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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lesson Plan "Formula"

Rather than stick to a specific lesson plan format, we've come up with a formula that we'll use to create our in class lessons. Though the literature, activities, and goals will change - hopefully this will help organize our efforts. In addition, because these lessons use books as a template, they can improve skills in literacy development in an incredible way. Feel free to take any information from the drama workshops and connect it to writing, reading, spelling, social studies, math and science. Students can illustrate, sing, dance, complete worksheets, or give oral presentations about their work in these lessons, don't feel as if the suggestions we've made are limited to theatrical work!

  1. Identify the kind of story. (i.e. fantasy, "The Sad Unicorn")
  2. Do a form of kinesthetic/bodily-involved/movement based activity to engage with the feelings of the characters/themes/plot/emotions being discussed. (i.e. mirror a partner demonstrating what the unicorn feels at the beginning of the story)
  3. Do an activity specific to the book that involves some large-scale dimension of theater. (i.e. in groups of 3-4 create a short scene that shows how the unicorn felt happier. How could she have felt happy in a different way?)
  4. Relate it to the classroom and real-life experiences. (i.e. How did the wolves treat the unicorn? Why did they do this? What can be done so that we do not treat our classmates like the wolves treated the unicorn?)
  5. Assessment Assessment Assessment - It is essential that students measurably gain something from these lessons, they aren't a deviation from curriculum. Assessment is sometimes facilitated by a discussion, the taking on of a class project, or an extension to a content area related to the issue.