When Travelers Meet
Language Arts Activity
By putting the information they have into dramatic form, students can compare and contrast social and cultural life in the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Reference books about Colonial America
- Tape and/or video recorder (optional)
- Costumes (optional)
WHAT TO DO
- Invite students to write and put on a play about life in
Colonial times. They begin by creating a variety of characters who might
have lived at that time. In order to develop each identity, they should
research the Colonial period, focusing on such factors as education, careers, daily life, economics, climate, and geography in each region.
- Divide the class into three teams and have each team generate a list of
characters based on what they know about one of the three regions. For example:
- a Pennsylvania farmer
- an enslaved African house servant from the South
- a New England merchant
- a woman who runs an inn on the road to Boston
- Have students narrow down the number of characters to no more than seven.
Divide the class into as many teams as you have characters in order to develop a sketch of each character's background and circumstances.
- Next have the group as a whole offer suggestions for a setting. Remind
students that though travel was difficult, there might have been a situation in
which travelers from all parts of Colonial America came together and learned
something about one another. One example: a stormy night when all the travelers
have to take shelter at the same inn.
- Challenge students to think of how the characters would interact. Remind students to stay in character and think about how different social and economic classes used to interact. Have teams
brainstorm to develop a choice of plot structures. One possibility would be to
model the play on Thornton Wilder's Our Town, in which characters interact
but reveal most about themselves by addressing the audience in monologues. Have
the class choose one idea to work with from among the options.
- Assign, or have students volunteer for, different responsibilities in the
writing process, for example, researchers and recorders of information,
writers, and costume, scenery, and prop researchers. For the actual production,
responsibilities might include a director, assistant director, role players,
rehearsers (who coach role players), scenery and prop makers, publicists, and
- Allow time for different rehearsals, such as a read-through (to listen to
and adjust the dialogue), a walk-through (to develop stage movements), coaching
sessions, scene rehearsals, a final run-through, and a dress rehearsal.
- Advertise the play, inviting other classes and the community to attend. If
possible, video tape and audio tape the production so that students can watch
and listen to it later.
A word processor would be especially helpful in the preparation of the script.
Writers could save several versions until they make their final choices, make
changes easily, and print out multiple copies of the script. You might, in the
future, use the various versions as an example of the revision process.
Encourage students who are talented in the visual arts to prepare posters,
invitations, and programs for the production.
Organize a cast party to which the community is invited. Have role players stay
in character, that is, pretend they know nothing about modern times. They can
talk with others at the party only about their life in the colonies. Role
players might also visit classes and answer questions about Colonial America,
always staying in character.
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