Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tommy GUN in School ! ! !

The Industrial Revolution from the late 1700s to the present has impacted our lives in countless ways. We have learned how to mass produce food, clothing, building materials, and unfortunately methods of killing each other: rifled firearms, machine guns, poison gas, atomic weapons, and the Tommy Gun. As deplorable as the topic of firearms and warfare is to consider by some of you out there, to ignore history is even more deplorable.

If you are among the ANTI-2nd Amendment types and are enraged that I would talk about such a weapon in class, WATCH the HISTORY CHANNEL episode HISTORY OF THE GUN: THe Tommy Gun. After watching this, you will quickly see that this adds to a student's understanding of 20th century history.

click here for the TOMMY GUN VIDEO

Before I show students this History Channel episode about the history of the Thompson Submachine Gun, I have students fill out a sheet of paper and divide it into a quadrant with a circle in the middle.
-- The circle in the middle will have a student drawing of the weapon.
-- The top left corner will have  words describing the TOMMY GUN's appearance and sound
--The top right corner will have KEY FACTS about the TOMMY GUN
-- The bottom left corner will have KEY DATES about the TOMMY GUN's history
THIS NEXT PART, I do not tell them about until AFTER they have watched the video....
-- The bottom right corner will have a HAIKU about the Tommy Gun. A Haiku if you don't recall is a Japanese form of poetry with three lines. The first and last lines have 5 syllables each and the middle line has 7 syllables. While this is not a strict adherence to traditional HAIKU form, it is the watered down Anglo-version often used in American classrooms.
This is truly an exercise that crosses curricular lines: Writing poetry, art, history.
Here are two former students' work...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Art in the History Classroom: American Progress

After teaching Westward expansion to 1890 or so, I have students analyze this painting as kind of a review exercise. I like having the image projected in two locations in my classroom on LARGE screens. Do what you can, but it pays to have at least ONE large projection of the image.

Here are some easy to understand tips on teaching this painting
1) Do NOT tell students the title of the painting.  They will take an educated guess at it at the end of the class.
2) Ensure you can project it on a large screen so you AND the students can discuss it TOGETHER.
3) Look at the image in your mind as being in 4 separate quadrants. This will form the basis of the student analysis.
4) Ask students to write down what tangible "things" are in each quadrant. I usually brainstorm outloud with the students, we point things out together, as they "yell out" to me what they see. In the process of this, students review America's westward growth. Below is a former student's work showing this.
5) Have students write down words that describe the MOOD in each quadrant. Below is the same student's work. I'll wait a few minutes before asking them to tell me a few words describing each quadrant. I'll use an overhead transparency to write down words for them that they are calling out. I'll take a minute, if necessary, to embrace that learning moment to explain what MELANCHOLY means, etc.

6) Have students give each quadrant a TITLE. Student work below:

7) Then, after discussing the imagery of the painting, and along the way recounting America's expansion westward, I ask students to take a guess at the painting's title. I tell them that the title has two words and that it is NOT Manifest Destiny; otherwise, they would all guess that.
8) I'll give students five minutes or so to think of a title, quietly. Then, I will physically walk up to each student and ask them what title they came up with. Over the years, I have had only a handful of students guess the name of the painting: "American Progress" by Thomas Gast.

Analyzing the painting is a wonderful way to review information and prepare them for an essay that assesses the costs and motives behind westward expansion.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hate Belts in World War One

BRITISH Soldiers pose with captured German helmets and souvenirs in WW I .

    American soldiers were known for their love of souvenirs in the Great War; So, a lot of material history of the war came across the Atlantic with returning soldiers. With the passing of time, most all World War One vets, and even those who knew them, are deceased.This means that there's a lot of "military stuff" to be found at estate sales, yard sales, flea markets, etc. Among collectors of military memorabilia from World War One "HATE BELTS" are items of interest.  As a classroom history teacher, I exploit use of tangibles of history so that students can actually touch history. World War One souvenirs are out there for teachers to use in in their classrooms to achieve those historically touchable moments with students. This leads me to an introduction to HATE BELTS.

German soldiers' leather belts, and other belts from participating armies,  that were festooned with buttons from soldiers uniforms are called Hate Belts / Souvenir Belts / Grave Digger Belts. These made for excellent keepsakes.  
First for the "Hate Belt" description: the idea was that if a German soldier had killed or captured an Allied soldier, then he would have the button from the newly deceased or captured soldier attached to his belt as a kind of notch of conquest on his belt. This, no doubt, is the most intriguing explanation for those decorative belts. 
The "Souvenir Belt" moniker: this description is apt for many of the belts that are in circulation today. The souvenir belt would involve a German infantryman's belt being decorated with buttons and tabs from troops BOTH Allied and CENTRAL Powers and sold as a remembrance of The War.

this image shows a French military figure "attempting" to acquire a souvenir from a German soldier.

The "Grave Digger Belt" description is self explanatory, to a degree. Troops burying dead soldiers would sometimes remove buttons from those they buried as a remembrance. It is impossible to determine the origin of most belts, but some of these highly collectible belts provide some hints as to their origin. Nevertheless, these belts provide for excellent points of interest for students. The belt depicted below is a SOUVENIR BELT:

The belt pictured above was no doubt a souvenir belt. I say this because I have seen multiple examples of the exact same belt that appear to have been "designed" to be sold to visiting soldiers: the dates 1918 and 1919 and approximately the same number and placement of buttons and badges.
Below is a photo of a DOUGHBOY with one of these souvenir belts.

The author's collection of Hate Belts and Souvenir belts. Not all of these souvenir belts were German belts, per se. Here we have some Austrailian, British, AND German belts.

Students handling WW I mementos, including a HATE BELT.

Why not explain what a HATE BELT is to students, while covering WW I, and then pass one of these around?

reference works
1. Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour by Joseph E. Persico
2. Unknown Soldiers by Neil Hanson
3. Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lusitania beyond lecture

Background: During World War One (1914-1918), the German Navy was adept at using their U-Boat submarines to attack Allied shipping.  For a short read on the background of U-Boats in WW One, click on this link:

the most famous ship sunk by the Germans during World War One was the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania (RMS=Royal Mail Ship).  It went down on 7 May 1915 with the loss of over 1000 lives, including 128 Americans. The link below is an animated recreation of the 1915 event shown in (silent) theaters in 1918. This is worth showing in class.
Silent Movie Era Movie shown in Theaters in 1918. Click below:

Questions to ask after viewing the 1918 animation: 1) What information in the movie agrees with or contradicts the historic record of events surrounding the Lusitania sinking as we know them today. 2) Did the video fairly portray the actions of the Germans? 3)Was the movie fair to the Allies?
German Warnings
Was it fair for the Germans to sink this ship? Well, for students to consider this question, they should consider the advertisement taken out in newspapers warning passengers and potential passengers about its dangers. With any important images, I always attempt to project it on a large screen and take a minute or two to brainstorm with students, aloud, and point out and discover details, WITH THEM.
Have students do Point of View and Point of View Analysis; Point of View and POINT of Analysis are two different things. This is a great image to have students express Point of View AND Point of View Analysis.  What is point of view? Expressing Point of view is simply when the student takes the time to express what opinion or viewpoint the image or document was advancing. Was there bias found in the document based on religious, social political or personal attitudes? Point of View Analysis is taking it a step further by adding one of two things: 1) the student should convey the opinion(s) of those people or groups who would AGREE or DISAGREE with this message found in the document or image. They should look for clues using the 5ws:  WHO, What, Where, When, WHY.  Who wrote it and who was its intended audience, when did he or she write it, what was going on at this time, where was written, why was it composed? Etc.  2) Assess the RELIABILITY of the facts within the document or image: was it in a personal diary? Was it in an official proclamation? Was it in a correspondence? Was it published in a newspaper? Was the motive propaganda for one group or another?

