Picture That! Re-enacting Scenes from American History
As I prepare for the upcoming year, I know there is one project I definitely want to do again. The last time I taught American History my students and I put on a program called Picture That!
A parent built an 8′ X 12′ wooden frame for me that had hinges and support beams in the back so it could stand on its own. My students and I then stapled cut-out cardboard to it and hot glued cord around the frame before spraying the entire thing gold. The next step was adding drama. For this, I attached four outdoor flood lights to the bottom of the frame, pointing them inwards to create a spotlight.
With the giant frame constructed, I moved on to writing a script that covered the main points of interest from our history unit on the colonization of America. I kept the script simple and wrote it in the voice of a student. Because memorization can take so long, I divided the script into 13 speaking parts and designed the program so students would only have to read their parts, not memorize them.
I attached a small light, a microphone and some red, white and blu decorations to the podium, which was placed to the right of the frame. When it was their turn, students would step up to the stand, turn the page in the binder to their part, and using their best voices, read the script. Just before, other students dressed in costume and carrying props and scenery would get into position within the frame while the room lights and spotlights were off. Once the presenter was in position, the frame lights were turned on so the audience could view the frozen scene while the speaker read his or her part.
The presenters within the frame held motionless – okay, moved as little as they could – until the speaker had completed their page. Then the lights were turned off and the scene was quickly changed with new students and props. It only took a few moments to transition because the next scene’s presenters were always standing close by, ready to make the switch. We practiced it all – the scenes, the changes, and the reading – enough that on the night of the presentation to parents, I wasn’t needed to make anything happen. Picture That! became a big hit. We performed it for all of the other classes in addition to our packed room of parents.
Through the years I’ve collected many costumes from doing history fairs with my students, but each year I make a few more. In addition I’ve found that a lot of students like to make their own costumes, and sometimes they donate these to me afterwards.
I’ve found an easy way to make colonial hats, wigs and clothes. Maybe I’ll share them in another post, if anyone is interested. In the meantime, here are pictures of a few dresses I made by altering items from Good Will.
I’m looking forward to repeating the program this year and seeing what more I can add to it. Do you have any ideas to add?