Pizza Margherita, the Rolling Stones, a Scavenger Hunt, and a Few Unknowns: Introducing the High Italian Renaissance

Wednesday, April, 6th, 2016

Pizza Margherita, the Rolling Stones, a Scavenger Hunt, and a Few Unknowns:  Introducing the High Italian Renaissance

This is one of the three winning entries to the Arts Future Classroom Competition 2015. Share your class with the Arts Future Classroom educators community here

The objective of this class is to develop and apply students’ critical analysis of similarities and differences between the styles of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci; explore and analyze the significance of iconographic choices in Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s works at the Vatican.

This is a set of activities that can serve to “flip” one short unit in an introductory art history survey course. In the survey courses I teach (Renaissance to Modern Art), I need to introduce the students to the breadth of material that is expected from our overall university curriculum, but I choose to spend only a short amount of time on the Italian Renaissance so that we can focus more intensely on other material. These activities quickly get students thinking critically and creatively about course content which includes images that are some of the most likely candidates for prior familiarity, thus allowing for rapid advancement to in-depth critical analysis.

  • Class size:
    • Minimum: 4 students
    • Maximum: 30 students
  • Suggested venue(s):
    • Conventional classroom
  • Duration:
    • 2-2:30 hours
  • Lesson details:
    • I typically teach this curriculum in 1 ½ classes (lasting 1 hour, 15 minutes), with three primary activities:
      • 1. Analogies
      • 2. Scavenger hunt
      • 3. Unknowns
      • Each activity is completed in teams. Teams should consist of between 2 to 6 people, up to 5 teams. Once teams are created (by random draw, schoolyard pick, or some other method of your choosing), each team should come up with an art history-related team name.
    • 1. Analogies
      • Instructions to Students:
        • Imagine you are trying to explain the differences between the styles of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo. Come up with analogies that embody these differences using examples from a context that someone not in this course would be familiar with.
        • (Depending on the amount of time you have and the size of the groups, choose one of the following):
          • You should come up with at least one full analogy for each team member.
          • OR You should come up with at least two full analogies that everyone in your group agrees with.
      • What the Instructor does:
        • Show the following images on the projection system to remind students of the images they studied in their homework assignments:
          • Sistine Chapel Ceiling (at minimum one or two details)
          • School of Athens
          • Mona Lisa
          • Additional images as you see fit (for example, the Last Judgment from the Sistine Chapel, a Raphael Madonna and Child, and the Last Supper)
        • Give a couple of examples to get the ball rolling and give inspiration; explain why these make sense to use. The two examples I like to use are:
          • Raphael : Michelangelo : Leonardo :: Pizza Margherita : Meat Lover’s Pizza : Pineapple and Prosciutto Pizza
          • Raphael : Michelangelo : Leonardo :: The Beatles : The Rolling Stones : The Who
        • When students have finished their deliberations, create a chart on the board and write their analogies as they report them to the whole class.
        • Ask students the rationale behind their choices, so that others can understand the analogies more fully.
      • Debriefing discussion:
        • Looking back at the chart of analogies on the board, what are some key words to help you remember the differences between the three artists’ styles?
    • 2. Scavenger Hunt
      • Instructions to Students:
        • Find each of the following items in the three images on the handout. Highlight or color in each one on the handout as you find it.
        • Note: Some items may occur more than once; you only need to find one of them.
          • Adam and Eve
          • The Virgin Mary
          • Goliath
          • Judith
          • St. Bartholomew
          • Plato
          • Noah
          • Raphael’s self-portrait
          • Michelangelo’s self-portrait
          • The Serpent
          • Aristotle
          • Saint Peter
          • God
          • Socrates
          • Raphael’s portrait of Michelangelo
        • You may use any resource to help you find these items – smartphones, tablets, laptops, textbooks, etc.
        • First team to find all the items (or the most items in a certain amount of time, if time is limited) wins this activity.
      • What the Instructor does:
        • Hand out a set of black-and-white photocopies of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Last Judgment, and the School of Athens. You may also want to project images of these works.
        • When a team claims to have finished, check that they have correctly highlighted all the appropriate items in the list (you’ll want to do this yourself before class so you know where they all are).
      • Debriefing discussion:
        • Ask the non-winning teams what items they had yet to find, and ask the winning team to show on the projection screen images where those items were.
        • Discussion questions:
          • What sort of people or things do we see in these images that we don’t see in earlier art that we have studied? What might those things tell us about sixteenth-century Italian society?
            • It’s a good idea with brainstorming questions like this to let the students come up with as many possible conclusions as they can, recording them on the board as they say them; once they have exhausted their ideas, go back through the list and tell them which ones are correct and which ones are off track.
          • There are two self-portraits of Michelangelo – what do you think he is saying about himself and/or the status of artists through these self-portraits?
    • 3. Unknowns
      • Instructions to Students:
        • I will now show you a series of works of art that you have never seen before (i.e. “Unknowns”). Each one was created either by Raphael, Michelangelo, or Leonardo. Based on your knowledge of these artists’ works, you must guess which one made it. Use what you learned in the analogies activity and from studying the frescos in the scavenger hunt to help you make good guesses.
        • Points will be awarded (by team) for correct answers.
        • A simple correct identification (i.e. the artist’s name) is worth 1 point.
        • A correct identification that includes a GOOD explanation in the following format is worth 2 points:
          • “Looks like [artist] because it has the same [specific characteristics] as [name of work of art by that artist that we’ve studied].”
