Conscience Alley invites students to explore multiple facets of a character’s choice within a specific dilemma. The strategy is used to embody and analyze the range of ideas, motivations, and factors that a character may be thinking about when making a major decision within real or imagined circumstances.
Prior to beginning be sure to introduce or review content knowledge that is to be explored in the strategy so students are prepared to embody and express ideas, which may be different than their own. Set up the character conflict that is going to be explored. For example: Today we are going explore issues from last night reading, as we consider the factors that impacted US President Woodrow Wilson decision to go to war. First let’s review the key arguments in this issue. Next, invite the group to form two standing lines, facing each other. If there are two sides of a conflict being explored (e.g., go to war; don't go to war) have each row represent an opinion and invite students to stand on the side they would like to argue, working to keep roughly the same number of people on each side. Create a space or alley between the rows where a person can easily walk. Next, a student volunteer (or the Teacher if necessary) takes on the role of the character in the imagined scenario. Explain that the character will walk slowly down the row; as they pass, each standing student should try to represent arguments the character might have heard (advice, warnings) or lines that could be inside the character’s head (fears, beliefs, concerns felt by the character). Although the dialogue or lines shared by students can be spontaneous, it is important that students have the knowledge to generate realistic lines that are authentic to the situation. After walking the alley, ask the character to share how they are feeling about their decision.
- What was it like to hear all those voices?
- What was the character thinking at the end? Why?
- Which voices were most persuasive in exploration? Why?
- How do we navigate our own conscious alley when we need to make a challenging decision?
- How can you deliver your line in a way that embodies a specific viewpoint (mood, tone, tempo, pitch, rhythm, etc.)? How can your body also tell us what you think?
- Look at the text, what line can we turn into dialogue that helps us to explore what the character is thinking?
- Have students in the rows speak one at a time, play with sound (whispers, loud) or overlap voices.
- Don’t separate by viewpoint and encourage a range of opinions to placed throughout each line.
- Invite the character to stand by an individual or “row” that they found most persuasive.
- Play through the conscious alley multiple times and encourage students to deepen their commitment, shift the order of voices, or develop the sequence into a performance to be shared.
Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode