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History of the Microscope

Context for this Lesson


Topic: History of the microscope
Purpose: To learn the story of the development of the microscope
Prior knowledge: None

  • Script parts
  • Tableaux/story worksheets



Article Review
Hand out the “History of the Microscope” articles to the students. As a class, read them out loud together. After each paragraph, review the content in a different way. Review options might include:

  • Ask students to name one big idea from the paragraph
  • Turn to a neighbor and together decide what the paragraph was about
  • Show with their bodies one frozen sculpture of a character from the paragraph
  • Write a sentence for the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

TRANSITION: These are all important parts of the story. Today we’re going to explore the history of the microscope as a story we can tell with our bodies and voices, but first I want to take a look at how we might do that.


The main way we are going to tell the story through our bodies is by creating tableaux, or frozen pictures. Before we jump in, I’d like to create an example.
Ask for a few volunteers to come up and give them a picture caption like “the last second of the game.” Have them create a frozen picture. Ask the audience to share what they see that makes the picture interesting (e.g. levels, facial expression, frozen action). Reinforce that these are important elements of any tableaux.
At this point, if students seem like they need to move in their own bodies before getting into groups, invite the class to stand in place and create individual statues based on facilitator prompts- e.g. taking a test, first day of school, the big argument, a life-changing phone call.
Tell students that they will soon be divided into groups. When they get to their group, they will receive a part of the story and a simple worksheet. Each group should choose three main ideas- perhaps a beginning, middle and end- of their part of the story that would make good pictures (or story illustrations). As a group, they should write those three points on their worksheets and then create tableaux to go with them. Divide students into seven groups and hand out papers.
While students work, write the working steps on the board for students to follow.
PART 2: Captions
After students have created their three tableaux, ask the class to listen to the next instruction. Invite them to write one sentence for each image that tells the story of that image. The sentence could be from the script or one they write on their own.
PART 3: Role Assignment
Finally, students should decide who will say the sentences. They can all say all the sentences, split them between three people, have one person say everything- it is the students’ responsibility to decide.
PART 4: Review & Rehearsal
Allow the students to run through their entire series of tableaux simultaneously, creating the image and then sharing the sentence describing it (based on decisions made in previous part of activity). It often works for the facilitator to call “Image 1, 3…2…1… freeze. Caption. Freeze. Image 2, 3…2…1…” and so on through the three tableaux.
Putting the Story Together (sequencing tableaux)
Give students a sheet of paper (or invite them to create on their own) with seven boxes in it. They should give each box a number 1-7. Explain that after each series of tableaux, students will have thirty seconds to respond to the images and captions they saw. They should use the corresponding box to do so. Ask them what types of tools they might use to respond (i.e. drawing pictures, writing key words or ideas, writing a caption).
Call up each group by section and invite them to share their tableaux series with the class. After each group’s tableaux series, give the class 30 seconds to a minute to record any responses they have to the tableaux.
Side coaching might include:

  • What’s the most important idea or image you saw in that section?
  • Who were the major players in this part of the story? What did we learn about them?
  • What will help you remember the images you saw and the story that goes with them?

Describe: What did we do today?
Analyze: How did your group decide what was important about the story? How did you use your bodies to tell the story?
Relate: Why do we want to tell this story? Why is it important to us?