How to: Use a Flipped Classroom Exercise for Teaching Art As Resistance/Propaganda

Posted by KC Kourtz on March 7, 2014

A few months ago we published our first in a series of blog posts on using the flipped classroom approach with Facing History themes and resources. (To learn more about the flipped classroom model, see this helpful article on the New York Times Opinionator blog.) We were happy to read so many positive responses from educators who have tried this method in or are planning to soon. While it is still too soon for us to know the long-term impact of the flipped classroom approach on students and on educators’ teaching practices, we do know one thing: flipped classroom exercises create opportunities for personalized learning, help teachers use classroom time more efficiently, and allow us to incorporate technology into homework as well as classroom lessons.

Are you interested in incorporating a flipped classroom teaching method in your classroom? Consider using this activity, which incorporates video clips, teaching strategies, and guiding questions about the use of art as resistance/propaganda. In the clips below you’ll discover Jonathan Petropoulos, American historian and Professor of European History, discussing the importance of the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition in Third Reich Germany, as well as a clip of Irving Ungar, the preeminent authority on the work of Polish graphic artist and caricaturist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951).


Suggested Activity: Degenerate Art and Arthur Szyk

1. In Class

Read a key passage from the Facing History study guide From Modern Art to Degenerate Art (see example below) in class to activate student thinking. Example:

On the eve of opening the Degenerate Art exhibition, Adolf Hitler announced in a radio speech that Nazi art’s function was precisely the opposite of modernist art’s: to reject, reverse, and erase all signs of modernity and its social impact on Germany:

Until National Socialism came to power there existed in Germany a so-called modern art, which is to say that, almost by the nature of the word, there was something new almost every year. National Socialist Germany, however, means to have a German art once again, and this like all the creative values of a people, must and will be an eternal art. If art lacks an eternal value for our people, then even today it has no higher value.

Ask students to come up with a working definition of "art" that they will return to after watching and reading these narratives.

2. Homework

Ask half of the class to watch this video of Petropoulos discussing “degenerate art” in Nazi Germany as homework. Ask the other half to watch this video of Ungar discussing Szyk’s work.

Have students choose one image from either film and then introduce the Describe-Identify-Interpret-Evaluate-Reflect teaching strategy.

Directions for analyzing images

  1. Describe: Look closely at the image. Describe what you see with as much detail as possible. List information about recognizable images, colors, and composition (placement of objects on the page). Write down what you see without making any interpretation about what the picture is trying to say. Complete the statement: "When looking at this image, I see…"
  2. Identify: Identify basic information about the image. What questions do you have about this picture that you would need answered before you can begin to interpret it? Complete the statement: "After looking closely at this image, I want to know..." Then, try to find answers to these questions, such as when the image was produced or who created it.
  3. Interpret: Given what you see and what you know about the image, what do you think it means? What message do you think the creator is trying to express? What other messages, if any, does this image express? Complete the statements: "The message/s this image sends to me is….I think the creator is trying to say…"
  4. Evaluate: What do you think might have been the intended purpose of this image? The intended audience? Do you think this image effectively achieves its purpose? Why or why not? Complete the statements: "Based on my analysis of this image, I think it did/did not achieve its purpose because..."
  5. Reflect: What do you think might be the possible impact of this image? How might the message expressed in this poster have influenced the ideas and actions of others? What does this poster tell you about life in that particular place and time? What questions do you have after analyzing this image? What more do you want to know? Complete the statements: "I believe the impact of this image might have been…" "From analyzing this image, I have learned…" "Some questions I have are..."

3. Regroup

The next time the class meets together, you might use the jigsaw teaching strategy to prompt student discussion about the films in a small group setting. Break students up into groups of three to five, grouping students together who have watched the same video. Have students discuss their video and consider the following questions:

  1. (For those who watched the Ungar video) How does Szyk use the medium of the caricature or cartoon to convey serious commentary about his subjects? To what extent does he succeed in this effort?
  2. (For those who watched the Petropoulos video) Why was “degenerate” art labeled as such? How was this exhibit used as a propaganda tool by the Nazi party?

Students can then break up into “teaching groups” – groups of three to five students who have all seen different videos. Have students take turns presenting on their film and discussing some of their answers to the above questions.

4. Synthesis and Reflection

Come back together as a class. Reflect on the definition of “art” students created in the first class. Does it still ring true?

Learn more about the history of the flipped classroom here.

How might you “flip” your classroom? Have you already? Tell us about it – comment below!

Topics: Art, Antisemitism, Video, EdTech, Assessment, Online Learning, Flipped Classroom, Facing Technology

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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