Sunday, December 20, 2009

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

by Mary Hoffman and Illustrated by Caroline Binch

Working with Understanding and Inclusion

Objective: By doing a series of activities around the book Amazing Grace, students will have a better understanding of diversity in their classroom and ways of including all students.

Rationale: Through reading Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace, and participating in these activities and discussion, students will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity within the group, while realizing that they have things in common with some people that they’ve felt more removed from. They’ll learn that even members of the same “groups” have different backgrounds, often members of different “groups” have more similar backgrounds, and that cultural diversity transcends black/white.

1. Warm-Up

  • The Wind Blows- This is a good game for mixing up cliques and a variation of fruit bowl which you already know. Put chairs in a circle. Turn one chair to face out. Choose someone to stand in the middle. They (or you) can call: “The wind blows for anyone who...” and then they state something that has something to do with the person who’s speaking, (i.e. “The wind blows for anyone who has a cat.”) If the statement applies to a student, they have to stand up and switch chairs. The person left standing has to say the next statement.

2. Read book - Amazing Grace

3. Main Activities

  • Inclusion/Exclusion: The group will break off into smaller groups and each will be prompted to create a short skit in which one group member is being excluded. They will then present their skits to the rest of the group, and we will ask the group for suggestions for how to include the excluded group member. We will pick the best suggestion, and then the group will act it out.

4. Cool Down & Recap-

  • Knowing the Community, A Sharing Activity: The group breaks off into smaller groups, and each member of the group is asked to answer a short list of questions (favorite family tradition, the name of one family member, ethnic background, where they are from and where their guardians were born, what generation they represent in America for their family...). Then each group member presents out one fact about one other group member to the larger group.

Assessment: Engaging with a discussion about inclusion, prejudice, and the importance of diversity. In addition, it would be helpful to ask students how they can make sure that bullying, teasing, and hurting the feelings of other students doesn't happen based the person’s gender or ethnicity. Ask students what the moral of Amazing Grace is?



Johansen, Mila. 101 Theatre Games for Drama Teachers, Classroom Teachers, & Directors. Wayne: Avery, 1978.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Great Books

Here are some books we reviewed, but don't relate to any particular category that we discussed in the lessons.

  • Ring! Yo? by Chris Raschka
  • The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
  • Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
  • Happy to Be Nappy by bell hooks and chris raschka
  • Ring on That Beat by Rachel Isadora
  • Red Dancing Shoes by Denise Lewis Patrick
  • Yellow Umbrella by Jae Soo Liu

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Over the Moon

Working With: Memory, Characterization, Storytelling

Objective: Students will build some skills in public speaking, storytelling, and characterization.

Rationale: Over the Moon tells the story of parents adopting a child. However, rather than engage in a discourse about adoption, we will instead use this book as a model to talk about our families and our memories. Children will be given the example of the story in Over the Moon, and will then tell stories that are important to their families to the class. They will also play with characterization and relationships in the theme of families with “Family Reunion.”

1. Human Knot (15 minutes)

Have participants stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Then have them reach out into the center and grab random hands. Then have participants untangle themselves without letting go of each other’s hands.

2. Read Over the Moon. (10 minutes)

3. First Activity: Family Reunion (20 minutes)

Sets of four to six cards, depending on the number of students in the class, are printed with family names; for example, Mother Courage, Grandmother Courage, Sister Courage. Each student is given a card. Once members are present, families retire to one corner of the room and create a tableau representing a photo in the family album. The game is replayed several times.

After playing the game several times, students remain with one family to create three pictures for the family album. Captions to accompany the photos can be suggested; for example “Our Family Vacation.”


4. Second Activity: Stories from My Past (20 minutes)

Students pick one of the following topics or questions on which to base the retelling of a personal, significant story. They provide as much detail as possible, and answer audience member’s questions concerning the story.

What was your best vacation?

What was your most memorable birthday party?

Have you ever been afraid?

What special toys have been part of your life?

What special accomplishment have you achieved?

What book do you remember from your childhood?

Have you ever repaired anything?

Have you ever had to move?

Describe a time when you were surprised.

Students are given a time limit to tell their story. They work with a partner or a small group to develop their story. After listening to a story, students might work with a new partner or group and tell the story that they were told.

