With regards to the students not preparing for a discussion, try using the
slides to generate ideas for discussion. Of course, the one's who have done
the reading will be able to contribute the most. The others, however, will
still be able to offer valid opinions and the class will be beneficial for
all. This is something we do a lot in museums when most viewers no little or
nothing about the works. Start out with a general question such as "what's
going on in this painting?" and then, using comparisons to other works they've
studied, new information can be passed along. A good example would be to take
a 19th century French academic style painting and compare it to an
Impressionist work. A visual comparison yields apparent differences in
subject matter, application of paint, concern with color and light that
illustrate the main points of Impressionism.
A couple of other ideas may be to team up with a social studies, music, math
or science teacher and have students learn about what different things were
going on a the time a particular work was created (ie: the development of
jazz in the US at the time of Abstract Expressionism or the invention of the
printing press alongside medieval manuscripts or woodcuts. ) This offers the
student a chance to bring their own interests into the assignment.
If there are any museums nearby, contact their education staff about resources
available, and if possible, arrange a tour. Art history is pretty cool stuff
to study, but it has to come alive.