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Adapting Literary Texts: Themes, Images, and Performance (Part 2/3)


GRADE LEVEL: English III/Grades 11/12 (can be applied to early HS as well)

FOCUS QUESTION(S): How do we embody ideas and information in a frozen image? How do we locate evidence that supports our understanding of themes in literature?


  • Touchstone prompts
  • Numbered cards for Stage Picture



§110.33. English Language Arts and Reading, English III (B)(5) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Fiction. Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding.

§117.64. Theatre, Level I (c) Knowledge and skills. • Perception. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment, using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to: (C) employ stage movement and pantomime consistently to express thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Common Core State Standards: 

Reading Standards for Literature Grades 11-12: 

Key Ideas and Details: (3) Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Craft and Structure: (5) Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.



Gather in a sitting circle and lay out pieces of paper with the following prompts on them in the middle of the circle:
• A question I would like to ask Toni Morrison is…
• This book is important because…
• While reading this book I felt…
• A performance based on this book should…

Invite one participant at a time to choose a prompt to pick up and respond to out loud. When the person is done responding, she will crush the paper and throw it in the air. If someone else in the circle wants to respond to the statement as well, they catch it and respond. This is repeated until the paper hits the floor. Then another person will choose another statement to pick up and respond to.

Processing the activity:
• “How would you describe your experience in this discussion?”
• “Were any prompts more popular than others? Why might this have happened?”

Transition: “I’m looking forward to you bringing some of these thoughts and responses into creating short performance pieces together. Next, we are going to jump into dramaturgy and go through some simple text analysis to support our performance creating process.”



Establish a playing space and an audience space in the classroom. Recall important elements to creating frozen pictures (levels, facial expression, positive/negative space, relationship to others in the picture). Hand out the numbered cards to six individuals. Have the person with number one create a frozen image with their body in the playing space. Add in the next five people in numerical order. When all six individuals are in the picture, process the image:
• “What do you see?”
• “Who could these characters be? What might they be doing?”
• “What would you title this image?”

Have participants in the frozen picture relax and give their cards to someone in the audience as they take their seats again. For the next round, have the audience come up with a title for the picture. Call out numbers again, and the participants will create a picture that fits the title. Then have the next round of six participants go on stage at the same time. Decide on a title with the audience, and have the six actors create the image at the same time, silently. Depending on time, repeat this with several different titles.

Processing the activity:
• “How did you figure out a place in the image?”
• “We used a few different methods to create an image. Which method did you like the most? Which one was challenging? Why?”
• “How does our use of level and space in a picture change the message of the image?”

Transition: We are going to create a sequence of frozen pictures to communicate the themes you’ve identified in your Toni Morrison texts. The first step of this process is to talk with your book group to choose a passage that illustrates the theme.


Using poster dialogue from previous lesson, have each group use their brainstorming of significant plot points, lessons and themes in the text to identify a passage that illuminates the central theme. Give students about 15 minutes to find a passage of 2-3 paragraphs. Once they have chosen their passages, give them a few minutes to reflect together on this process and share out answers to the following questions.

Processing the activity:
• “How did you begin to find a passage?”
• “What made you choose this one? How does it demonstrate the theme? Is it the language? The characters? The mood? Something else?”




  • Describe your process of working with your group in choosing a passage.


  • “Where did we use synthesis today?”


  • Choose a word that synthesizes your experience of today’s class.