Document-Based Learning

Motivation

1. Break the class into groups of twos or threes. Give each group a copper penny.
2. Tell the students to pretend that they were space travelers who landed on an unknown planet and found this object
3. Task: What can you tell about the inhabitants of this planet just from examining this object?
4. Give the class ten minutes and then discuss the results—make a list of the observations.
5. Summary discussion: How accurate were the observations in light of what you know about America.

Theme

An art object is primary source material; it is an historical document.
Through visual examination, what can students learn about the time, place and people who produced this object? How can students extend this knowledge to other topics?

Performance objective

Students examine an image, analyze its components, begin to learn about its meaning, and recognize that it is an historical document—a window into the past.

Materials

• Visual representation of an object
• Looking Exercise
• Pennies--enough for all students

Assesment

Students’ verbal responses and written commentaries

Procedure

  1. Teacher will lead the class in the questioning strategy using the Chinese Yu vessel. After asking the students to spend time looking at the Yu, teacher will ask the class what they can tell about the people who made and used this object.
  2. As the discussion progresses, chart what students deduce about China from looking. Teachers may want to make a chart divided by category —such as, access to materials and technology, belief systems, economic systems.
  3. After the questioning is completed, each student draws the object. Teachers may want to have each student record his/her drawing in a special notebook of Asian art.
  4. Each student writes a short description of the object next to the drawing.

Extension

An alternate additional or alternate strategy to introduce students to form and function is as follows:

Materials

• Small containers of different shapes—these should be familiar household or classroom objects like cups, saucers, or pencil holders. Alternately, pictures may be used.
• Pencils
• Paper or notebook

Procedure

  1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a picture or an object.
  2. The group must decide how the object can be used and why. Each students should make note and drawing of each object.
  3. Exchange objects (or pictures) among the groups until each group has seen all. 
  4. Make a class chart of shapes, uses, and reasons.