So first I put them in two groups, assigning them each a chapter from To Kill a Mockingbird to dramatize. There's a lot more to it than just that - I've got eight roles (casting manager, director, props manager, set designer, etc) plus the actors - but I basically just tell them that it needs to be ready in sixty minutes and no one is allowed to be off-task for any reason for the entire time that they get to plan it. Performances are next class. Our objective is to illuminate the minor characters in the novel, and to be able to articulate why Harper Lee puts them in the novel.
Then, I separate the groups into two different classrooms on my hall.
Then, I pit them against each other.
I run between them, saying things like, "Uh-oh, the other group is way father than you all are." And they hurriedly scamper about, trying to get ready quicker.
Then, I tell one props manager, "Oh, did you know that the other group is bringing in homemade cookies as one of their props?" This is a lie. He says, "Shoot, I'm going to bake a cake."
Then I go tell the other group that the other group is baking a cake for a prop, that they'd better do something to match it. One go-getter girl says, "I'll make cookies. From scratch." How cool is that?
When I told a colleague about my manipulation to get some goodies into class, she said, "You know, you come across as this sweet guy, but there's this sinister layer underneath it all." Indeed.
It's awesome. I'll be having cake and cookies on Friday and be able to see a bunch of bright kids perform chapters from To Kill a Mockingbird - chapters in which the star characters are that horrible hypocrite Miss Merriweather and the lipsing Gertrude Farrow and the pretend-drunk Dolphus Raymond rather than Jem and Scout. And it's going to be so much fun. Today, in fact, was so much fun that I almost can't wait to go in tomorrow.
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