OK. I promised on October 12 that i'd post notes from the october 12th workshop. Here's the first installment, notes on the drama-based work we did that day--from the warm ups and team building we did at the outset, to the longer drama work we did based on the narrative of a young immigrant from India.
But first, some thoughts on certain important concepts for using drama to teach socials studies topics (with thanks to Dr. Jay Pecora):
PROCESS DRAMA: is an improvisational educational technique for use in the classroom. Less concerned with re-enacting specific plot lines than with exploring the relationships, conflict, and the meaning of key historical events and processes.
ROLE: taking on a voice that isn’t your own, enacting a character from a different time and/or place.
TEACHER-IN-ROLE: The teacher sets up the dramatic world up in character, modeling the method of participation, and inviting students to dialogue.
TABLEAU/TABLEAUX: frozen pictures.
QUESTIONING: should be done in an attempt not to seek specific answers but to generate meaning.
TENSION: drama creates it. It is an important element, motivational.
DISTANCE AND PROTECTION: Process drama allows for it. Very useful for difficult emotional material. But how to make the most of it? Remind your students to focus on the external activity; emphasize that this work is about trying to represent emotion, not the real thing, and; and explain that they can pick characters who are entirely different than they are, that what they say in character isn’t representative of their own actual opinions.
REFLECTION: is essential.
EVALUATION: Also essential. Beware, though: results not always predictable.
FURTHER READING on drama in the social studies classroom:
•Augusto Boal, _Games for Actors and Non-Actors_ (2nd ed., Routledge, 2005)
•Anita Manley and Cecily O’Neil, _Dreamseekers: Creative approaches to the African American Heritage_ (Heinemann, 1997)
•Viola Spolin, _Theater Games for the Classroom_ (Northwestern University Press, 1986)
•Philip Taylor, _Redcoats and Patriots: Reflective Practice in Drama and Social Studies_ (Heinemann, 1998)
NOTES FROM THE OCTOBER 12TH WORKSHOP:
•PHYSICAL AND VOCAL WARM UPS
Big face/Little face
Yawn—Let out sound
Clasped hands, shake together, and let out sound
•THROWING OUT SOUND AND MOVEMENT. In a circle, each student will throw a body movement which is accompanied by a sound into the circle. The first time around, everyone in the circle can echo the movement and sound as each student goes. The second time around, you can do it “wave” style, with each person doing the sound and movement which the first person started in a “wave” around the circle.
•COUNTING. The group will count in order starting with one, and anyone can call out a number whenever they want to (there is no designated starter or set students calling out numbers). If two people say a number at the same time, the group must start over counting at one. The goal is to sense the energy of the group and get to a high number.
•HEE YAH. The group, as a unit, tries to say and move at the same time. A leader can be chosen by the facilitator (with the participants keeping their eyes closed) for the first couple of rounds. After a while, the group must try it without a designated leader. The goal is for the group to come to a silent agreement about when they will move together. Each group member must look, listen, and be aware of their partners, and their partners in this activity is the whole group.
•STEAL THE SPACE. A person stands in the middle of the circle. Those students who make up the circle will make eye contact with another member and negotiate when they will switch places. The person in the middle tries to get the empty space before they switch places.
•HERO/VILLIAN/SHIELD—Walk through the space. Stop. Look at one other person in the room but don’t make it obvious to others who it is. This is a person you want to be like. Mimic whatever they do—even if it’s subtle. Notice their breathing, stance, etc.
Okay, now walk around the space. You want to be near this person—this hero. GO
Stop—notice someone else in the room who is someone you don’t want to be near. This person is an enemy, or villain, to you. Again, don’t make it obvious to others who you chose. Imagine this person has a bomb as you walk walk through the space—GO. You want to stay away from that person but you must keep walking—
You’ve got your villain and your hero—now you want to act as a shield in order to keep your hero away from his enemy. GO!
•STOP/GO/CLAP/JUMP, and opposites. Instruct the group to move about the room at will. At certain random intervals, command them to: a) stop; b) go; c) clap; or d) jump. They must respond to the commands. Then do the opposing actions to what is said---so that stop will mean go, go will mean stop, clap will mean jump, and jump will mean clap.
•HUMAN MAP. This chair represents New York City, and the far side of the room represents Japan. Place yourself where you were born and raised. Now move to where your father was born and raised. Where your mother was born and raised, your mothers' mother, your mothers' father, etc.
•WORD EXCHANGE. Each student thinks about a word or sentence associated with immigration. They then walk around the room, and one person tells another person their word. The second person takes the first person's word, and vice versa. With the new word, each person exchanges words with another person and so on. After several minutes, the teacher asks the student to stand in a circle, and say the last word received. This is a way of stimulating associations with immigration.
•THROWING OUT SOUND AND MOVEMENT REVISITED. Each person can take the word they ended up with (in the last activity to do with immigration) and create a gesture to express that word as it is said. So that this time they’d throw out their words and movement (wave style) based on some of the words they exchanged in the last activity.
•A SERIES OF EXERCISES, BASED ON THE ORAL HISTORY OF AMITABH
using text from _New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens_ (Scholastic, 1991)
GOALS: Students will examine the reasons why immigrants left their countries and the challenges and successes they faced in coming to America through looking at the Oral history of a teen and dramatizing pivotal moments of his experience. The story of Amitabh is from New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens: edited by Janet Bode (1989)
Hand out section of Oral history of Amitabh. The class reads the following passage aloud, with each participant taking one sentence. (5 minutes)
"I couldn't always understand why we had come here. Why would my parents leave a country where they had been born, where their children had been born? Bhaunagar was a modernized city on the northwest side of India. It had a lot of factories, apartment houses, and private homes. Our home was three stories high and we lived together with my uncle, my aunt, and my grandparents. My grandparents had another house in a small city called Mehsana. Every summer and during other vacations we'd go there.
