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9-12: Looking Back - An Art/English/History Interdisciplinary Unit

Julie Osmon, Learn NC

This is an interdisciplinary unit that incorporates research of historical events of the past century. By students learning to recognize that society impacts the themes within art and literature, students then take this knowledge base and interview an individual to develop a biographical narrative, a collage, and oral presentation.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

1. research and analyze historical events.

2. develop reading, listening, speaking, and viewing skills.

3. conduct an interview.

4. use the writing process while developing a biographical narrative.

5. make connections between different kinds of texts and life.

6. create and recognize a successful art product through the use of the elements of art.

7. prepare and present a suitable story for specific groups or audiences.

8. adapt research materials to meet the needs and interests of students.

9. target specific audiences through various mediums.

10. use technology in developing a product.

Related Links

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 or months; The lesson can be modified to take two weeks or longer. Some of the activites are designed for long-term assignments.


Student journals, access to computer and web, magazines, current events, blank newsprint (check with your local newspaper distributor for inexpensive paper), English textbook, collage materials, and a 16×20 plywood board.

Technology resources

Computer(s) with internet access


Some of these activities are optional.

Art students study the German Expressionist (Kathe Kollwitz, Edvard Munch, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner) and Cubist (Picasso and Braque) styles. Through this study, the students create several projects reflecting these artistic philosophies. English students study these artists and discuss theme, tone, mood, and audience through symbols. Students can do a web search for the German Expressionists to gather more information.

Demonstrate collage techniques and provide art history examples. (See Picasso and Braque in art textbook.) See web site lists for collage activities, possible materials to use, and completed examples.

Identify and discuss what makes art successful through the use of the elements of art.

During the first nine-weeks of class, English students read world literature titles and create literary analysis based on the texts. Emphasis is placed on recognizing tone and audience. Students are developing reading and writing skills to assist them with the Eng. II writing test.

After reading novels (All Quiet On The Western Front, A Doll’s House, & Things Fall Apart) that depict the human condition, students are able to comprehend, interpret, and analyze the author’s tone and message in the writing.

Prior to the Eng. II writing test, students then read and discuss Night by Elie Wiesel, an autobiography of a Holocaust survivor. See link below.

Identify and discuss interview techniques. See websites listed below.


1. Create excitement by including music that reflects and looks back. Use Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” (see attachment) from “The Best of Carly Simon.”

2. Give each student a packet containing Looking Back activities and guidelines, interview questions, and rubrics. Review with the class the purpose of project for clarification.

3. Assign each small group a period of history to research, based on the years 1900 to 2000. (Depending on the number of students, divide the students into groups of 3 or 4.) The number of years each group researches will depend on the number of groups. Prior to going to the library, allow each group time in class to brainstorm significant events within their period.

4. In small groups, students use the library and computer to research a period of history during the 20th century. Allow each group to decide on the size of the newsprint that they need to construct the timeline. Students then plan and organize the timeline of significant information to include: noteworthy events, famous people, fads, trends, fashions, music, artists, scientific discoveries, literary authors and pieces, controversial pieces, and weather events.

(American studies)

(American memory project)

(American Treasures)

(1 or 3 days – depending on time available)

5. After completing research, each group completes a visual timeline in class. (1 day to compile)

6. In sequential order, students then present the timelines. After presenting, students will mount timelines in the classroom for reference in later projects. (See group presentation rubric. – 1 day)

7. Interview. (Conducted outside of class)Students conduct an interview of an individual over the age of 60. To promote an awareness of family history, encourage students to select a family member to interview. (For those students who do not have someone to interview in their family, suggest that students interview neighbors.) Provide each student with the list of questions to ask during the interview, which should be given to the interviewee ahead of time. Discuss with the students the importance in good interview questions. Discuss the questions in class. (See attached list of questions to distribute to students. Give each student two copies: one for student and one for interviewee.)

