02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities, Paganism, Religion, Teaching

Lesson Plan: The Classical World

Lesson Plan: The Classical World

I think many teachers struggle with Content Area #2: Ancient Mediterranean in AP Art History for lots of reasons. For starters, there are so many damn pieces (I mean the Acropolis “counts” one piece!) and many of us love the Classical World (Ancient Greece, Roman, & the Etruscans) so it’s hard to decide what to streamline and cut. There are many ways to organize this, and any other, unit but I have always leaned on a mix of chronological & thematic to give my students fuller connections to make. I am not giving this unit outline to suggest at all that this is the *best* way to organize the topic, it is just one of many that I found fulfilling.

*This plan was made for a straight-seven period bell schedule (50 minute lessons & 40 minutes on Wednesdays), so feel free to rework and combine differently to meet your pacing needs!

Read more: Travel Tips: Visiting the Acropolis

Who Decides What we See in Museums? Lecture & Discussion

This 40-minute lesson is based on discussion, where the students work through how museums sometimes strip or reinterpret the original cultural context of the pieces, thereby completely altering the viewer’s experience. After a brief lecture students can choose between two short articles below on the Elgin Marble controversy & they have a small group discussion about what they think the British Museum should do now about the “stolen” artwork.

Resources:

*a link to the book Greek Art & Archaeology (5th edition) HERE

AP Art History 250:

  • #35. Helios, horses, and Dionysus (Heracles?), Parthenon. Acropolis. Athens, Greece. Iktinos and Kallikrates. c. 447-410 BCE. Marble.
  • #37. Winged Victory of Samothrace. Hellenistic Greek. c. 190 BCE. Marble.

Civic Pride in Ancient Greece Lecture

This lesson is a lot more based in the history and political culture of Ancient Greece, specifically Athens. I start of by teaching the concept of Athenian democracy and then we look at two art pieces so see how that political tradition reflects itself in the art of the time. This ends up being a great contrast when we get to the Roman Empire because art of empire will look dramatically different than art of democracy. With this lesson, I introduce the basic framework on the civic function of the Athenian acropolis but I do not go into all of the temples and artwork, instead this lesson focuses on the Plaque of the Ergastines as it connects to the Panathenaia celebrating Athena.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

Read more: UNESCO: Acropolis, Athens

The Ideal Classical Man Activity

Some art history teaches would be aghast that I “collapsed” civilizations here to combine Ancient Greece, the Roman Republic, AND Imperial Roman pieces but hear me out! I want my students to make connects on how context plays on the form of a male statue. This lesson is 100% student-led, which I love, but totally requires a little bit more directions here. Students will be put into groups of 4 and each assigned one of the following pieces, I tell them secrecy is important today! (they seem to love that) 🙂 Each student receives an envelope with a color image of their assigned piece and one article on their piece. After everyone reads their article & annotates, I have the students describe each image to the members of their group mates to sketch, which is hilarious! I don’t expect my kids to be artists but I find that describing a piece to others who are “blind” helps them deeply look at form. After the pieces is drawn the student describes aspects what they know of the function, context and content of the piece and how they affect the form.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

Women in the Classical World Lecture

This lesson is a great counterpoint to the previous’ days focus on the “ideal man.” I focus on how women’s roles in their society shapes art of the female and we look at a variety of pieces to compare that: Etruscan sarcophagus, grave stele of an Athenian noblewoman, and two pieces representing goddesses from the acropolis (but serving two different functions and time periods). Context in how Athens treated their women completely differently than Etruscan women is important for today. In short, Etruscan women were seen as “scandalous” because they were allowed outside of their homes unaccompanied and were often seen at the banquet tables with their husbands.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

Read more: Student Series! Girls, Gays, &  Greco-Romans

Classical World Ceramics Activity

This is a quick 40-minute lesson focusing 100% on the Niobides Krater. Because it’s the only piece of pottery in Content Area #2: Ancient Mediterranean, it’s easy to just focus on that (*Note, it is not however, the only piece of terracotta). I use this lesson to cover two major aspects of Greek vases: the physical aspect of making a red-or black-figure vase (there is a short 4 minute video linked in the PPT from the Getty Museum) & how Greek pottery tells a narrative. I love to have the students guess the narrative by really looking at the form; so with this lesson I put the kids into partners, and give them a large color image of both sides of the vase. It’s always super fun to share out what they think the story is before I show the Khan Academy video on the Niobides Krater (YouTube video link in PPT also).

