Category Archives: Advanced Placement

Shmoop’s Learning Guides and Libraries – Great Free Resources for Students and Educators!

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 10.14.26 AMI have written about Shmoop in the past (see my article: “Highlight of Product at the AP Conference Shmoop“). If you are unfamiliar with Shmoop, think of them as an all inclusive website for study-guides, lesson plans, student and teacher resources, and sample standardized test repository (just to name a few). While Shmoop offers a wide variety of paid resources (inexpensive and well worth the investment it in my opinion), they also have ample free resources for both educators and students.

If you are looking for a great review of material, check out their “Free Learning Guides” that cover a myriad of topics from literature to mathematics. They also have a great repository of learning videos under their “Shmoopsterpiece Theater.”

If you are looking to provide guidance to students preparing to leave High School, try the section on “Shmoop Careers,” where students can take a brief aptitude and interest test and receive guidance, or “College 101,” which can help students to select a college or university that will meet their needs, complete a successful application, and get funding.

New material is added regularly, so this is  a site to bookmark!

Update – Using a Class Blog in AP Art History

I previously posted about using a class blog in conjunction with DropBox to do bi-monthly visual projects in AP Art History. You can read about them here: “Using Blogs in Class – AP Art History” and “DropBox – An Excellent and *Free* Resource for Educators.” This week, my students presented their second version of the project. They continue to impress me as they develop and hone their critical writing skills and ability to view and analyze Art. I am very happy with how this project has been developing for several reasons: it is a repository of visual information for the students to develop their image catalogue, they share information and further research on objects, it provides them regular and reviewed practice in analyzing and writing about Art, they are practicing their public speaking skills, and they are learning to read and constructively analyze their peers’ work.

Here are the instructions for the project itself:

For extra credit, I allow them to comment meaningfully on one-another’s stories. It encourages them to read each other’s work and to think about it seriously.

Here is an example of some of their phenomenal work this week.

Using Blogs in Class – AP Art History

This year, I have been introducing blogging in my classes (to varying degrees). I have written on them several times in my previous posts: “First Week Using Class Blogs,” “Update on Blogging in the Class Part 2,” and “Update on Using Class Blogs.”

I have three preps and five classes: Ancient/Medieval History (9th grade), College Prep United States History (11th & 12th grade), and AP Art History (11th & 12th grade). This is my first year teaching AP Art History. I have taught Art History I and Art History II at the college level, as well as several advanced Art History Courses (Greek Art & Archaeology, Mediterranean Art History, Roman Art & Archaeology, etc). However, this is my first AP. Trinity Valley has done a fabulous job of providing me ample professional development – including sending me to the AP National Conference in San Francisco where I was able to meet with several colleague and gain numerous resources.

My students in AP Art History are phenomenal – often demonstrating more academic sophistication and thought than any of the college students I have taught in the past. Today, they presented their first significant project that was in two parts – an oral and a written component. It required that they do a bit of independent research and present a formal topic to their classmates. My intention with this assignment is to: further provide them with a visual catalogue, encourage them to develop their observation and analytical skills, and to further develop their writing skills in association with Art and Art Historical topics.

Here were the formal instructions:

Instructions: Select one image from either Chapter 3 or 4 (only one student may do each image, first call first serve).

Written Portion:

  • On the Class Blog Write the Title of the Work, Artist, and Date
  • Write a brief physical description of the image
  • Write a brief description of the image’s historical and social context
  • Minimum 100 words
  • Spelling & Grammar Count
  • Include a brief Works Cited at the end (MLA format), you should include at least 2 sources (including your textbook)
  • Be sure to put your name in the Tag

Oral Portion:

  • One Power Point Slide
  • Include a copy of the image
  • Include the Title of the Work, Artist, and Date
  • Indicate three principles of design
  • Prepare a two minute (minimum) discussion of the piece, its significance, and its history (this information should not be written on the slide).
  • Save the PowerPoint in DropBox at TVS Art History Share –> Student Projects –> Project 2.Last Name.ppt

The oral presentations today were clearly well prepared and researched. I was blown away. It was obvious that every single student put serious thought and effort into their project. While a few students brought up a couple of notes with them to reference (nothing was written out), they were clearly presenting “off the cuff,” having internalized a majority (if not all) of the information. I’m including a copy of one of the slides here:

Here was the student’s accompanied blog post – a well thought out, solidly researched, and concise description and contextual analysis.