Create hypothetical interviews – Give students information (age, geographic regions, and occupations) on the possible interviewees. Discuss the possible historical event(s) the interviewee may have experienced. Use the timeline as a reference. This is a good activity to help students make predictions and anticipate follow-up questions.

During the interview, the student needs to take a picture of the individual – which will be included in the collage. (Give student one month to complete the interview. Students need time to contact the individual. Time during a holiday is preferred.)

8. Based on the interview, students will generate a one-page narrative highlighting a historical event, a personal experience, best trip, changes in professional field, and advice for today’s teens. The process includes the following steps:

Rough draft and peer edit – due:

Revision to teacher – due:

Writing conference – due :

Final product – due :

(The teacher needs to allow the student plenty of time to complete each step.)

9. Create a collage that reflects the content of the interview and research. Students will prepare a 16×20 collage containing the typewritten narrative, photo of interviewee, and vital information on the individual. A computer-generated title piece that incorporates the message of interviewee to today’s youth should accompany the collage. This information will be placed on an index card and used as a label during display.

The final collage must also include eight objects and two textures along with the successful use of the elements of art. You may want to use different rubrics for art and English students. While a student is in a writing conference with the teacher, other students can be assembling his/her collage. (Art students have 10 class hours to construct the collage. English students work on the collages during writing conferences. The remainder of time needed to construct collage is done out of class.)

10. Prior to final presentation of narrative and collage, give each student a presentation rubric. (See attached speaking rubric) Discuss formal presentation skills and rubric. Assign presentation due dates for each student.English Students: Assist students in developing a presentation outline. Then assist students in writing a creative introduction and conclusion to his/her project. (This activity can take an entire class depending on the number of students.)Have students complete peer-evaluations of the collages. Peers will use the same collage rubric (See collage rubric for English student) that the teacher will use for a final assessment tool. Allow students time to modify their collage before their final presentation.

11. Final Presentations – During presentations, students introduce the individual interviewed, read the narrative composed, and explain the symbols on the collage. These symbols should reflect the individual and research.

Final Assessment for Art students – Presentation and Critiquing of collage – Upon completion of collage, a class critique is held. A student explains how he/she successfully uses the elements of art. Positive feedback and constructive criticism is provided by peers. While a student presents, a peer completes the assessment rubric for the presenter to use as a reference for revisions. An additional week is provided to students to modify the collages before teacher assessment. (See attached collage rubric for art student. This activity takes entire class period.)

Final Presentations for English students – After the individual presentation, the student is given positive feedback and constructive criticism on the presentation, narrative, and collage. This feedback will assist students in their next presentation. (See attached collage rubric for English student.)

12. The final products, along with all previous edits, are due on XX/XX/20XX Following presentations to the class, in which students identify the theme and explain how the symbols relate to the interviewee, students complete a Looking Back Reflections response. (See Reflections Sheet attachment) After completing the sheet, a seminar will follow. The seminar focuses on what they learned, what mistakes were made during the time period, and what could be done to try and avoid them in the future. This is a time for students to reflect and assess!


Art and English students complete these activities the 2nd nine-weeks, if you are on a block schedule. (These students are building skills the first nine-weeks.) During the 2nd nine-weeks, students utilize their acquired skills to analysize, synthesize, and evaluate their own learning.

This unit incorporates product based assessment tools. Assessment tools are as follows:

Narrative rubric

Collage rubric for art student

Collage rubric for English student

Oral Presentation and Group Work –

Oral Presentation – Individual – we are including several sites for you to view different rubrics. You can select the one that will work best with your class and project.

Looking Back Reflection Sheet – to gain feedback from students

Supplemental information

Night – By Elie Wiesel

Art in Focus – by Gene A. Mittler

Related websites

For information/handout on interview skills –

For background information on E. Wiesel – (

Sites for students doing research

(American studies) (American Memory Project) (American Treasures) Comments

This interdisciplinary unit can be easily modified or adapted to meet numerous disciplines.

Again, this unit builds upon knowledge and comprehension of skills taught at the beginning of the semester.

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