Monday, October 19, 2009

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.

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