Students work as a whole group to tell stories relating to the topics and questions. On a signal, one student begins to tell his or her story. On another signal, she or he stops and another student picks up the story. Each person has a chance to contribute to the collective storytelling.


5. Cool Down: Pass the pulse (5 minutes)

Everyone stands in a circle and holds hands. One person passes a pulse around the circle by squeezing the hand of the person to their right. This pulse is passed through the circle. A second pulse can be added. See how fast you can pass the pulse around.

Assessment: The teacher should gather a sense that students understand and feel empathetic to the situation happening in this particular family...specifically children of adopted parents. If students seem like they are emotionally connecting to the material - it'll be obvious that they are gaining some sensitivity to other family structures. A means of formal assessment might be seen in a non-drama related way, this book is definitely a great jumping off point to a series of writing pieces involving defining ones' family, understanding others' families, and being tolerant of different family structures. Perhaps after carrying out these exercises, the teacher can ask students to write a reflection on the word "family," and pending those responses decide whether or not to continue with the subject-matter. 

Extensions: This text begins to introduce the concept of a 'home' which might be particularly significant to early grades where students are having separation anxieties. Connecting to different family structures is key in building a community in a classroom. 

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
Tell Me About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis 
In My Heart by Molly Bang
All Kinds of Families by Norma Simon
  • I Wished For You: an Adoption Story by Marianne R. Richmond


Swartz, Larry. Drama Themes: Completely Revised. Ontario Canada: Pembroke Publishers, 1995. Print.

Katz, Karen. Over the Moon. New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1997. Print.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ms. Rubenstein's Beauty

Working With: Vocabulary, Scenery/Setting, and Observation

Objective: Students will build some skills towards understanding relationships between the words and illustrations on the page and engaging with scenery and set design as larger theatrical concepts.

Rationale: Students might view Ms. Rubenstein as a book about self-image or self-confidence. Rather than engage in a discourse about appearance and beauty, this book will serve as a template to talk about technical theatre and stage design. To build an awareness of set design and become proficient theatre participants, students will use the illustrations in Montserrat's book. The appeal of the story will lure them into paying specific attention to the pictures, because the nature of the plot is mysterious until the last few pages. Hopefully, looking closely at the illustrations will help students have a wider awareness of where set designers access ideas for stage productions.

1.Warm Up
a. (For ages 5-7) Any Fabric: Using a few different kinds/colors of fabric, students will interpret what they want the fabric to be. Students will stand in a circle, passing the fabric around and each giving 5-10 words about what they imagine the fabric to be
b. (For ages 8-10) Blob: One student is deemed "the blob." This student will move around the room slowly, stretching and interacting with all obstacles (i.e. desks, chairs, etc.). The goal of the activity for the child to tag another student and then the two (while maintaining contact) continue to move about the room in a very "blob-like" fashion. The game will end when all students have been tagged (Buesgen).

2. Read Ms. Rubenstein's Beauty by Pep Montserrat - while reading the teacher will ask students to notice the illustrations in the book, asking "What do these pictures suggest about the story? What can you predict will happen because of the illustrations?

3.Main Activity
Students will participate in an activity called "Story Can Theatre," as proposed by Lenore Blank Kelner in the book The Creative Classroom 1993. In groups of 3-4, students will receive three index cards with vocabulary words and three miniature toys. The words and toys will all be associated with the illustrations from the (Possible modifications: Younger students can have only objects, and maybe a word that is less challenging/widely used. Older students might have three vocab words, one of which they don't necessarily know, and three toys, etc.) Students will use the words/objects that are in the can to a) 5-7 create three or four sentences relating to Ms. Rubenstein or b) 8-10 create an original story that might serve as an epilogue to Ms. Rubenstein, but has no particular form necessarily.

This activity will help students engage with the sadder aspects of the story, while being able to manipulate the ending (if they should choose to do so) or creating an unrelated story with objects similar to those in the story. The goal of the lesson will be to play with the interaction between vocabulary and illustration or script and scenery. Students will act out their story or series of sentences within the small groups - perhaps for the whole class if time permits.

