For several years the museum has used theater as a way of engaging visitors with the past, and recently we decided to try to translate this strategy from the museum floor to classrooms through a new workshop on teaching with drama. As part of this workshop, we show teachers how to use videos of our theater programs (Join the Student Sit Ins, Broad Stripes and Bright Stars--a program about Mary Pickersgill, and the Time Trial of John Brown, among others) with students, including recreating a simulation of a civil rights sit-in training that we hold at the museum. We’ve also conducted theater games to help teachers and students make more personal connections with the past by embodying moments in time in a “walk around” activity or working together to create a “human machine” as an entrée into conversations about the industrial revolution or about our individual roles in a larger community.
To see a full explanation of these activities and other suggestions for teaching with drama, you can find a full post on our blog: http://blog.americanhistory.si.edu/osaycanyousee/2012/02/teaching-with-drama.html.
I’ve been excited to see how teachers are using theater techniques already, often through role playing, and I wondered how the History Explorers group might be using drama, too. Have you done simulations, role playing, or more formal theater games with students? Do your students do historical reenactments or first person interpretations? We'd love to hear how you're using drama in your classroom!
National Museum of American History
I do a unit on ancient Greece and Rome in which I lecture about Thespis, the origins of drama and how difficult translating a story to the stage can be. Then I have them test this out when we study mythology. I break the students into groups and each is assigned a different myth. Each group writes a script that relies of dialogue rather than narration to perform for the class and a large part of their grade is determined by whether or not their classmates can answer questions about the myth. This forces them to be sure that the script makes sense, has no holes, reinforces major plot points, and is more about the story than about being funny for their peers. The students are often surprised by how challenging it is to write a clear script and the plays are usually entertaining and informative.
What a neat way to get kids hooked on both ancient history and mythology. The script writing is both experimental for the students and entertaining. I wonder what they would do if you added the Comic Creator to their mythology script writing as a culmination of their myth. Or, they might even add some type of music - scripting the theme in the form of lyrics.
Love your unit on ancient Greece and Rome.