1) The forced separation of family members was one of the most painful aspects of slavery. The following activities should help students become more sensitive to this issue as well as empowered, since they will determine the outcome to the following improvised situations.
-Students should work in pairs as they dramatize, pantomime, or create written dialogue for the following situations.
A) A slave owner has announced that he plans to sell your brother or sister. In an effort to change your ‘master’s’ mind you request to speak with him. The following conversation ensues . . . (Have students create their own dialogue.)
B) It”s harvest time on the plantation. Lots of work to be done. Master Jenkins needs all the working hands he can get. But you’ve received word that your mother is very sick, possibly dying. You haven’t seen her since you were sold away from than plantation nine months ago. You want to see her. You ask your owner for a pass to visit. How would the conversation go?
2) Explore stories where slaves did escape. Discuss the experiences they had to endure, the various qualities that enabled them to attain freedom, and those who helped them. Ask students what they think freedom meant to the slaves. Ask them what freedom means to different people in our world today.
1) The Letter:
-Students write letters from Jim to the slave owner after he has settled in a new place. What can Jim say now that he couldn’t say before?
Group mills about the space quietly until the leader calls ‘Atom!” followed by a number (ex. Atom six) Participants then quickly group themselves according to the number called. Leftover students may sit and watch or they may take turns calling out Atom! I have also seen this game played with students bunching themselves shoulder to shoulder at the call of “Atom!’
E. LEAN AND LEAVE:
Having students freeze into statues is always an effective and enjoyable means of getting them to focus. Ask one student to freeze into any comfortable pose in the playing area. You may want to spend some time helping your students to focus. I usually count . one, two, three, freeze! “Have another student find a way to look as if they’re leaning against the frozen person. “Lean with your body, not your weight”. When both participants are frozen, have the first one leave. The remaining student must maintain the exact same pose. (For this reason I urge students to be centered and balanced when they go into their freezes.) Again have another student ‘lean’ against that per-son who will then leave. All members of the group should get a chance to participate.
F. MIRROR GAMES:
These can be excellent activities for encouraging concentration within your group. There are many variations to this theme so be creative! Here are some suggestions:
-Have the group stand, each person an arm’s length apart. You, as the leader will stand facing the group and ask the students to imagine that you are their reflection in a mirror. They are to mirror your movements. All movements should be done very slowly and gradually in order for them to be mirrored. It will be obvious when the leader is moving too fast. It’s fun to have several volunteers lead the group in this activity.
-In pairs (one person being A and the other B) students stand or sit facing each other. A will lead and B will follow. When you call out “Change!”, They will reverse roles. This can also be done with the group standing in a circle, A’s and B’s should stand on opposite sides so that they will mirror each other across the circle.
-One last suggestion involves pairs demonstrating for the group. Among themselves the pair decides who will lead and who will follow. After they have ‘mirrored’ each other, students in the class can suggest who they thought was the leader.
This familiar game highlights the evolving nature of the oral tradition. Sitting in a circle or semi-circle, one student begins by whispering a sentence or phrase into the ear of the person beside them. That person then passes the message on in the same way until it has gone all the way around the circle. The last person who receives the ,message’ says it aloud. How much has the original message changed?
H. SCAR-(RY) STORIES!:
Ask the group to think of one scar they have, preferably in a location that is not too personal. Have everyone divide into pairs, where they will exchange their ‘scar-ry’ stories. The next step is to have volunteers tell their partner’s story. It’s amazing how vividly detailed these stories can be! It might be interesting to have students write their stories down and have their partner make an illustration.
Materials: A collection of interesting objects. Objects may be random or thematic. Also useful is a felt board or any flat surface. I prefer darker colors because they allow the objects to stand out. After the group sits in a circle, place the felt ‘story-board’ in the center. One by one objects are placed on the board. (This always generates a lot of ‘interest) The story begins with one person choosing and picking up an object. They will then begin telling a story somehow incorporating the chosen object. 0 recommend the group leader initiating the story the first few times). Each person adds to the story using the object of their choice. AU tellers must return their object to the board once they have finished their segment of the story. Objects may be used more than once.