4. Cool Down

"Texture Walk:" Students will walk around the room as if they are in a variety of places. They will walk with their eyes open until the teacher yells "FREEZE" and shouts out a location, such as "INSIDE A VOLCANO!" Immediately following the location, students will move about as if they are in that location - and the physical limits to that movement are completely flexible. For example, a student might be clever enough that they decide to climb up the side of the volcano, maybe they are wearing a pretend bathing suit, etc (Kelner).

Assessment: The goal of this lesson is to talk about self-image, and in turn, self-consciousness. Rather than engage in a discussion that might embarrass students, we recommend assessments where students work to affirm one another. Drafting or pulling together a collection of ways that students can compliment one another or make one another feel positive about themselves can be done in a variety of ways.

  • Website of teen affirmations that can be partially used in elementary classrooms:
  • Affirmation songs:
  • The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater is about a man who doesn't mind his house looking different than everyone elses.


Buesgen, Janine M. Theatre Games (1999): n. pag. Web. 1 Nov 2009. .

Kelner, Lenore Blank. The Creative Classroom: A Guide for Using Creative Drama in the Classroom, PreK-6. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann, 1993. Print.

Montserrat, Pep. Ms. Rubenstein's Beauty. New York, NY: Sterling, 2006. Print.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chester's Way

Chester's Way
by Kevin Henkes

Working with: Character Exploration and Including New Friends

Objective: Students will work with character exploration and development as well as skills/situations involving new students in a classroom setting.

Rationale: Since we're using stories instead of plays, significant information like stage direction and noted tones/intent are harder to discover. In place of these elements is illustration and a lot of description about events as they take place. In Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes, Oliver is a new student introduced on the last page of the book, after the two main characters have already encountered Lilly. Oliver is an effective character to explore because Henkes provides such little detail about him, thus leaving it up to the imagination/reader's interpretation. Oliver is also a new student in the story line, so by creating our own version of Oliver, we can accomplish thinking about both how a character is defined and how to deal with new students coming into the class.

1. Warm-up: Body Parts and Directions - instruct students to explore their hands, arms, feet, legs, torso, head, and neck to the fullest direction. Reccomendations from the text: "Let one hand lead your arm sideways into space. Let that hand bring your arm back to your side. Let the other hand lead your other arm sideways into space. Now let that hand bring that arm back to your side" (Washington Office, p18)

2. Read Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes

3. Main activity
  • a. (For ages 5-7) Split class up into four groups of 4-7 (depending on class size). Each group is assigned one of the main characters - Chester, Wilson, Lilly, and Oliver - and construct a character biography. The biography will be told through costuming, which is appropriate for the age group because writing might take too much time. The costumes will be what the group thinks the character would dress in, in the following situations: "dressed up," "school day," "playing outside," and "costume party." Students will present to the class, and will be responsible for explaining why that particular character would wear a costume.
  • b. (For ages 8-10) Students split up into groups of four, and construct an original monologue written from the perspective of Oliver. They will be prompted with one of the following situations, "the next three pages of the book," "when oliver gets ready to go to the park," "the next day in class," and "in one week after the book ends." Then, one student from each group will be asked to perform the monologue in front of the whole class. (Washington Office, p63-66)

4. Cool Down & Recap: Present the following information: "What a character does, how it is done, and why it is done reveals the character's uniqueness. A character is also developed by what other characters say," (Washington Office, p61)
  • a. (For ages 5-7) First, the students & teacher(s) will sit in a circle and discuss what they think the "characters" were and why. Students answers will vary. Using Oliver as a metaphor, students might feel more comfortable discussing first-day/new student experiences. Then as a class, we'll draft a list of things to keep in mind everyday to make sure that all students feel welcome
  • b. (For ages 8-10) Students & Teacher(s) will discuss how character exploration relates to understanding the "message" in a book. We'll then ask students what they feel the "message" of Chester's Way is, and how it applies to classroom life.
Assessment: Within the discussion is a lot of assessment. Another way for formal, solidified assessment would be to create a set of guidelines for new students or students that might not feel included. This could be a great way to start out the year - with a list of rules/guidelines/suggestions for "making friends," drafted by the students themselves. This way, you give the students the ability to create something original, that they will feel more responsible to stick to. 

