My dear friend Evan Serpick is the amazing editor in chief of the Baltimore City Paper and just did a feature story on a local musician in Baltimore named Dan Deacon. I, of course, had never heard of Dan Deacon before (sorry, Dan, that really doesn’t mean anything), but Evan watched Dan make this AMAZING music video for his story that blew my mind. This might be the best music video ever. It’s a smart concept, it’s well executed, and it’s funny, heartwarming, and gives you tons of variables to follow, watch, and look for. No lie, I have probably watched it 10 times this week. It’s been my picker-upper when I get in a writing lull.
Watch it here, then read on:
As I watched this maybe the third time, I kept thinking there was to be some way to make this into a fun classroom activity. I have played variations of the game “telephone” before but they’re always kind of “meh” in their outcomes. Making the telephone game into some sort of acting performance is much more fun, more high energy, good for those kinesthetic learners and all those props are good for the visual learners…I felt potential.
At my old high school, we read a lot of plays. Why we read so many plays was never explicitly discussed, but I think all liked to use plays as whole class texts because we could read them aloud in class. My favorite plays to teach were Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose , The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Fences by August Wilson. The kids loved them because we could really make them come alive.
For Twelve Angry Men, I got 12 ties from my father-in-law, pinned the juror numbers on them, arranged the desks in the center of the room like a long table (or a fishbowl, for those of you familiar with Socratic Seminar), and we would read the play aloud, acting out the parts.
For The Crucible I had a whole slew of costumes = aprons, doo-rags for head coverings for the women, capes and a caldron (on sale after Halloween at the drugstores), and a cast of my pregnant belly made by my students when I was 9 months pregnant with Alexandra for use once Elizabeth Proctor is pregnant. I even had a small cloth doll with a big needle in it as the poppet. The language of The Crucible got harder and harder for the students each year as they entered with lower and lower test scores, but the acting and props helped a great deal (as did the amazing film, directed by Rebecca Miller, Arthur Miller’s daughter, and staring Daniel Day Lewis as a dirty and strangely sexy John Proctor–meow!).
For Fences we had a plastic baseball bat, a lantern (given to me by my parents in case of another terrorist attack because a floursecent lantern is just what you’ll need), a baby doll in a blanket, an apron, a fake bottle of booze…I can’t remember what else. But we didn’t need as much for Fences–the students LOVED that play.
Thinking of the plays, and the music video, I can’t help but ponder a lesson on the interpretation of text. I see breaking the class into groups of four, and assigning them the same scene from the play, or even different scenes. The groups would have to read the text, create props & costumes (like the music video), act it out, and then verbally justify/explain why they did what they did. They would do a little research on the time period to back up their choices (small information literacy piece here). Then they could all act out the scene, one after the other, and the whole class could write about the similarities and differences between the four groups. Or, if they were doing the same scene, you could have one group go, and then the next group could have five minutes to steal ideas from group one to modify their performance, then they could go, then the next group could have five minutes to steal from both groups…Get it? That’s a little more saucy and might need some extra classroom management skills or a group of in-control kids…
As for hitting the Common Core Standards, I think this touches upon Reading Standard 2, 3, and 7 as well as Writing Standard 1b. (Just for the record.)
And, yet again, this is just more evidence that all I ever think about is teaching! What is wrong with me?!