The lessons described below comprise the second stage of the unit, focusing on the paintings. The sequence and process is largely the same for the other two stages; students will have completed these activities using mystery cartoons before beginning these lessons, and they repeat them again using the poems after demonstrating proficiency with the paintings.
Paintings: Lesson 1
Opening: Observe and Wonder
I begin by projecting Trumbull's
Death of General Warren
on the wall and handing out copies of the painting to students. Their first task is to make observations and ask questions regarding the painting. Students can do this silently, in the form of a "do now" or they can freewrite given the following prompts: "What do you notice about the painting" and "What do you wonder about the painting". After students have had time to observe and wonder, I ask students to share their thinking and encourage students to respond to each others' questions. This first portion of the lesson will feature many simple arguments of fact regarding what is actually happening in the painting, calling on student's previous work solving mystery cartoons. I will provide context for this painting as needed, helping students establish the facts that that General Warren is dying, that his army is retreating, and that the opposing general is attempting to prevent his soldiers continued attack. Once we have established these facts, we can begin to make interpretive claims of judgment.
The focus for the next portion of the lesson is determining how Trumbull's painting characterizes war. To ensure students remain focused on the perspective of the painting itself, it may be helpful to have them imagine themselves as John Trumbull when choosing adjectives to describe war. As students share their responses, I record their claims on an overhead chart, pushing them to provide evidence and analysis in support of their ideas. Students record my notes on a chart of their own; a simple chart (such as those used by Hillocks in
Teaching Argument Writing
) is appropriate. Such organizers can be provided by the teacher or created by students in their notebooks or journals.
This marshaling of evidence continues until we have multiple pieces of evidence to support interpretive claims of judgment.
After students have provided a variety of evidence to support their interpretations. We will work together to write a paragraph using multiple pieces of evidence to support a claim about the nature of war. I want students to know that, for our purposes, paragraphs need to clearly state a claim, use specific evidence from a text, and provide analysis of that evidence that clarifies it's meaning. This paragraph structure reinforces department wide expectations for student writing. The process or composing this paragraph is largely a restructuring and rephrasing of the evidence and analysis gathered above, but provides the opportunity to teach or review paragraph structure, as well as appropriate sentence structure and syntax. Students can finish this paragraph for homework if necessary, making revisions or adding evidence as necessary.
Paintings: Lesson 2
Opening: Observe and Wonder
Much like the first lesson, we observe and wonder as a class, this time focusing our attention on The
Retreat of Napoleon's Army from Russia in 1812
. I still want students to work together as a class so as to hear s many diverse perspectives as possible and establish the facts of the painting. As before, I prove context as necessary. It is important for students to recognize that this army too has been defeated, that napoleon is in fact present in the painting, and that most of the casualties depicted are the result of starvation and exposure to the cold.
Students will be divided into group no larger than four. After having considered the facts of the painting, these groups are charged with the same interpretive task as before, determining how this painting characterizes war. They will use the same charts as before to record claims, evidence, and analysis. Once the group reaches consensus, they will coauthor a paragraph supporting their claim. If no consensus can be reached, students may at this point write about different claims, but they should have recorded evidence and analysis from their group despite their disagreement. This should reinforce the idea that claims must come from the evidence at hand, preventing students from making predetermined or unwarranted claims.
Students work together to write a paragraph supporting their claim. They should use both the product and the process of the previous days lesson as a guide. At this point my job is be to circulate the room, check in with each group, and to ensure that students are including claims, evidence, and analysis in their paragraphs. I can also remind them of any lessons regarding sentence structure or syntax that may have emerged in the previous lesson at this time.
Paintings: Lesson 3
Because the final lesson is meant to be an independent application of skills students have been learning throughout the unit, I take a step back from our initial examination of the final painting,
. In the previous two lessons, I guided this process closely by calling on individual students to speak, ensuring student questions were addressed by classmates, and by providing necessary context. I believe that this painting requires less background to establish basic facts, but students may find it useful to know about the chemical warfare introduced in WWI. I will again provide this as necessary, but I want students to be practicing conversation without my guidance in the service of furthering collective understanding. Students will silently prepare observations and questions on their own before using them in a class–wide seminar discussion. It is entirely likely that students will begin to offer and solicit interpretations at this stage, and I may allow this to continue for a little while, but once the conversation seems to be focused on interpretive claims, I will move to the final assessment of the unit.
as evidence, students write an organized paragraph making an interpretive claim about the nature of war. They may use any of their notes or previous work as a guide. I will use a departmental rubric for written analysis to evaluate students on their ability to write a clearly stated claim and support it with relevant evidence and specific analysis.