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

  • #33. Niobides Krater. Anonymous vase painter of Classical Greece known as the Niobid Painter. c. 460–450 BCE. Clay, red-figure technique (white highlights).

Basics of Classical Architecture Activity

This day is 100% hands-off for me (wooo! we all need those days). I have the students label Classical columns (Doric & Ionic) and do some basic labeling of major architectural plans so that when I talk about temples, they already have the plans labeled. The page numbers in the PPT correspond to Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History (15th edition) so you may need to change those if you have a different book than I do.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

  • #35. Parthenon. Acropolis. Athens, Greece. Iktinos and Kallikrates. c. 447–410 BCE. Marble.
  • #35. Temple of Athena Nike. Acropolis. Athens, Greece. Iktinos and Kallikrates. c. 447–410 BCE. Marble.
  • #38. Great Altar of Zeus and Athena at Pergamon. Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Hellenistic Greek. c. 175 BCE. Marble (architecture and sculpture).
  • #31. Temple of Minerva (Veii, near Rome, Italy) and sculpture of Apollo. Master sculptor Vulca. c. 510–500 BCE. Original temple of wood, mud brick, or tufa (volcanic rock); terra cotta sculpture.
  • #46. Pantheon. Imperial Roman. 118–125 CE. Concrete with stone facing.

Read more: Student Series! How the Parthenon Embodies Math & Science

Classical Temples

This lesson is the part 2 to the previous day’s lesson on Classical Architecture Basics. I have students take out the plans they labeled from the day before and they can add notes on the back of the Classical Temples – student packet. This is a huge lecture – lots to go over – but it helps immensely that the students already have the information for form down! In the essence of time I focus on function on this day. Art pieces in the temples (like the friezes of the Acropolis) are covered other lessons so I do not worry about them, but I make sure to tell them where they are located within the temple complex.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

  • #35. Parthenon. Acropolis. Athens, Greece. Iktinos and Kallikrates. c. 447–410 BCE. Marble.
  • #35. Temple of Athena Nike. Acropolis. Athens, Greece. Iktinos and Kallikrates. c. 447–410 BCE. Marble.
  • #38. Great Altar of Zeus and Athena at Pergamon. Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Hellenistic Greek. c. 175 BCE. Marble (architecture and sculpture).
  • #31. Temple of Minerva (Veii, near Rome, Italy) and sculpture of Apollo. Master sculptor Vulca. c. 510–500 BCE. Original temple of wood, mud brick, or tufa (volcanic rock); terra cotta sculpture.
  • #46. Pantheon. Imperial Roman. 118–125 CE. Concrete with stone facing.

Violence in the Classical World Activity

Split the class up into four groups, each group gets assigned ONE of the images below (I like to make sure my groups are never larger than 5 students, if you have the double up its ok). Give the students the first part of class to read sections in the textbook and/or the resources linked below about each image. Using the guiding questions below:

  • What is the narrative/story?
  • How does the artpiece use certain forms of violence to tell that narrative? Describe the form in detail.
  • How does the material used impact its location/use/look?
  • Does the violence in the art piece relate to a historic event? If so, give information about that context.
  • Is this a battle? If yes, how do you think the artist made decisions to highlight certain parts of the action?
  • How does the image related to larger historical events in the time it was created (which may or may not be the same period as the narrative depicted in the image)?

After time is up, have each group present their image to the class. When I did this lesson for the first time I had the groups create an art piece that was representative of the piece BUT to save time, just use the PPT below with images while the groups present (the art part was fun but not necessary & took up too much time).

Resources:

*a link to the book How to Read World History in Art HERE

AP Art History 250:

  • #40. Alexander Mosaic from the House of Faun, Pompeii Republican Roman. c. 100 BCE. Mosaic.
  • #41. Seated boxer. Hellenistic Greek. c. 100 BCE. Bronze.*
  • #45. Column of Trajan, Forum of Trajan. Rome, Italy. Apollodorus of Damascus. Forum and markets: 106–112 CE; column completed 113 CE. Brick and concrete (architecture); marble (column).
  • #47. Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus. Late Imperial Roman. c. 250 CE. Marble.

