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Lesson Plans

teaching art history

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Wed, 22 May 1996 18:18:52 -0500 (CDT)

Mark Alexander asks about teaching art history. Some thoughts:
As you so rightly note, we learn more when we have to teach others. Why not
have your students responsible for researching and teaching certain aspects
of the course - a specific artist, genre, theory of art, etc.? (or) I assume
this is essentially a lecture course, not studio, but if you are interested
in teaching the NATURE of art history, you might try a simulation. For
instance, divide the class into groups. Each group must create a "culture":
a symbol system (language), a social structure, clothing, food, climate,
industry, world location, etc. They then produce artifacts consistent with
that culture, break them or tear them, and bury the fragments in a box of
sand and dirt. The groups exchange boxes and, based upon their
archaeological expertise, they try to figure out the culture they unearth.
The kids might bury torn "writing" or broken clay fragments of symbols.
Torn or broken "artworks", pottery, clothing bits, tools - anything
appropriate to the culture. After each group has gone as far as it can from
"intrinsic" info, they can compare their hypotheses with the "facts" of the
culture as revealed by its creators. (or) You could have students do
creative writing based upon pieces of art - poetry, short stories, JOKES,
etc. (I have a board in my room filled with art-related cartoons. Try
Calvin and Hobbes books for some of the best.) (or) If you are showing
slides, have the students each write three good questions during the course
of each lecture - discussing these questions will be very productive and
will help the kids focus. (or) Play Jeopardy at the end of each unit, or
some other game which uses the facts in a fun way. (or) My personal bias in
teaching art history is that it requires a humanities approach. (Can you
work with the music or lit teachers to expand the concept?) Assign reading
and music listening which reflect the era under discussion. Play appropriate
music during slide lectures, read poetry or prose contemporary with the
works. I happen to believe in the traditional, historical approach to art
history, but it certainly doesn't have to be stuffy. The greatest art book
in years is "The Annotated Mona Lisa" - brief, fascinating, readable. Also
"A History of Painting" by Sister Wendy....Beckett, I think. Anyway, there
are a slew of new history books on the market which are extremely anecdotal.
(Always have a ton of anecdotes - that's the stuff we actually remember.
Every kid knows some artist cut off his ear!) Also, I highly recommend
William Fleming's "Arts and Ideas". I hope some of this is helpful. Good

Eileen Prince
Sycamore School

  • Maybe reply: DebbieDBAE: "Re: teaching art history"
  • Maybe reply: Brian Foster: "Re: teaching art history"