Extensions:There are a lot of books about anxieties regarding the first day of school, but for students entering in the middle of the year - these books might make them feel even less included. Introducing a new class ritual after a new student comes in can help the student feel like they've become a part of a community. Below are some websites/videos/books to consider.
  • Poem about first day anxieties:
  • Arthur episode about meeting new students: and
  • First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg 


Henkes, Kevin. Chester's Way. William Morrow & Company, Inc. , 1997. Print.

Prutzman, Priscilla. The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet: A Handbook on Creative Approaches to Living and Problem Solving for Children. Wayne: Avery, 1978.

Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olympia . "Spotlight on Drama in the Classroom, K-6." (1975): 1-91. Print.

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses

Working with Theme and Conflict Resolution

Objective: By doing a series of activities around the book The Hundred Dresses, students will have a greater awareness of what "theme" is. They will also address conflict resolution throughout the exercises in order to introduce a dialougue about treating fellow students with respect and care.

Rationale: Prutzman suggests using these exercises to introduce group cooperation and conflict resolution in the classroom. For the younger kids, the build up of the rainstorm activity followed by their hands on manipulation of the live puppets gives them a sense of control in their environment. Finally, the picture of what they want 100 of is a nice way to express last emotions surrounding the book. For the older kids, the storytelling activity draws on vocabulary and urgency, and the dramatics test creativity and ability to resolve conflicts in a situation where they aren't being directly threatened. In addition, the cool-down exercise with puppets is a better way to discuss the emotions behind the day, without having kids express themselves directly.

1. Warm-Up
  • a. (For ages 5-7) Rainstorm- Group simulates the sounds of a rainstorm. Teacher rubs hands together in front of one person and then moves to the next, while students continue to make the sounds. This repeats with clicking fingers, pattering on legs, and then the peak - stomping feet. The storm ends by completing the reverse of the actions.
  • b. One-Word Storytelling (For ages 8-10) - After the teacher introduces the topic students sit In a large circle. While going around in the circle, each student says one word to make up a somewhat coherent sentence.

2. Read book - The Hundred Dresses
3. Main Activity
  • a. The Box Surprise (For ages 5-7) - Three students in costume will come into the classroom in a large box. They will assume the roles of the three main characters from the storybook and have a sign that says "We are mechanical puppets, we come alive if there are conflicts to save). Students are then read prompts, dealing with conflicts from the story (and maybe exterior to the story). The puppets can be moved and speak when cued to solve the presented problems in whatever way they are told to do so for their classmates. (p61)
  • b. Grab Bag Dramatics (For ages 8-10)- Paper Bags that are filled with random objects will be handed out to students that are in groups of 3-5. The paper bags will have silly objects, i.e. a slipper, toothbrush, ball, teddy bear, spray bottle, container of marker caps, a plastic bag with pipecleaners, etc. Students in the group create a skit involving one or more of the items following a prompt that is similar to the one in the book - ___ has ___ object, and ____ wants it - how will ____ help you solve this problem? The skits can be presented to the class if time permits.
4. Cool Down & Recap - On the board, the teacher will write, as quoted by Brouillet, "The theme is the basic idea that the playwright or play makers want to express through the play," (p. 71) Then the teacher will say, "If we say that the Hundred Dresses is a play, what do you think the theme would be?"
  • a. Drawing the Theme (ages 5-7)- After the discussion on theme, students will draw what they wish they could have 100 of, these can be posted around the room just like the closet of the main character in the storybook.
  • b. Puppetry (ages 8-10) - In a circle, students will each have a puppet. They will use the puppet to communicate what they think the theme was, and how they felt about the theme. More advanced discussions might draw on notions of classism, but the gist of the discussion should follow the idea of inclusion and acceptance.
Assessment: Engaging with a discussion about classism, or at least how the characters react to one another will demonstrate how students have reacted to the lesson. In addition, it would be helpful to ask students how they can make sure that bullying, teasing, and hurting the feelings of other students doesn't happen based on anything a student does/doesn't have. Note that many students might get heated or emotional talking about materialism and/or classism, especially in younger grades, so pay specific attention to the flow of the conversation, facilitating an environment where students are learning about becoming sensitive to all kinds of situations. 

Extensions: This discussion will be hard to facilitate, the websites below can help you maintain composure & see that some conclusions are reached.

Prutzman, Priscilla. The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet: A Handbook on Creative Approaches to Living and Problem Solving for Children. Wayne: Avery, 1978.