J. LUNCH BAG STORY or TALES FROM THE WILD SIDE:
Label three bags or envelopes, character, setting and problem. Inside each bag put strips of paper or small cards that contain the appropriate suggestions. For characters you could include such ideas as a rooster, ant, scientist or princess. (I suggest using animals, insects and other clear character types. Avoid names and proper nouns). Settings might include; inside an ice cube, under a bed, in a tree or on a magic carpet, or any number of interesting places. Problems could range from ‘lost’ to ‘ love-sick.’ Have each student reach into the three bags or envelopes, selecting one strip from each so that they have a suggestion for a character, a setting, and a problem. (ie. a love-sick flea under a pillow) This will give them the makings of TALES FROM THE WILD SIDE. Students can then create and illustrate stories individually or in pairs. They can act out skits showing the before, during and after. It’s also fun to have them guess each other’s characters and situations.
K POETRY PLAY:
Words are intriguing and fun! One way of communicating this to students is by introducing them to poetry and prose that uses words and sound creatively and expressively. Two such poems are Lewis Carroll’s, jabberwocky” and “ Humpty Dumpty’s Recitation”.
I would also recommend works by Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Shel Sylverstein, and Maya Angelou.
After the class is familiar with a particular poem, assign each student specific words to move and freeze on. Then have the entire group freeze either in their seats or standing together in play area. As you slowly and deliberately read or recite the poem aloud, students quickly move and change frozen postures only when their assigned word is spoken. This can be developed into a performance piece!
L. GROUPS STATUES:
Divide students into small groups of four or five. Leader uses tambourine or other percussive instruments to signal when group is to freeze. It’s fun and challenging to call out a variety of objects, themes, and feelings, for example; ice cream cone, conflict, candle, floating. Your options are endless!
M. CREATIVE VISUALIZATION:
It is important that young people be given ample opportunity to flex their image-making muscles. Having your students draw pictures or verbally describe what they ‘see’ after you have told or read a story to them is one effective way to give their imagery skills a work-out. I also recommend the book, Put Your Mother on the Ceiling by Richard De Mille (New York: Penguin Group, 1976). This book contains a host of graded visualization games and may be a good starting point for this idea.
N. SPONTANEOUS RESPONSE
In his book, Impro, actor Keith Johnstone speaks of how it becomes more and more difficult for students to respond spontaneously as they grow older. They no longer trust their instincts and are constantly searching for the right answer. Many students have learned that giving the teacher the response that they are looking for is the key to success in the school environment. In this activity students sit in a circle (though this is not essential). I explain the idea of spontaneity and tell them that when I say a word they are to say the very first thing that comes to their mind. There is no right or wrong answer. The only problematic response is one where they are trying to be funny, clever, logical, or correct! I urge them not to block themselves throughout the exercise as I continue calling out words and asking students to respond at random.
Stories in this section can be found in appendix B.
P. CIRCLE STORY:
1) WORD AT A TIME:
While sitting in a circle a student will begin a story saying only one word. The person sitting beside them will continue the story saying the next word. The goal is for the group to tell a short story with each person saying only one word. At the end of a sentence that student should add “Period” after saying their word. Such a story might begin, ‘Once—there—was—a—lame—monkey—who—wanted—to—fly”. Remind the group to listen to each other in order to have their story make sense.
2) PHRASE AT A TIME:
This activity is done the same way, except that each student contributes one sentence instead of only one word.
Gibberish is a theatre game that stresses communication. The idea is for a person to get an idea across using nonsense syllables instead of any standard language. Students invariably notice that body language, gestures and movement as well as vocal tone, inflection, and rate are very important when trying to communicate in gibberish. Here are some examples of gibberish;
-Ekko sa ludem mishu. (pure nonsense syllables)
-Abba ibba abba ibba. (repeating syllables)
Have students work in pairs conversing in gibberish. When you call out, “change”, they will immediately switch to English. Continue this exercise, alternating between English and gibberish. Again, it may be fun for students to demonstrate this activity in pairs. What changes occur when they switch from gibberish to English?
R. PASS THE PHRASE
This exercise encourages the exploration of vocal inflections, tones, and moods. If possible, have the group seat themselves in a circle. You will then suggest a phrase to pass around the circle such as, “Look at the room”. Each person should try to say the phrase in their own unique way. Encourage students to imagine themselves as characters in different situations. How do they feel? What are they trying to say? Do this exercise several times, using different phrases.
S. PASS THE GESTURE:
Similar to PASS THE PHRASE. You will suggest a phrase that communicates a very specific feeling and intention such as, “Keep your mouth shut!” Students will try to communicate the phrase nonverbally, using only gestures. Try several phrases in this way.