          • (Write this format on the board for easy reference.)
        • An incorrect identification with a GOOD, reasonably plausible explanation in the above format is worth 1 point.
        • 3 bonus points will be awarded once every member of a team has successfully participated (i.e. given a response that received at least 1 point).
        • If an answer that earns 0 or 1 point is given by one team, other teams may attempt to answer until 2 total points have been given for that slide.
      • What the Instructor does:
        • Show a series of slides with images of not-studied works of art, without identifying information, on the projection screen.
        • Some of the works I typically use are:
          • Raphael’s 1507 Entombment
          • Leonardo’s c. 1490 Lady with an Ermine
          • Raphael’s c. 1513 Madonna of the Fish
          • Michelangelo’s 1519-1520 Risen Christ
          • Leonardo’s c. 1510-1513 Salvator Mundi
          • Raphael’s 1504-1505 Christ Blessing
          • Raphael’s 1505 Madonna del Prato
          • Drawing of figure by Michelangelo
          • Drawing of figure (or portion of) by Leonardo
          • Raphael’s 1502-1503 Three Graces
          • Michelangelo’s c. 1504 Doni Madonna
        • Keep track of the scores, and only award points for explanations if they fully conform to the prescribed format, are plausible / convincing, and are factually correct (i.e. not stating something looks like Michelangelo because it has the same characteristics as the School of Athens).
      • Debriefing discussion:
        • What helped you figure out the correct answers?
        • What were some of the ways that people failed to give good explanations?
        • What did you learn from this activity?
  • Content materials and resources:
    • Because this is a flipped classroom activity, students should read or listen to course materials and complete accompanying homework assignments prior to the first class.
    • MyArtsLab (associated with the Stokstad and Cothren Art History textbook)
      • (I’ve written more here as to why I choose MyArtsLab over other options)
      • I assign the following activities for this unit (in addition to reading the textbook chapter)
        • Architectural Panorama: Sistine Chapel ceiling
        • Read the Document: Selections from Vasari’s Life of Michelangelo
        • Read the Document: Michelangelo on the Pieta
        • Closer Look: The Pieta
        • Read the Document: Excerpts from Da Vinci’s writings
        • Closer Look: The Mona Lisa
        • Closer Look: The School of Athens
      • Each of these readings/activities is accompanied by a short (usually 3-question), multiple-choice homework quiz.
    • Khan Academy / Smarthistory
      • A comparable (perhaps even better) set of assignments and quizzes that would prepare students for the in-class activities are the following videos and quizzes on Khan Academy:
        • Michelangelo, Pieta (Link)
        • Michelangelo, Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Link 1) (Link 2)
        • Quiz on Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Link)
        • Michelangelo, Last Judgment (Link)
        • Leonardo, Last Supper (Link 1) (Link 2)
        • Quiz on Last Supper (Link)
        • Leonardo, Mona Lisa (Link 1) (Link 2)
        • Raphael, School of Athens (Link)
        • Quiz on Raphael, School of Athens (Link)
  • Equipment/ tools necessary
    • Classroom projection system and white/black board
    • Handouts containing full-page black and white images of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Sistine Chapel Last Judgment, and the School of Athens (1 handout per student)
    • (Optional) Scavenger Hunt List (1 per student)
    • Highlighters, crayons, or other coloring devices (1 per student)
  • Evaluation/ Grading System:
    • Students earn a grade:
    • 1. for participation for each day of class
    • 2. on the homework assignments
    • 3. on their next exam, half of which is identification of unknown slides (from content covered over the entire semester thus far, including the High Italian Renaissance)
  • Inspiration:
    • In Teaching Naked, Jose Antonio Bowen gives an example of how to encourage students to take ownership of course content by making analogies with what they already know.  He writes, “I ask students to articulate what they hear in the voices of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday by describing the sonic differences of these three singers to someone who works in a different context.”  This inspired me to create the analogies activity with the triumvirate of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Renaissance artists.
  • Instructor’s Evaluation:
    • I have taught this unit in eight classes over the course of four semesters. Each time, it has worked differently. After this many rounds of running it, I am pretty confident that I have worked out most of the bugs.
    • For the analogies, one time I brought in the actual pizzas for the students to try; I figured that some of my students might never have tasted a pineapple and prosciutto pizza (well, the place I got the pizza from only had ham, so it wasn’t quite right). The students loved that I brought them pizza – but I don’t think it really enhanced their learning experience significantly. In fact, I think it may have detracted from the experience, because they were distracted from their tasks by the pizza, and we repeatedly had to explain to latecomers why there was pizza, rather than just integrating them immediately into the activity.
    • For the scavenger hunt, when I have had to compress the activity for a shorter time slot, I have assigned individual items in the list to individual students, and then at the end of the activity have everyone share where they found their items. I find that the team-based approach works more effectively, because they can divvy up the items and help each other find them together, accomplishing the same goal but with more interactivity.
    • For the unknowns, I have run the game in several different ways. Sometimes I run a first round with correct answers only earning points (1 point each), then moving in the second round to adding in the explanations for additional points. For a class that can be overwhelmed by too many instructions, this is a useful strategy.
    • Usually by the time round 2 comes along, the students are quite grateful for the opportunity to add in explanations for points. The bonus points for full participation of a team are crucial; without them, the strongest team member will answer for everyone, and the others will sit back and happily let them. Even if the strongest team member coaches others’ responses, the less confident students are nonetheless learning far more trying to produce the correct answer than they would by sitting back and listening.
  • Submitted by: Marie Gasper-Hulvat | Kent State University at Stark, Canton, OH, USA | Email | Twitter