The Golden Rule


Students will look at the painting, The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell and analyze the illustration. A class discussion will allow for students to not only talk about the composition of the painting, but also to analyze the objects and clues to decode the words at the bottom of the piece, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The students will then design an illustration of their own interpretation of the world-renowned Golden Rule.

This lesson is designed for two - 30 to 40 minute class periods.

Enduring Understandings/ Essential Questions:

  1. “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” is a common thread in the many religions that guide people in the way they treat others.
  2. Different countries and cultures practice different religions.
  3. Personal reflections allow writers to think about how their lives are influenced or have changed due to new or past experiences or learnings.
  4. The elements of art are building blocks used to create a work of art and the principles of design describe the way artists use the elements of art within their artwork.
  5. The elements and principles of design contribute to the viewer’s interpretation  of the visual meaning and intention of the artist.
    • What does the phrase, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you,” mean?
    • What would the world be like if all citizens of the world followed this principle?
    • What symbols are recognized in our culture to represent peace, love and acceptance?
    • How were the elements and principles of design used to make this illustration successful?
Four Freedoms
This lesson is designed for two - 30 to 40 minute class periods.
Composition (Dynamics, triangular, Rule of Thirds, etc.); Diversity; Elements and Principles of Design; Emphasis; Mood; Religion; Symbol; Technique; Thumbnail Sketch; Visual Inventory


  • Students will view Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell
  • Students will consider the historical and cultural events of the time that the illustration was created.
  • Students will complete a worksheet, Golden Rule - Think Sheet (K-4) and create a work of visual art. Students will select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.
  • Students will choose a media, explore techniques, and processes in order to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories through their artwork.


Golden Rule, a gathering of men, women, and children of different races, religions, and ethnicities, was a precursor of the socially conscious subjects that Norman Rockwell would undertake in the 1960s. “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You” was a simple but universal phrase that reflected the artist’s personal philosophy. A citizen of the world, Rockwell traveled throughout his life and was welcomed wherever he went. Of the painting Rockwell said, “I had tried to depict all the peoples of the world gathered together. That is just what I wanted to express about the Golden Rule.”

Rockwell’s Golden Rule painting later served as the inspiration for a glass mosaic that was presented to the United Nations in 1985 as a Fortieth Anniversary gift on behalf of the United States by then First Lady Nancy Reagan, made possible by the Thanks-Giving Square Foundation. Rockwell’s Golden Rule painting and his United Nations drawing were exhibited at the United Nations in honor of this humanitarian organization’s Seventieth Anniversary of the United Nations, an expression of his appreciation for humanity and democratic ideals



Multimedia Resources:

Golden Rule

United Nations

Classroom Supplies:

  • The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper
  • Optional:The Golden Rule As Expressed by Cultures Around the World by Sandra and Harold Darling
  • Large easel with paper pad and pen, or board to record brainstorming ideas on
  • Worksheet: Golden Rule - Think Sheet (K-4)
  • Paper and assorted media



Class One

  1. The reproduction of the Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell will be posted or projected in a central location so that all students can see the illustration.
  2. Ask the students if any of them have seen the image, Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell. Ask the students to look closely at the foreground, the middle ground, and the background and to  share what they see, not what they might infer. . The class will collectively take a visual inventory. You may offer the first example if the students are unclear such as, “I see a lot of people standing together.” As each student contributes, restate their observation. You might be able to elaborate on what they have said to add more visual detail or you might ask them for clarification. Encourage them to look closely and carefully. By doing this, the students will analyze the work and find clues and symbols to help read the visual image, revealing American culture.
  3. Ask if anyone has heard of the saying, “Do unto others as you would want done unto you.” A conversation about different cultures and religions is welcomed.
  4. Read the book, The Golden Rule, by Ilene Cooper to the class, stopping to clarify any parts that might be confusing or where the students might be able to add their own interpretation or story


Class 2

  1. Optional: Share a few of the sayings from the book, The Golden Rule As Expressed by Cultures Around the World,  by Sandra and Harold Darling. Discuss the wording and the meaning of the sayings shared.
  2. Students will be given the worksheet, Golden Rule - Think Sheet (K-4) to complete.
  3. Circulate around the room and be available for each student if they need to talk about their ideas and material needs.
  4.  About 15 minutes before dismissal, have  the students come together to share their illustrations. Ask the students to present their drawing and explain their thoughts. Once the artist has spoken, comments from classmates will be allowed. The comments must be given in a respectful manner, demonstrate critical thoughts and be relevant to the project.


  • Students will be evaluated on their participation in the discussion (informal checks of understanding through questions) and completion of the worksheet: Golden Rule Think Sheet (K-4)
  • Students will select media and understand what makes that media an effective one in communicating their ideas. The students will reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices.
  • Students will analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (history and culture) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.
  • Students will participate in a group discussions and a class critique.



This curriculum meets the standards listed below. Look for more details on these standards please visit: ELA and Math StandardsSocial Studies Standards, Visual Arts Standards.

Understand that people from different places and times have made art for a variety of reasons.
Compare and contrast cultural uses of artwork from different times and places.
Recognize that responses to art change depending on knowledge of the time and place in which it was made.
Through observation, infer information about time, place and culture in which a work of art was created.
Use observation and investigation in preparation for making a work of art.
Make art or design with various materials and tools to explore personal interests, questions, and curiosity.
Apply knowledge of available resources, tools, and techniques to investigate personal ideas through the art-making process.
Collaboratively set goals and create artwork that is meaningful and has purpose to the makers.
Engage collaboratively in creative art-making in response to an artistic problem.
Explore uses of materials and tools to create works of art or design.
Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.
Create personally satisfying artwork using a variety of artistic processes and materials.
Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches.
Through experimentation, build skills in various media and approaches to art-making.
Demonstrate safe and proper procedures for using materials, tools, and equipment while making art.
Demonstrate safe procedures for using and cleaning art tools, equipment, and studio space.
Demonstrate an understanding of the safe and proficient use of materials, tools, and equipment for a variety of artistic processes.
When making works of art, utilize and care for materials, tools, and equipment in a manner that prevents danger to oneself and others.
Identify safe and non-toxic art materials, tools, and equipment.
Use art vocabulary to describe choices while creating art.
Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating art.
Elaborate visual information by adding details in an artwork to enhance emerging meaning.
Revise artwork in progress on the basis of insights gained through peer discussion.
Explain the process of aking art while creating.
Interpret art by categorizing subject matter and identifying the characteristics of form.
Interpret art by identifying the mood suggested by a work of art and describing relevant subject matter and characteristics of form.
Interpret art by analyzing use of media to create subject matter, characteristics of form, and mood.
Interpret art by referring to contextual information and analyzing relevant subject matter, characteristics of form, and use of media.
Interpret art by identifying subject matter and describing relevant details.