"The weather was very warm. In the winters it would get cool enough to wear sweaters, but that was it. No snow. It also used to rain quite a bit. There was a dry and rainy season, with monsoons that occurred every year at a certain time. We had a good life there.
"I know that people think that in India everybody is poor, that everything is backward. It's not that backward, and probably improved since I've been here. We had electricity and running water and traffic jams. I went to a good school. They taught the same subjects as over here, like art, general science, and math and also some of the different languages of India. I think there are fifteen or sixteen languages. At home we spoke Gujarati and I learned how to speak Hindi too. I was happy. I knew the way things were done in India. I knew the food. I loved cooked okra, the vegetable, and pouri, the bread. I had a favorite kind of curry. I knew my future. My parents said, though, that we were going to move to America because…"
TURN TO A PARTNER: Why do you think Amitabh's family decided to come to the United States? Participants will discuss possible reasons based on the morning lecture; i.e. lack of opportunity, financial hardship, and the pursuit of better living conditions. (3 minutes)
The facilitator reads two sentences about what really happened to Amitabh's family: "My parents said that we were going to move to American because us kids would have more opportunities for the future. This was a long time planning."
PAIRS are grouped with another two other pairs to form a group of six. Because they have discussed possible reasons why the family left India, they should have enough information to improvise the following scene:
GROUPS IMPROVISE the moment Amitabh's parents tell him and the rest of the family they are going to move to America. In a group of six, there will be the mother, the father, Amitabh, and two more brothers. Groups improvise simultaneously for 3 minutes. Stop. Decide on 10 to 30 seconds of the improvisation you just did to share with the rest of the class. Each group shares their 10 to 30 seconds. This entire section should last no more than 7 minutes.
Give a second hand-out which we read aloud with the following bit of information from Amitabh on it:
"It was really bad for us in the beginning. We were six in a two room apartment. Every day my parents would get up and go out to look for jobs. They knew they had to start all the way at the bottom, that people here didn’t count experience from India. But my father had been a biologist. My mother was a chemistry professor at a University. In India they were both making good money. Now, though, they would come home every evening and they wouldn't have found anything. They would be very, very sad. They didn't know the bus systems or the subway systems here. They'd get lost. They'd get to some place and it would be too late. The job would be gone. They'd go another place and the answer would be no. One day my parents said, "This is a dead end. We can't find jobs. We don't have any more money. Nothing. We're going to have to jump into the river." I want to think that they were not being serious, but I still would feel so sad for us." (5 minutes)
BRAINSTORM what kinds of jobs Amitabh’s parents might be able to get in NYC? Elicit conversation about what factors go into the task of finding and getting a job. Altogether go through the information we have about their educational status, their ability to speak English, and various other things we know about the world at large that might affect the sorts of jobs they might seek and find.
JOB INTERVIEW. In Pairs, (A and B) --- Amitabh's mother or father (A) apply for a job. B is the interviewer. Afterwards, ask the A’s of the pairs to stand up while the B’s remain seated. Ask the A’s to walk to the next seated B partner and sit down next to them. Now, B will be the Amitabh's mother or father applying for a job, while A is the interviewer.
Facilitator says: Eventually both parents got a job. Can we see how this happened? Improvise for another two minutes, and then decide on 10 to 30 seconds to share with the class. This entire section should be no more than 15 minutes.
Discussion—what did it feel like to be interviewed. What were some of the themes or issues that emerged? (5 minutes)
The participants receive a third hand-out and read about what really happened to Amitabh's family:
"My father worked as a messenger, more a job for a boy than a man. He delivered letters and carried packages all over the city. Again, he would get lost the way he had when he was looking for work. He lasted about three or four months doing that until he found another job and another job. All small jobs. Then he met an Indian man who owned a laboratory who hired him. Now he's sort of back in the area of biology, where he used to work. My mothers started working at a store. She had to fold clothes, mostly. Then she got a better job watching patients at a senior citizens' home. Eventually, she became the dietician there. Now we live in a house with four bedrooms. I have my own bedroom and my middle brother and I have a computer. I'm in the tenth grade, and my older brother is in college the University of Maryland. He wants to be a surgeon. My father wants to become a U.S. citizen. My mother wants to stay Indian. Still, we are all changing…." (5 minutes).
How are they changing? Discuss. (5 minutes)
IN GROUPS, CREATE A TABLEAU to show how your group thinks they are changing. Share. (10 minutes)
Afterwards, facilitator hands out a fourth and final passage to read aloud:
"Still, we are all changing. When we lived in Bhaunagar, my mother wore a sari. She used to put a bindi, that little dot, on her forehead. Now only when we go to some festival, like every August 15 is Indian Independence Day and there's a big parade, then she will wear her sari and have a bindi. Mostly, she just wears pants and a blouse. I'm more Americanized than my parents. I still speak Gujarati at home, but now there's English mixed in a lot. I'm trying to get out of my accent as much as possible. And now I have what I guess you could call an American mouth. I have braces. I'd never seen braces in India. I hate wearing them!!! Just like American kids." (5 minutes)
Final reflective discussion (10 minutes).