The Karl Goetz Medal
After the sinking of the ship, Munich metalworker Karl Gotz or Goetz (I’ve seen it spelled both ways) had cast about 100 medals that appeared to be a celebration of the sinking of the ship. This worried the German government because they did not want to anger the United States into entering the war on the Allied side. When later questioned by a German investigave committee, Goetz asserted that “. . . he was a satirist and that the medals he cast were . . . intended to be allegorical. He was not celebrating the sinking but condemning the cynicism of Cunard [the shipping company that owned Lusitania] in enticing innocent people on board an armed ship carrying contraband.” Excerpted from the book “Lusitania” by Diana Preston.
The British seized upon the medal as an opportunity to stoke anti-German feelings in Great Britain and the United States. The medal had two sides.
On one side showed an image of a sinking ship crammed with munitions spilling over its sides as it slips into the ocean. On the top it reads “No Contraband Goods” and on the bottom says “The liner Lusitania sunk by a German submarine 5 May 1915” Goetz at first mistakenly had the date incorrect by two days. The British pointed to this, later corrected by Goetz, as proof of German premeditation to the attack.
The second side shows a skeleton figure selling tickets to passengers. At the top of this side it says “Business Above All.” Looking closely you can see one man reading a newspaper that says “U Boat Danger.” The bearded figure wagging his finger in warning towards the passenger is a German diplomat reinforcing the idea that the Germans were trying to avoid needless bloodshed.      
British Propagandists and the Lusitania Sinking
The British sponsored creation of 200,000 plus copies of the medal to be sold worldwide for a shilling a piece. This exact copy came in its own memorial box with a document outlining the details to the history, origin, and purpose of the medal, from the BRITISH point of view. I have scanned in the box and document for you from my own collection.  
outside of the box from the British replica
From the inside lid of the British replica box

The document was inside the box for the British version of the Goetz medal

It is up to you, teacher, to decide how you wish your students to analyze these items. However, the Point of View and Point of View writing analysis exercises are excellent practices.
Some LUSITANIA inspired WW I imagery

bbc video of ...Art and artists in England during WW II ... most excellent

Happy Holidays.... CLICK on the link below .....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

World War One: teaching using Trench Art and artifacts

For the classroom teacher, World War One presents numerous opportunities to spark added student interest by using objects from that time period. From 1914-1918, millions of rounds of artillery were fired by opposing sides. Expended brass shell casings were plentiful after the conflict. During and after The War, Germany itself was under a lot of economic stress because of the Allied naval blockade of German ports. Disease and hunger and extreme suffering were commonplace in Germany during and after WW I.
 "Over three years of war and the British blockade of the Channel and North Sea ports--illegal under international law--had left the German economy in ruins, with every raw material and even the most basic food stuffs in desperately short supply . . . German farmers had produced 90 percent of the country's food needs before the war, but they did so only with the help of 2 million tons of imported nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, 6 million tons of fodder and 1 million foreign seasonal workers. When the war and Allied blockade stopped these, food production fell by a quarter. ....As a result, mortality rates were rising sharply. Malnutrition, rickets and tuberculosis, which increaed by two thirds compared to pre-war levels, were rampant--death rates among children and women doubled in Germany during the war years . . . " From "Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War" by Neil Hanson: page 150
  These trying conditions doubtlessly galvanized German and other European entrepreneurs to seek an opportunity to earn some money off of the visiting troops. Artists fashioned the brass shell casings into what is commonly called "trench art" or "object art." These beautiful shell casings were then sold to American troops and others who wanted a souvenir from "The War to End All Wars." Where can a new teacher find one or two of these? I'd start off on or look for a reputable dealer/collector of militaria in your area.

At the Battle of Verdun, there were over 14 million shells fired: 200 for each casualty
While learning about WW I, students examine artillery shells fashioned into works of art and a German helmet from The Great War.

After explaining to students about the realities of trench warfare, I show students a German entrenching shovel. The weight and feeling of the shovel reveals that it is not a recently made product, but it is an item that could be used to dig a trench, or hurt someone, if necessary. Students can read excerpts from Remarque's memoir "All Quiet..." and Ernst Junger's "Storm of Steel" to confirm the use of shovels in hand-to-hand combat. Students see this very thing when I show a video clip from the original film version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" A link to the battle scene is here for you:  From 3:14 to 4:00 shows vicious use of the shovel. 
Local collectors of military memorabilia giving a hands-on presentation about World War One and TRENCH ART.