Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

Holy Propaganda, Batman: Comics Go to War

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol IV. It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of a pdf or multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. See more in the series here

Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez

Karina introduce her lesson:

Welcome Historians! This book will help us understand World War II through the lens of comic book covers. I will give a brief introduction on the start of the Golden Age of comic books, and after an introduction of the start of the World War II (1939) and how that influence comic books. The essential question for this book is: What can early comic book covers tell us about World War II? The target audience for this book is ninth grade high schoolers. The historical skills that will be studied are sourcing, contextualization, corroborating, and close reading. The final project will be creating your own comic book cover or meme against or for the U.S. involvement during WWII.

Image credit: Four Favorites “Right in Der Fuehrer’s Face” Wikipedia

Combat Troops in Context: A Visual Literacy DBQ

Howard_Chandler_Christy_-_Gee_I_wish_I_were_a_Man,_I'd_Join_the_Navy_-_Google_Art_Project

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

Combat Soldiers in Context by Kristi Anne McKenzie Download as PDF (6.9MB)

This DBQ project will explore documents that contribute to the popular image of the soldier in the minds of the American people. As you examine the following documents, remember to keep in mind both the source of the document and the point of view that is being expressed.

  • Who created the document?
  • What was the goal in creating this document?
  • How does the document reflect the period in time?
  • How do the documents support or contradict one another?

Reflection by Kristi Anne McKenzie ~ AboutMe

Advice to Future Self on Undertaking a DBQ Project

1. Start with the document(s) first. Learn about it (or them), and place that document in a time period and look at everything that surrounds it. Follow the rabbit trail from MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam” to Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again” and see where it takes you. The themes will show themselves sooner or later. Humans are programmed to seek out patterns and find the stories. But starting with a theme and hoping to find documents to undergird that theme is risky. It could work, but it could also lead you on a search for something that doesn’t exist.

2. Be careful about trusting your crazy brain. Sometimes it does magic tricks when you least expect it. Sometimes it lets you think it can do the impossible. This is when you need to reach out to, and listen to, the friends who will be bluntly honest with you and tell you when you’re headed out onto unfruitful waters.

3. Don’t try to answer philosophical questions with a DBQ project. Yes, there is an inherent discrepancy between perception and reality. Great. But a DBQ is probably not the correct avenue to explore such an idea. However, don’t be afraid to present the unanswerable questions. Part of life is learning that not all questions have answers.

4. If you know how your brain works best, go with it. I tried to learn how to design a DBQ while simultaneously trying to figure out how to use Learnist and Evernote with my brain balking at me all the way. When I finally relented to how I learn best (paper and Pilot G-2 pen), my brain finally began to kick into gear. If I had accepted the truth of how my brain works sooner, I could have just gotten the work done and copied and pasted my work into these new programs afterwards. Trying to learn a design process while attempting to learn a new computer program was too taxing and, ultimately, unproductive.

5. Don’t let your heart get broken, don’t lose anyone you love, and don’t get ill. These will all interfere with your work.

6. Don’t be afraid to suck at something the first time you try it. Scarred knees are simply reminders that you now know how to ride a bicycle. Embrace the suck. Listen to Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

*** Now that the project has been completed, I might add that, in the end, everything came together fairly easily. My training as a historian turned out to be my secret sidekick. I will do this again, and next time I will do it better.

Image credit: Gee I wish I were a Man, I’d Join the Navy by Howard Chandler Christy (after 1917)
Cooper Hewitt Museum Accession Number 1980-32-1170

New Deal Poster DBQ: Public Persuasion or Propaganda

Work pays America Prosperityjpg

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

Essential Question: How did the WPA use art to influence public opinion?

The New Deal and the Art of Public Persuasion
by Kari VanKommer Download as pdf (6.6MB)

The Federal Arts Program or the FAP was one arm of the WPA solely dedicated to the creation and promotion of the arts in America. One of it’s major undertakings were the creation of promotional posters, today known as the WPA Poster Collection. Between the years 1935 and 1943, the WAP and FAB collectively created and printed more than 2 million posters on more than 35,000 unique subject matters.

There are several key techniques academics used when analyzing materials that is created to persuade and in this DBQ these techniques will be helpful to use as well. The most import questions to ask yourself when looking at all of the posters in this collection are below.

  1. What is the ideology and purpose of the propaganda?
  2. What is the context in which the propaganda occurs?
  3. Who is the propagandist?
  4. What is the structure of the propaganda organization?
  5. Who is the target audience?
  6. What techniques for persuasion are being used?
  7. What audience reactions are the techniques hoping to elicit?

Reflection by Kari VanKommer Twitter/@MissKVK

This project was such a great opportunity to try my hand at creating the type of relevant history lesson that I want to include in my curriculum as a future social studies teacher. Unfortunately, I did not fully take advantage of it as I wish I had. Initially I struggled narrowing down a subject, I wanted to land on something I felt a strong personal connection to which would also be relatively simple to construct a DBQ project around. Quickly settling on the topic of communism and the Red Scare, I felt confident, perhaps a little too confident. When I realized that someone had focused on that topic last year for this project, I decided that topic would no longer work for me. I could have carried on with the communist angle and perhaps focused more specifically on one aspect of it such as the Rosenbergs or the Cuban Missile Crisis, but my internal drive to be as close to original as possible forbid me from this. Instead I decided to switch gears entirely.

