Tag Archives: Drama

Text Options for the African American Read-In

Quote from Jerri Cobb Scott: It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books.When selecting texts to have as part of African American Read-Ins, many people first think of books or poems. What about using plays or dramas?

The works of playwright August Wilson are a good place to start. His play, Fences, won him critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It is currently a Major Motion Picture directed by Denzel Washington, and starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Students can read Fences, then watch the film and compare the two.

Sticking with August Wilson and looking at his play, The Piano Lesson, readily invites students to ask a number of questions—big and small—about the characters, setting, conflict, and symbols in the work. After reading the first act, students learn how to create effective discussion questions and then put them to use in student-led seminar discussions after Act 1 and again at the end of the play. Read more in the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan, “Facilitating Student-Led Seminar Discussions with The Piano Lesson.”

This lesson from ReadWriteThink.org invites students to explore the things relevant to a character from Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, such as Mama’s plant, to unlock the drama’s underlying symbolism and themes. Students explore character traits and participate in active learning as they work with the play. Students use an interactive drama map to explore character and conflict, and then write and share character-item poems.

If the genre of plays or dramas is too much of a challenge, what if students use both their analytical and creative skills to adapt passages from a novel into a ten-minute play? This lesson plan invites students to read Beloved or another suitable novel. Students then review some of the critical elements of drama, focusing on differences between narrative and dramatic texts, including point of view. They discuss the role of conflict in the novel, and work in small groups to search the novel for a passage they can adapt into a ten-minute play. Students write their play adaptation in writer’s workshop sessions, focusing on character, setting, conflict, and resolution. When the play draft is complete, students review and revise it, then rehearse and present their play to the class. As the plays are performed, students use a rubric to peer-review each group’s work. Because students are responding to a novel with significant internal dialogue and conflict, they are called on to use both analytical and creative skills as they create the adaptation, rather than simply cutting and pasting dialogue.

What dramas or plays written by African Americans have you used?

Advocating for Change through Artistic Expression

The following guest post is by author Sharon Draper. Draper will be the keynote speaker for the Children’s Book Awards Luncheon and one of our featured speakers on the Authors as Advocates panel at the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention.

SharonDraperThose who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.  I’m paraphrasing here, but the knowledge of the past and the words written to preserve that knowledge are waiting in books. Fiction. Nonfiction. Drama. Poetry. Add to that art and music and color and sound and rhythm and all the manifestations thereof, and we as humans survive and continue.

I remember a powerful short story that we read during a senior literature class I taught. I cannot recall the title, but it was about a music box—the last one in the world. The story took place after the final apocalypse, and basic human survival was a daily life-and-death struggle. And what was the most prized possession of the world in which everything had been destroyed? That music box. It was the only item left on the face of the earth that carried music and art and beauty. Wars were fought—not for food, but for that one piece of beauty. So I asked my students—do we need artistic expression to be fully human? Most of them decided that yes, we do.

What I do through my artistic expression is miniscule, compared to the magnitude of all we need to breathe and think. But I feel uplifted when I see a painting of a sunset that my heart recognizes. I feel satiated when I smell honeysuckle in the summer. I incorporate lots of sensory imagery in my writing—not because a writing professor told me to, but because that is how I inhale the world, how I process all the beauty of life.

Through writing, we have the opportunity to save humanity—one word at a time. I am so grateful to be part of the artistic process, to be one with the drummers and the singers and the photographers who capture a moment.

Reporters sometimes ask me, “Who is your audience?”

I reply, “People who read. People who think they don’t like to read. People who think and connect to others. People who are searching.”

“What do you hope readers take from your books?”

“Memories. Joys. Sorrows. Shared community. Characters. Story. Smiles. Tears. Vision. Hope.”

“So how do your stories promote change?”

“Often they do not. But when they do, this is what happens:

  • Kids read a book all the way through to the end.
  • They tuck [books] in their backpack and dig them out during math class when they are supposed to be doing subtraction.
  • They take [a book] home and share it with their mother.
  • They refuse to return the book, saying they lost it.
  • They identify with the characters in the story, saying that life mirrors their own.
  • They laugh. They cry. They get angry at characters.
  • They read a book many times.
  • They think about their life, their future, their possibilities.
  • They see dances. They hear echoes. They touch a symphony.”

This is a book in the hands of a child.

StellabyStarlightSharon M. Draper is the author of over 30 award-winning books, including Out of my Mind, which remains on the NYT bestseller list. She served as the National Teacher of the Year, has been honored at the White House six times, and was chosen to be a literary ambassador to the children of Africa as well as China.  Her newest novel, Stella by Starlight, won the 2016 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children.