Here is another post from a student (clearly much longer than assigned) as well as a comment by a classmate:

I have been struggling with how to use the class blog for my AP Art History class, but I am liking this format. It makes the information readily available to students and it will be there in the future for them all to access and assess (in abbreviated form and more comprehensible verbiage than a formal textbook). I am also leaving all of the PowerPoint slides from the presentations up on DropBox for the year so that they have this visual catalogue available to them when it comes time to study for the AP exam (for more on DropBox, see my post “DropBox – An Excellent and Free Resource for Educators“).

I would love any input or thoughts from educators or students here. Do you think that this is effective? Suggestions on how to improve it? General comments?

Highlight of Product at the AP Conference: Shmoop

Ever heard of Shmoop? If you haven’t, you will… soon.

Shmoop is a study resource for students, an in-depth teacher’s guide to topics (cuz sometimes we don’t know everything – except me, I know everything), and a series of exam study guides for AP, SAT, PSAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test, etc.

While Shmoop has plenty of resources that are free, the paid resources are the true gems. At incredibly discounted rates, they will give instructors basic summary material, key terms and ideas, topics of conversation, related readings, quizzes, images, and so forth

For students, the advantages are even more – course study-guide, summaries of topics (for last minute cramming), key lesson plans drawing connections to modern figure and popular culture (much to my chagrin, I heard that they even use Twilight). Their practice tests for the AP, SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject tests are full-length and are available in much higher numers than any other test prep organization (where you learn techniques in how to guess – the focus of Shmoop seems to be helping you to really learn!

You can access Shmoop not only on your computer, but your iOS device, Kindle, Sony eReader, and the Nook (with more coming soon). So, check out Shmoop and be sure to follow them on twitter: @shmoop.

** I am in no way , shape, or form affiliated shmoop. I am not paid or this endorsement nor do I receive any other privileges or special treatment. This has been written solely from my own experience and perspective.

Teaching Art History Thematically (AP Conf Cont’d)

The session I attended this afternoon focused on a thematic approach to Ar History. It’s an interesting concept and one that has been thrown around in the the fields of broad history topics (World, European, Asian, etc) as well as other social topics – including Art History (my focus at this conference).

The section was presented by David Blumberg, an educator at the Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts in Laredo, Texas. Thematic approaches to Art History are helpful for a variety of reasons – namely that it can help students to make cross-cultural and temporal connections to themes and ideas in arts. Additionally, when teaching a broader spectrum of a topic, it keeps you from having to play the jumping around chronology game – e.g. When teaching Medieval Europe (4th – 14th century C.E.), at what point do I jump over to say civilizations of the Americas or dynastic splits in Asia? The chronological themes are not the same and the matching is awkward.

He provided a number of resources and material that we could use (including a series of slides and imagery to use in our classes if we so choose). While I’m not sure that I will go the thematic route – especially my first year out – it is definitely a concept that I will incorporate in areas.

AP Conference – Combining History with Art History

Today was my second day at the Annual College Board AP Conference – it’s a beautiful day in San Francisco (75 degrees and not a hint of fog), yet my shoe wear and the meetings have largely kept me inside. Still, it’s been well worth it.

The first scheduled panel I attended today was entitled: “European History Meets Art History: How Art Can Deepen Historical Understanding.” The lecture was co-taught by a teacher of European History and a studio art/Art History instructor. It highlighted the importance of historical context when studying art as well as the importance of art in the historical world. As an archaeologist by training, this was right up my alley.

What was most helpful was the tools and online resources available for both History and Art History teachers.

