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Biography/Little Rock 9

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

FOCUS QUESTION(S): What is a biography? How is a biography influenced by personal narratives and social/political contexts? MATERIALS/PREP: (2) Sheets of big paper, scratch paper for each student, TIR hat/prop, and laptop/projector.


INTRODUCTION: Thanks for having me here today and I’m excited to explore the topic of biographies with you all. Today we will be using drama as a way to explore how biographies are constructed from personal experiences and social/political influences. Let’s get started by setting some expectations for how we will move through today’s activities. (Bring out poster with ‘EXPECTATIONS’ written across the top. Have students respond to the following questions to construct classroom expectations. Scribe response on large sheet of paper.) • What makes positive learning environment? • What is necessary for Drama to be successful? • What makes sharing personal stories more comfortable? TRANSITON: Thank you for your suggestions. Now that we have constructed some guidelines, I invite all of you to keep your contributions in mind. I will leave the poster hanging here just in case we need to refer back to it. Now, let’s jump into the lesson. 5 MINUTES ENGAGE (HOOK): We all may have different ideas of what a biography can entail, so let’s just take a moment to generate some ideas of what we think a biography could be. Turn to your neighbor and discuss the following questions. Use a piece of scrap paper to keep your thoughts organized. We will share out thoughts in 2 minutes. • What does a biography do? • What kind of information is found in a biography? • Why are biographies written? • Who writes biographies? • Who are biographies written about? Why? (Once students have finished dialoguing with their neighbor, bring out large sheet that has ‘BIOGRAPHY’ written across the top. Jot down their thoughts.) TRANSITION: These are some strong suggestions!! Now, that we have brainstormed some ideas. I would like you to take your scrap paper and in no more than 3 sentences write your personal definition of biography. We will come back to these definitions later. You have 2 minutes. 10 MINUTES


EXPLORE (Share Information about Topic): Please find your own space where you can be comfortable and close your eyes. I’d like you to imagine that you are back in the time. Imagine that you are a high school student during this time period, 1957. Today is your first day going to a very new high school. You’re very nervous; you couldn’t sleep at all last night. You wonder what the new school will be like, and if you will get along with the other students. In the morning, you get up, and put on your nicest outfit. Your mother ironed it the day before and left it waiting for you. You look at the mirror at your outfit. Your skin is a dark shade of brown and your shirt is bright white. You go downstairs, and you hear the sound of the television. You see your father reading the paper and looking very angry; he balls it up and throws it into the trash before you can see it. Your family comes together and says a prayer for your first day of school. They ask God to help you today. Your mother tries to get you to eat some eggs but your stomach doesn’t feel like it will keep food inside. You set off for school, and you walk down your street. You pass by your old school, with its broken windows and ragged paint. You get on a bus, and you quickly move to the back of the bus as the driver scowls at you. You drive to a new part of town, and you notice signs that say “White only” and “Colored” over the water fountains and in restaurant windows. You pull up to your new school. It’s a nice building with fresh paint, and a big sign that says Central High. Immediately, you are greeted by shouts from protestors. They see you coming and they try to block your path. People are starting to pull at your clothes, and you try to back away. You look for a friendly face in the crowd, and you look up at an old woman with a kind face. She spits at you. Two older white people help you out of the crowd, and you back away. You look around and around. Finally you see the 8 other students, who have also been especially chosen for this important historic day. They also look scared; but, like you, they also look determined. You are together because you believe all students, regardless of the color of their skin, have a right to a good education. You grab arms and face the screaming crowd. You make your way to the soldiers at the front door, position to help you. Slowly you move forward. Open eyes: This was based on the true story of Elizabeth Eckford and 8 other students who were the first to integrate a school in the south during the time of segregation. We’re going to explore this story today begin to understand the multiple ways we can construct biographies based off of multiple influences. Before we move on to our next activity, I would like to share a video that will give you more information surrounding this incident.

10 MINUTES TEACHERS-IN-ROLE (TIR)/STUDENT-IN-ROLE (SIR): For our work today, we are going to step into role as New York newspaper reporters who have traveled to Little Rock to interview Elizabeth at her home, 6 months after the first day of school integration. What are some of the questions that a reporter might ask in an interview? Write these general ideas on the board. It sounds like you have a good idea about what a reporter does. (Suggest that students should take notes during the interview, because they will need to write a short article immediately after the interview). (Next, step into role as Elizabeth’s friend who has come to meet the reporters first; put on a men’s hat. Hello my name is Roy and I’m Elizabeth Eckford’s friend. In role as Roy, tell the reporters that you want to know what questions they will ask because some reports have been very bigoted in their questions. Have students write down at least once question that they would like to ask. Have a few students share their questions. Compliment them on their sensitivity and intelligence). Next, step into role as Elizabeth. Notes for teacher in-role as Elizabeth: • We are taunted everyday. It’s difficult to learn. • The Governor of the state is very against integration, and he is threatening to close all of the high schools. • Most of the white students ignore us. A few have tried to help, but then they’re also teased by the others. • Some of our parents have lost their jobs. • It’s hard to keep up hope. (Once the question have ceased, the teacher will bring the students out of role and transition into the final section). TRANSITION: Thank you for adhering to our EXPECTATIONS that we established earlier. That was a great interview. Let’s take all of the discussion and knowledge that we have accrued throughout the lesson and reflect. 10 MINUTES

Extensions/Applications : 

Write in Role: You are writing for a magazine called “Bold Voices.” Write a short article about what was happening in Little Rock during your visit. Please refer back to your definition of biography that you constructed earlier. Here are some questions to keep in mind as your write your article. You will have 5 minutes to write your article. I ask that everyone write continuously for the entire 5 minutes. Mistakes and spelling are ok at this point. This is not a final draft. • How does your definition influence the way you write your article? • What information do you choose to use/What information is left out? • How does your article impact the lives of those involved in this event? • Why is it important to tell this story? (After the students have finished, move into final reflection) I invite all of you to hang on to your definition of biography and article. Ms. Cavazos will be coming back to these materials next week. Let’s end our lesson by looking back at what we did today. • Can someone name one thing we did today? • What surprised you? What was challenging? • What is important to have in a biography? Why? • How might biographies influence politics, society/culture, and communities? Thank you for having me here today and being such an engaged group of learners. 15 MINUTES