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. 

  • http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/clip.php
  • http://adoption.suite101.com/article.cfm/talking_to_classmates_about_adoption
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: http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/teens_affirmations.html
  • Affirmation songs: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/B00000DGRO/187-5410048-6559761?SubscriptionId=19BAZMZQFZJ6G2QYGCG2
  • 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.