Holy Propaganda Batman! Comic Book Covers and World War II

wonder-womenSensation Comics Jan. No. 13 (Source)

Overall I really enjoyed and found value in creating a document based lesson. This semester I’ve been reading, Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen and a quote that really stood out to me was, “What would we think of a course in poetry in which students never read a poem? (pg. 7).” I kept thinking about this quote throughout this lesson because that’s how high school social studies have been teaching history to students, and I feel document based lessons is an alternative that fixes that problem. It gives students a chance to work with primary resources and challenges them to be the historians in the process. The challenge for me was what primary resources to use, and what questions did I want my students to answer. I am glad I got to use a topic that I am super passionate about and be able to use it as my document based lesson project. The hard part was finding comic book covers that was available to share. Especially because Marvel and DC comics have heavy copyright laws that protect their work. My plan is to use this next year with my students at OPEN School.

What I gained most from this project was the skills of using google and Apple’s book author program. I am already thinking of creating another document based lesson on a different subject just so I can continue to grow my skills in using this program to be a better teacher. My only feed back I would give about this project that it’s a bit difficult for people that may not have a Apple device on hand.

Keeping Focus: a Reflection on Writing DBQs

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(Link to DBQ: Images and Emotion – World War II Propaganda.)

When I began this project, I expected that choosing documents for a DBQ would be easy, while writing the text and questions to accompany them would require the greater effort.

As it turns out, the effort came in keeping myself terse. The fundamental question in this project was “what do you want the reader to do?” Once I decided that the reader would examine propaganda posters and analyze what emotional impact they had, it became clear that my main task would be curating the posters themselves. Too much text would only distract from the real focus of the DBQ. Thus, I tried to limit myself to minimal introductions to set the frame, and one or two open-ended questions.

It seems to me that simplicity is at the heart of the DBQ format. As long as the reader is oriented, the documents, visual or textual, should speak for themselves. I’ll keep this principle in mind not only when designing formal DBQs in the future, but when presenting primary documents to students in a classroom context.

I’m satisfied with the final project: its narrow focus has allowed it to stake out its own niche. There are many DBQs out there relating to World War II propaganda, but few ask the reader to look across cultures for parallel concerns. Still, this project only scratches the surface: the five propaganda themes I included are hardly the only possible points of comparison. I hope readers find this to be a source of ideas and inspiration for other projects.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

Image Source: Miami University Libraries

Reflecting on the DBQ Assignment

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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 through a different lens. 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 process 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 it was applicable to my objective. Using the wrong piece could lead to confusion and undermine what students are supposed to take away from the lesson.

A link to the final product on Learnist: Media & War

Image Credit: Louisiana State University Library 

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, LSU Public Relations.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

DBQ “The Red Scare” Reflection

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Christina Steiner and I have been working on this project for several weeks. We started out with the idea that propaganda is meant to stir feelings in a certain direction, bad or good. Then we decided that we wanted students to recognize the use of propaganda throughout history. Our general question was “What do we want students to learn from the DBQ overall?” The generative question that we formed out of this starting idea was: “How does a nation develop such an intense fear of an enemy, creating mass hysteria?”

We thought that a good starting point to understand such hysteria would be the Red Scare in 1950’s America. We wanted students to learn about the paralyzing fear of communism that existed among Americans at that time. We wanted students to understand what caused such terror to develop. We wanted students to think about what words, images, actions, and depictions might cause fear and what is needed to cause mass hysteria. Student will then be able to understand the driving force of the Red Scare in 1950’s America. The DBQ slowly leads students to think in an investigative manner.

Christina and I chose documents that would help answer the generative question. We found A LOT of interesting documents and images, but we tried to stick to those that would answer that generative question. This kept us focused on the task at hand. We also ended each document or image with follow-up questions, to scaffold student understanding of propaganda. We wanted each document or image to provide a great deal of information that could lead to greater student discovery and interaction with each piece.

The final project can be found here on Learnist and will soon be part of a larger iBook. Through this project, students will come to see and learn how America held such great fear of communism though images, books, comics, films, and posters. We looked specifically at media, examining the creation of enemies based on common perceptions rather than true events or facts.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes