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Background For Teachers:
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Read selections from pioneer journals. Discuss the thoughts and feelings read in the journals.
Discuss lifestyles and times of the pioneers. (Refer to the Heritage Gateway Curriculum for a list of essential questions/themes that may be related.)
Provide a model as an example of a short vignette in first person that shows a specific story illustrating a character attribute. You may wish to use an excerpt from Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology, a short poem from Cynthia Rylant, or a teacher-made character sketch. Discuss the character of the pioneers. (OPTIONAL: Give plenty of drama to the presentation: costume, lighting, effective oral interpretation.)
Give background about the pioneers: statistics and causes of death, motivations and hardships of the trek, examples of burial and pioneer cemeteries, specific stories about many of these pioneers who died along the way. Use visuals, multi-media presentations, the Internet to supply information. Show how students can research on their own to find out information about a specific pioneer. Discuss the possible causes of death, hardships, and problems of the pioneers.
Give the writing assignment: Students find at least two stories that illustrate a specific character attribute (possibly from a list of attributes), then write about it in first-person narration. The story must be historically accurate, detailed, and directly support the character attribute.
Have students use the writing process to revise and edit their drafts, using peer response groups, teacher conferencing, mini-lessons about character sketches or poem form, etc. Making a class anthology of final draft character sketches may motivate good writing as they work towards class publication.
Illustrate the oral interpretation expectation of these character sketches by explaining a product guide and/or modeling how their character sketches may be performed. Schedule the order of performances and encourage costuming.
On the day of performance, set the students up in rows imitating tombstones
in a cemetery. Students sit with their backs to the audience (another class
or part of the class at a time), then stand up and turn around to recite their
vignette. Memorized lines are most effective, although students can read their
part if they have practiced with good oral interpretation. Have low lighting
or spot-lighting for each presentation, if possible. Background music and/or
sound effects may also be effective.
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