Teacher Voice

Horace Pippin: The Artist of No Man's Land

I did these activities with seven AP World History students in grades 10-12. The activities went well overall. I used “Activity One: Anticipatory Set” as an entry question, displaying the image on the board with the first and last questions next to it. My classroom has white boards, so each student answered the questions, “What is going on in the painting? What makes you think that? How does the painting reflect the African-American experience in World War I?” in writing on their own. I chose the first and last because my students already do considerable image analysis and have been trained to first make lists of major objects, words, and symbols found in the visual stimulus before responding to the questions. Then we shared and discussed their answers before orally addressing the subsequent questions.

This introductory activity went well and led to an interesting discussion about race and perception, in that students did not initially notice African Americans in the painting because of how they blended in with the foreground—an interesting commentary in and of itself. I showed them images from Google of U.S. uniforms and German uniforms to illustrate that the white soldiers in blue being fired upon were the German enemy and the black soldiers in brown near the foreground were American. One student remarked on how embarrassed she was to not catch the commentary on race initially.

For Activity Two, I created a small two-page worksheet with the Historical Context from the beginning of the teacher packet in italics, followed by the excerpt from the memoir and on the back I printed the questions. Students took about 25 minutes to read and respond to the questions. We then discussed their answers as a group. Then, on a different table, I had printed and laid out a few of the images from the Blue Book. I had students kinesthetically move and categorize the images together. Then I put the painting in the middle and had them put like images with it. We then wrote and discussed the, “the similarities and differences among the memoir excerpt, the painting, and the photographs from the Blue Book excerpt” as the activity directed.”

Finally, I really liked Activity Three in the AP course because it was a great opportunity to practice a DBQ with well analyzed and discussed documents. I used both our school-wide rubric and the AP rubrics to grade student writing, instead of the provided rubric.