “odd lot” stores and Recycling for RI Education. See for more information about RRIE, directions and hours. The school has an RRIE membership and there is a minimal charge (less than $1 per pound) for materials purchased. The center has project ideas and a constantly changing inventory. Volunteers must bring the Cedar Hill membership card (available in the office) when visiting RRIE. Please return the RRIE membership card to the office promptly.

Publicity: The Highlighter and yearbook

The school newsletter, The Highlighter, is published prior to PTO meetings. It is distributed by email to all families, faculty, staff and the Warwick school administration. Submissions about classroom activities, including Art Masters, are accepted. Art Masters volunteers will receive an email reminder about deadlines with submission information. Short articles can be emailed to the editor. Photos and illustrations can be submitted to the editor in jpeg format.

Photos taken during Art Masters can be submitted to the yearbook. Email photos, with details about the teacher, grade and students depicted, to the yearbook chair(s). Note that the yearbook chair(s) may request the photos in another format. There is no guarantee that photos will be used.

Updates to the Guide
Updates to this guide will be prepared as needed. Please contact the chair(s) if information needs to be changed or added.

Thank you for volunteering!