*Seated Boxer may seem an odd choice for today because it is not a battle like the others, but actually depicts right after a violent defeat which is a nice shake up from the others. In short, embrace the out of the box connections your kids will make.

Roman Architecture Lecture & Activity

Like the “Classical Temples” lesson, this is a big one – architecture always seems that way to me because its just so much! With this lesson I focus a lot on form and function: what it looks like and how what it was used for shapes that. I toss in context as needed (i.e. Roman emperors who built big public works to celebrate victory and/or pacify their subjects). At the end of the lesson, students use our textbook to label the plan of #39. House of Vetti (the page numbers in my PPT refer to Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History (15th edition) or you can use the Khan Academy article below in the Resources section.

This lesson refers to two pieces the students already saw the previous day in the lesson on “Violence in the Classical World:” #40. Alexander Mosaic from the House of Faun & #45. Column of Trajan from the Forum of Trajan. I like to “layer” my lessons this way to create continuity from one day to the next and help them create an overall picture of how all of these pieces work together to give us a fuller picture of the cultures that created them.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

  • #39. House of the Vettii. Pompeii, Italy. Imperial Roman. c. second century BCE; rebuilt c. 62–79 CE. Cut stone and fresco.
  • #40. Alexander Mosaic from the House of Faun, Pompeii Republican Roman. c. 100 BCE. Mosaic.
  • #44. Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater). Rome, Italy. Imperial Roman. 70–80 CE. Stone and concrete.
  • #45. Forum of Trajan. Rome, Italy. Apollodorus of Damascus. Forum and markets: 106–112 CE; column completed 113 CE. Brick and concrete (architecture); marble (column).
  • #46. Pantheon. Imperial Roman. 118–125 CE. Concrete with stone facing.

Read more: AP Art History Hunting in Rome, Italy

Comparing the Ancient & Classical Worlds Activity

This 40-minute activity allows students, in pairs, to compare and contrast an image from the Ancient and Classical Worlds using FFCC (form, function, content, & context). It’s a great review that is 100% student-led and allows them to make connections they have not thought of before. Here are some examples I have given students in the past (feel free to add your own!)

Resources:

  • In class I give the kids lined poster paper to create their charts; you can also have students make a simple FFCC chart to compare the two images on their own paper or digitally. Use this template below:
Image #1 Image #2   Similarities
Form
Function
Content
Context

AP Art History 250:

  • Whatever you want the students to compare!

Read more: AP Art History: The Ancient Mediterranean by Region

Houses for the Dead Activity

I had students sit in pairs; one partner got an article on the Tomb of the Triclinium and the other got an article on Petra, Jordan: Treasury and Great Temple. I had them take notes on the following items then share out with their partner:

  • Who built the structure? What civilization/culture?
  • Where is it located?
  • What was its function? (do not just say tomb, although that is a start! add to it)
  • What do we know about their civilization and beliefs that connects to its function (we do not know a ton so its ok to not have clear answers here)?
  • What is unique about its form? Both interior and exterior. Can you explain why it looks the way it does?

*Note: This lesson plan was made for a day I had a substitute so it is very student-led to make it easy for my sub but you could easily up the teacher-involvement. I fully expect my AP kids to teach themselves when I am gone so I do not go over any information if I am out; the responsibility is on their shoulders.

Resources:

AP Art History 250:

*Note: Petra is not part of Content Area 2: Ancient Mediterranean (it is in Content Area 7: Central & West Asia) but I always debate where to stick it. I decide to put it there because thematically it works well with the Etruscan tombs and it connects well with Ancient Rome.

Review

I like to do in-class review activities to get the kids talking and thinking. We start off by watching Annenberg Learner’s “Art History through Time” episode on “The Body.” I usually don’t assign questions for these half-hour videos, but since this is part of their review I do assign questions for them to jot down as we watch. After the video we use it as a jumping off point to review major themes for the unit & clarify any questions they still have.

Resources:

Read more: Art Through Time: A Global View

JMF

P.S. if your school uses Canvas you can find my ENTIRE 2016-2017 AP Art History curriculum there. Search “AP Art History OHS 16-17)

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2 comments

  1. Your blog is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. I hope I can borrow when I come to the Ancient Mediterranean. I am a second year teacher, and need all the help I can get.

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