Acting Out (Grades K-5 Lesson Plan)
Ruth Dorcas Gates loved the theater and all of its stories. Her scrapbook tells its own story about her time at Simmons. This exercise allows students to let out their creative side by acting out the world that students see in her pictures.
- Students will learn the importance of primary sources
- Students will see how artifacts can tell stories
- Students will learn to express themselves creatively with a foundation in historical research
- Students will learn about differences in interpretation
- Ruth D. Gates Digital Scrapbook
- Printed or digital copies of photos to give to individual students
- Props and costumes as desired
- Pencils and paper
- Start by showing materials in the scrapbook, and talking about Ruth and her time. Give general background about what is going on in some of the photos. (20 minutes)
- Divide the class up into small groups (whatever makes sense for the class size). (5 minutes)
- Assign each group a photo from the scrapbook. (5 minutes)
- Have each group come up with a story about what they think is happening in the photo. They should make informed decisions from the background given in the class, and they should feel free to look at the site to glean more background or to ask questions. (30 minutes)
- Have the students write out their scripts and practice together. The plays should be between 5-10 minutes long. (45 minutes)
- Perform the plays in class, preferably following the order of the scrapbook. Students can get fancy and make use of props that they might have on hand, but they should be as true as possible to their understanding of the time. (Time will vary based on class size)
- Speak with the class and talk again about what the scrapbook says about Ruth and the 1920s. What did students learn from their interpretation of the photos? Did seeing their classmates' performances make them look at the story differently? What did they feel they learned about information interpretation? (20 minutes)
Learning to Judge: Field Trip/DVD Theatre Review (Grades K-5 Lesson Plan)
Students will examine Ruth Dorcas Gates' digital scrapbook, taking note of her interest in the theatre and her tendency to review shows, in preparation for a visit to a theatre where a live action play or musical is featured (which will probably not be one Ruth watched, but will nonetheless suffice - students in schools with limited funds will watch a DVD of a play or musical). In class, students will learn from lectures what it means to review something, or, to speak to elementary students, to discuss how something makes you feel after the fact. Students will first read reviews within their favorite genre, then write summaries about them. In class, the teacher will help students examine whether there is a common format present in the reviews the students read. Then comes the field trip, after which the students will be assigned to write a review of what they saw.
- Students will learn what it means to think critically about the arts.
- Students will learn about the theatre, and gain capacity to empathize with someone from Ruth's time period.
- Students will learn how to present opinions in a more cogent manner than that to which they are accustomed.
- The Ruth D. Gates Digital Scrapbook
- Modern theatre reviews
- School funds to afford field tickets to see play/musical, otherwise potential pushing of the cost onto the parent or guardian.
- Schools without funds could watch a DVD of a live theatre production.
- Organize students into groups of 4, with their desks interlocked like squares. (3 minutes)
- Have students look at the online digital library and theatre reviews. (30-50 minutes)
- Discuss with students what it means to review something that they have seen or heard, like a movie, play, or even a song. Write examples on the board of specific items with which they are familiar (songs, movies, and so on) that can be reviewed. One could have the class vote on these items (e.g. with a thumbs up or down). This would demonstrate what it means for something to be reviewed in aggregate and would remind students that there are other people in the world who like or dislike things, because people have different tastes. (30 minutes)
- For homework, assign each student to read three reviews of specific items in any medium (TV shows, reading Roger Ebert for movies, plays, musicals, albums, songs, etc.), so that they will know what a review looks like. Assign to them a one-to-two page summary that includes at least one paragraph touching on each review they read. (20 minutes)
- Instruct students on what constitutes a review by asking them to speak out on commonalities they came across in their reading. Review with the students how much review-writing is formula and how much is idiosyncrasy. (25 minutes)
- Arrange a field trip to a local theatre to see a play or musical (or watch a DVD of a play or musical if cost prohibits a field trip).
- When students return, instruct them to write a two-three page review of what they saw, with an extra page of discussion added at the end to explain how what they're doing, what the reviewers they read were doing, and Ruth's scribbles in the margins are all related. Assign this as homework.
- Discuss the reviews with the students, and have each student stand and either read their review or otherwise explain what they thought of it. After all the students have done this, a discussion will ensue so that students can speak out and voice disagreement or criticism of expressed views. (40-50 minutes, could vary and go on much longer depending on the students and the teacher's control of the classroom).
Teach Something to a Friend (Grades K-5 Lesson Plan)
Ruth was studying to be a teacher of the domestic arts while she was a student at Simmons, and was very interested in learning about new things in Boston. This assignment uses her scrapbook as a jumping off point, that will help students think about the things that they are already interested in (hobbies or skills that they have acquired), and learn how to think procedurally to teach other students in their class how to do them too.
- Students will learn about history and primary sources from the scrapbook
- Students will learn to think critically about teaching and learning
- Students will learn to express themselves clearly and will learn to write procedurally
- Students will learn about the importance of precision in language
- Ruth D. Gates Digital Scrapbook
- Pencil and paper if writing out
- If presenting in front of the class, props may be necessary
- Start by showing students materials from the scrapbook. Talk about what the domestic arts were and the kinds of classes that Ruth would have taken. Discuss with students the other things that she liked to do. Students can contribute by describing the kinds of things that they see in the source, prompted by the teacher if necessary. (20 minutes)
- Talk about teaching and think about how Ruth might have gone about teaching her students in Connecticut how to do something (for example, how to make a cake, or cook a chicken). (10 minutes)
- Open the discussion to the class to contribute things that they know how to do. It could be something their parents taught them to cook, or a craft or hobby that they are involved in -- anything that has steps that can be taught. Help them brainstorm by putting suggestions on the board. (15 minutes)
- Pick one thing listed by the students as an example (its complexity will depend on age level) and ask the students to help you work through doing that thing step by step. (20 minutes)
- Assign the students the task of thinking about something in particular that they think a classmate would like to learn that could be taught in class. It could be as simple as how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The important thing is thinking about the steps involved. (20 minutes)
- Group the students into pairs and have them write down or verbally lay out step by step how to do their chosen task. Make sure they understand the importance of including every step in the process. (20 minutes)
- Have students teach each other using the steps they came up with. (45 minutes)
- Have students present to the class what they learned. How hard was it to create directions for another student? What did they notice when they were trying to follow the other student's directions? (Time will vary according to class size)
- Open up the discussion to the entire class. How might Ruth and her students' experiences been similar or different to theirs? (20 minutes)