Estes, Eleanor, and Louis Slobodkin (Illustrator). The Hundred Dresses. Sandpiper, 1974. Print.

Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olympia . "Spotlight on Drama in the Classroom, K-6." (1975): 1-91. Print.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And Tango Makes Three Lesson Plan

And Tango Makes Three

by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole

Objective: By introducing a book where a zoo keeper make a family feel like they matter and are included, we hope to engage students in a lesson about what it means to feel included and to matter.

Rationale: And Tango Makes Three is a story that details how a zookeeper tried to make two male penguins feel like they could have a family. This very touching and true moment justifies that all people should feel included. Students need to be aware that some folks within the classroom sometimes don't feel like they "matter," and in fact, feel "marginalized." By working with the definitions of "marginalizing" and "mattering," we'll explore scene deconstruction and inclusion. As a final note, we'll begin to design our class project - something that will make all students in the class feel welcome and included throughout the entire year.

1.Warm up: Going to the Zoo -Pretend like we’re going to the zoo, we’ll pass around an empty bag and have each student pack an imaginary item that they’ll need to take with them to the zoo.

(Fifteen minutes)

2. Read book: And Tango Makes Three

(Fifteen minutes)

3. Warm up: Animal motion - Have children stand in a circle and pass around an animal sound and motion. One person will make an animal sound and motion, and then everyone will repeat it back to them.

4. Main Activity

A. (For students 5-7 years old) Summary Skits

Divide students into groups of three to six (depending on what part of the plot they’ll be retelling). The groups of six will either be reenacting the beginning section of the story, where Silo and Roy are not able to hatch their “egg”, the middle section where the Zoo Keeper realizes that they want to hatch an egg and gives them a real one, or the end of the book where Silo and Roy have hatched Tango. The students will act out a summary of their given scene, providing dialogue to get across feelings and interactions without a narrator. They will practice in their group for 20 minutes, and then have the whole class share their skits for another 20 minutes.

B. (For students 8-11 years old) Emotion Sculptures

Break students into groups of three. Each group will receive a paper telling them which character to act out, during a certain point in the plot:

1. Roy when he meets Silo.

2. Silo when he sees a penguin a couple with a baby.

3. The zookeeper when he sees Roy and Silo with rock “egg”.

4. Silo when they get real egg.

5. Roy when Tango hatches.

6. Tango when he’s hatched.

These sculptures only feature the emotions of one character, in three different stages of of the emotion. A phrase is added to the physical expression of the motion, i.e. in plot point 2 (Silo when he sees a penguin a couple with a baby), there might be three physical expressions of a sad emotion where one person would say “I want a baby”, another would say “Where is my egg?”, and a third would say “I’m sad”. Students will perform statues after ten minutes of deliberation.

(30 minutes)

5. Cool down/ Discussion:Define mattering, marginalizing, inclusion and how they work in the book. Talk to class about creating guidelines and activities that make folks feel like they matter. Design an affirmation project for the class. Some examples:

a. Affirmation Notebook: a collection of individual self-affirming worksheets that are compiled, created, and done by the students throughout the year. Students can write positive things they feel about themselves, and also write things in other people’s notebooks if they notice positive behavior coming from another student.

b. Special Mailbox Notes: mail boxes are set up for each student. All students write each other anonymous affirming notes throughout the year.

c. Good Deeds Wall: students can write post-it’s of different good deeds that they have witnessed another student doing.

Assessment: Most of your assessment will be found in the discussion part of the lesson. If students feel motivated to engage in an all class project about creating community/making other students feel included - the lesson has had some effect. 

Extensions: To do more work about homosexuality/homophobia in the classroom, consider the following texts: 

  • Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  • My Two Uncles by Judith Vigna
  • King & King by Lenda de Haan and Stern Nijland Berkeley 

and websites: 



Social Justice Training on Mattering and Marginalizing - From the Orientation Training for Hampshire College Orientation Leaders - August 2009

Richardson, Justin, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole. And Tango Makes Three. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005. Print.

Prutzman, Priscilla. The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet: A Handbook on Creative Approaches to Living and Problem Solving for Children. Wayne: Avery, 1978.

Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olympia . "Spotlight on Drama in the Classroom, K-6." (1975): 1-91. Print.