  • Using Works of Art in the AP Classroom (note this opens a PDF document). this publication is put out by the College Board to highlight the role that Art plays in an historical context.
  • Web Gallery of Art – Virtual museum and searchable database of European Art.
  • Smart History – A free, not-for-profit, multimedia web book ideal for supplementing traditional Art History textbooks.
  • Project Gutenberg – Over 36,000 free ebooks for download to your computer, Smart Phone, or eReader

The highlight of the talk was that these articles could readily be used by educators to enhance their students’ understanding and comprehension of both the world of History as well as Art History.

Day 1 of the Annual AP Conference – Art History for New Teachers

So, today was Day 1 of my attendance at the Annual College Board AP Conference. This year it is hosted in the beautiful city of San Francisco. Today is the pre-conference and I registered for the all-day workshop for New teachers of AP Art History. The group was led by the esteemed Michael Bieze, Ph.D. at the Marist School in Atlanta. He was an amazing resource providing lots of information on the AP examination itself as well as pedagogy and techniques. He even provided to us some examples of his syllabus, examples of primary sources that he incorporated, and various interactive projects and activities. It was a wealth of information!

First and foremost, it helped to calm some of my fears about the AP Exam itself. While I have taught Art History at the college level – Art History 101 & 102, Art Appreciation, and upper division Art History courses – I have never taught “the AP,” which is its own beast. I’ll admit, I was tossing and turning a bit about the simple wealth of material I’m expected to cover with the goal of students getting a 4 or a 5! This helped to assuage some of those concerns.

The most exciting project he presented, that highlights the skills students need in an Art course, is a visual PowerPoint analysis (or one could use Keynote, Preview, Adobe Illustrator, etc). In fact, it’s similar to my idea of having students make Infographics. Please note, the following are the content of Michael Bieze, Ph.D.

The Project Assignment is as follows:

  1. A list of art pieces are assigned individually to students.
  2. Students must create and present an informative PowerPoint slide outlining both essential information as well as informative/analytical points
  3. The slides are then assembled for dissemination to the class – a great use for DropBox!

These are the specific instructions distributed to students:

Your PowerPoint must include the following information at the top:

  1. Artist (if known)
  2. Title
  3. Date
  4. Medium/Media
  5. Size
  6. Style (period

At the bottom of the PowerPoint slide include

  1. Your name
  2. The URL or proper citation for the source of the work

Alongside your image include a brief description of at least 3 essential details of the work (one formalist and one social context) and 3 subtle details which require close examination

Additional Information and Requirements

  • If you have chosen a building or sculpture, you may include multiple views
  • Please make the background color and font simple and clear
  • Make the arrows clearly point toward the details being described
  • DropBox your PowerPoint in the “Shared” folder and it will be made available to the class as a study guide.
  • Be prepared to briefly discuss your findings in class.

Assessment (Rubric)

  • 25% completion of the assignment on time
  • 25% content of discussion
  • 25% formalism discussion
  • 25% iconography discussion

Here was the example that he provided for this assignment:

Some other teachers suggested some great other ways to take this, including assigning students to do this with local art pieces – exercising their analytical skills ‘out of the book.’

Another great project suggestion that he had was to provide students a canon of material – a bank of five or six images found at your local museum – and have them write a brief compare/contrast with an object of a similar theme from the book. Here is the example that he provided:

This is a short writing assignment that reflects the type of analysis they will have to do on the AP exam itself (when presented with an unfamiliar image). Forunately, the city of Fort Worth has a series of amazing museums that can provide a wealth of material: The Kimbell, the Modern, and the Amon Carter.

I also love that he provided us a great list of primary sources (as a historian, I love primary sources) that are instrumental in providing students context to the material – an invaluable tool for the arenas outside of my expertise (I’m looking at you early Chinese Art).

These ideas and the collaboration amongst colleagues has given me a lot of ideas for implementation – keeping the class from becoming a standard lecture, engaging the students, and teaching them the necessary critical analsysis skills that will help them to do well not only on the AP Art History exam, but in navigating the powerful world of imagery that confronts us every day.