Otto Von Bismarck – Introduction

14 03 2011

The next few posts are a reflection on my lesson about Otto Von Bismarck, and his ‘Machiavellian’ nature, and it’s implementation of it in the classroom . This lesson was spawned out of the Understanding by Design (UbD) unit design plan. I first began with the SOLs dealing with nationalism, which was the unit given to me by my cooperating teacher. The SOL for the unification of Germany (WHII.8d) specifically asks for students: “What role did Otto Von Bisdmarck play in the Unification of Germany?”  Taking that question and the essential knowledge of his appealing to war and nationalist feelings and his use of Realpolitik (‘The ends justify the means’), I thought that Machiavelli would be a great tie-in for students to connect prior knowledge, since they covered Machiavelli at the beginning of the school year, when discussing the Renaissance.

Based on these factors, I thought that it would be great for students to dissect some of Bismarck’s remarks, and other people’s thoughts on him. I found a great DBQ online, which actually discussed this exact idea. (Found at The first thing I did, was to change to format to it, allowing for students to make comments, and I also added two political cartoons. Next, I really thought that a discussion would be a great opportunity to not only insure student centered instruction, but to also informally gauge student involvement with the materials.

So, I decided on a FishBowl discussion, as a way for students to not only discuss, but also change roles, thus varying activities enough to ensure engagement. I designed a tally sheet to have students assess how their classmates were doing, in terms of basic involvement in the discussion. Going into the ideas of Wiggins and McTighe

I framed this lesson around the idea of Good and Evil, and whether or not Bismarck should be viewed one way or the other. This lesson actually comes the day after students complete a SlotNotes activity about German Unification. So, coming into this lesson, students would have the proper prior knowledge to dissect and analyze these sources. After coming up with the process of the lesson (analysis of documents, then FishBowl discussion),

I started working on my Hook and closure. For my hook, continuing the idea of ‘Good and Evil’, I decided to have students consider a possible personal experience, having them think about their reactions to a very authoritative classroom. I figured that this would be a very simple way to draw on the idea of “the ends justify the means”, which both Machiavelli and Bismarck seemed to adore.

The closure is essentially the same question, posed instead about Bismarck. Was he good or evil in his handling of the Unification of Germany? I felt that this would draw students in to think about the morality of Bismarck’s actions.

You can see my unit plan, lesson plan, and handouts here:

European Nationalism Unit Plan

Bismarck Plan

Fishbowl Teacher Tally

OVB DBQ Documents

Student Fishbowl Tally Sheet

First, I will give you a run down of how I initially felt about the lesson. After that, I evaluate how I did, in terms of accomplish assessment. Thirdly, I will look at the tape and dissect how I did from a different point of view. Next, I will discuss the pushing feedback I was given by my wonderful classmates. Finally, I will wrap it up, and discuss how I may use this experience in my future teaching.




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