After debating various topics in my head from Civil War Reconstruction to the often forgotten historical figure of Noah Webster, of that dictionary we refer to from time to time (who I discovered in my preliminary research may have been a thoroughly unlikable fellow which is why his contributions to the founding of the USA have largely been forgotten…) but I digress. After bouncing around a variety of ideas after the Red Scare topic fell through, I finally settled on focusing my DBQ on the New Deal and the various forms of propaganda and art that came out of that time period in American life.

This period in history is complicated and filled with difficulties and political initiatives that mirror our own times to such a degree it is almost unsettling. Much as President Obama has needed to sell his ideas for recovery and change in the last six years such as the Affordable Care Act, so FDR needed to sell his plan for getting America out of the Great Depression. The poster collection created by the WPA and FAP between 1933-1943 is one of the first things I re-discovered when researching this topic. They are beautiful, modern and striking. The have an agenda, often times more than one and they have much to tell us about what art can do to shift public opinion, and what those responsible for creating those posters believed needed to be shifting.

Once I settled on a topic my drudgery through this project was not alleviated. I did not have a focused point of view or purpose for the posters though I know I wanted to use them. Peter Pappas helped me collate my thoughts on what things could be asked of students in relation to the artwork and what conclusions or inferences could be drawn that might be helpful. My resulting DBQ project is not the best thing I have every produced, but it is definitely a place to start. As one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert has said “You must be very polite with yourself when you are leaning something new.”

If I could do it again I would get started much sooner, put my head down and find a topic I felt was original and interesting. I might have focused on maps or the layout of cities in America or something closely related to that. The good news is I hope to be at this for a while and I think the benefit of DBQ questions can not be understated, so I might just get me do-over shot after all. For now it’s about doing the best you can and learning that procrastination does not a stellar project make.

Image credit: Work pays America! Prosperity.
Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ds-04632

The Power of Propaganda: A Student-Designed DBQ

white haired girl balletI assigned my preservice teachers at University of Portland the task of using Learnist to design a document based question that would eventually become part of a class-produced DBQ iBook collection. DBQ assignment here. More samples of student-designed DBQs here.

I’ve asked them to reflect on the assignment and invited them to guest post on my blog. Here is The Power of Propaganda designed by Kyle Stephens.

You can find Kyle’s posts on our class blog.

See Kyle’s chapter in our class-designed iBook – free at iTunes.

Kyle Stephens reflects on what he learned from the experience:

I wanted to somehow link the idea of propaganda to today’s society and challenge the students to think about how propaganda may be used today.

When I started my DBQ project I wanted to show how propaganda was used throughout history and see how propaganda evolved throughout the years. However, I decided to focus my attention at WWII and the Cold War Era. I was able to find some great documents showing the propaganda used during that time. I wanted to somehow link the idea of propaganda to today’s society and challenge the students to think about how propaganda may be used today. However, I didn’t come up with a great way to do that without making the project much larger in scope. I think I should have focused my attention to either WWII or the Cold War exclusively. I think I would have been able to dive in deeper with one of them, rather than trying to span over a long time and different conflicts. However, this DBQ could be used to try to connect the two events and show how propaganda played a part in both of these.

Image credit
The White-Haired Girl: Chinese film poster (1950)
British Library
 

Media Manipulation: Vietnam War DBQ

peace rally 1970

I assigned my preservice teachers at University of Portland the task of using Learnist to design a document based question that would eventually become part of a class-produced DBQ iBook collection. DBQ assignment here. More samples of student-designed DBQs here.

I’ve asked them to reflect on the assignment and invited them to guest post on my blog. Here is Media and War: An Analysis of Vietnam War Propaganda designed by Damian Wierzbicki. It provides a selection of media from opposing perspectives and asks students to answer the following question: How does media impact our perception of war?

See Damian’s chapter in our class-designed iBook – free at iTunes.

You can find Damian’s posts on our class blog.

It provides a selection of media from opposing perspectives and asks students to answer the following question: How does media impact our perception of war?

Damian Wierzbicki reflects on what he learned from the experience:

The goal of my DBQ project was for students to gain an appreciation for how one’s perceptions of an event can be manipulated through media. The idea was for students to examine a variety of items, identify the techniques employed in conveying the message, and evaluate whether or not the techniques were effective. After investigating the media content within the lesson, students would apply what they learned by curating a series of media items that depict a certain perspective in a contemporary conflict.

Reading my original proposal for the project, I feel the final product achieves the goals I initially set forth. The lesson contains a variety of media types (print, posters, photos) and each example is accompanied by a set of questions that challenge students to do more than just identify what they see. I’m pleased with what I created because it approaches the study of history from a different perspective and medium. I can see this being more enjoyable than reading a history text or listening to lecture on a more traditional topic.

Though I am pleased with what I created, reservations do exist. This product has yet to be used. I don’t know how students or educators will react. Will they learn or appreciate the material I put forth? Will they find it engaging? It’s hard to say, especially since this was the first DBQ project I created. Teachers must always reflect and adapt. The project I created feels like a solid first step, but I want it to be used so I know how to make it better.

Once I decided upon a topic, the project was straightforward. However, I did run into one hurdle: curating the media. Selecting relevant pieces was challenging and time consuming. There is so much iconic media from the Vietnam era, but not all was applicable to my objective. Using the wrong piece could have lead to confusion and undermined what students were supposed to take away from the lesson.

Image Credit: LSU Public Relations, “Peace Rally,” 1970. LSU student Luana Henderson participated in a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War held in 1970 on the LSU campus. The poster behind her refers to the killing of four students by National Guardsmen during a protest that turned violent at Kent State University in Ohio. University Archives, Louisiana State University.

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