Twelve Angry Men Intro Lesson: Simple but Good!

7 Jan

Here’s to starting my new blog! I’m not a veteran teacher….I’m far from perfect, but I figure that doing this will give me practice writing (which I need to do more of) and make me a better teacher. Currently I am teaching 9th and 10th grade English in New York. I am hoping to post simple classroom strategies and share things that have worked, and sometimes not worked for me.

Part of this lesson idea I have to give credit to my roommate Kim for. She gave me the idea for the drawings, and it’s far from my original idea. But what lesson really is? Whether it’s googling something online or giving each other copies most teachers know that sharing is caring!

This was an intro lesson for the play Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose but could probably be adapted to other books. I think the thing that worked well for this lesson was there were a lot of transitions. Changing activities several times helps students with boredom and makes the period fly by. Two days in a row I had a student tell me he was amazed that the period was over already.

The actual lesson can be found here.

In the beginning of the lesson students were completing vocabulary words using the Frayer Model. The words were not from the play, they were specific words that I saw on our midterm (coming up in a couple of days) that I knew students would struggle with and wanted to pre-teach. Students looked up the words, made their own definition, drew a picture, then used it in a sentence. I have had hit and miss experiences with vocabulary instruction…which will be another post….we’ll see how this works.

This took about ten-fifteen minutes, then we reviewed terms that had to do with the legal system that the students need to know (which took about 5-6 minutes).

The play has twelve jurors (obviously) and a guard. This worked out perfectly in one of my classes since it has 13 people in it! Each student was assigned a juror. In the beginning of the play the author extensively describes the personalities and some of the physical description of each juror. I reviewed the term characterization and then had each student read the author’s characterization of their juror. Then each student was instructed to visualize and draw their juror.

I normally tend to avoid dog and pony show artsy stuff in the classroom because usually students just fool around and nothing is learned. But, this offered an opportunity for students to use the author’s characterization and show their understanding of that characterization through their drawing. Students were given a time limit. I find when doing anything creative or with drawing that students will goof off and tend to try to stretch out the time they are coloring to avoid other work. But I set a strict time limit of 25 minutes and told them that their work would be graded. Students had trouble at first. The characterization mainly had descriptions of the personalities (Ex: Twelve is a salesman, Two is quiet and cannot think for himself). I told students to use their imaginations and draw the juror how THEY thought he looked. The room was silent, and I was surprised at how well they turned out!

Juror 8 wants justice, so this student included the balance!

When the students were done drawing it was time to start reading. I had the students line up 12 desks in the front of the room to create a sort of ‘stage’. Then I taped the twelve pictures to the front of the desks in order from #1-#12. The students sat in order in the arc of desks in the front of the room and read their parts. While reading the students complete sticky notes with questions, comments, etc (also another post!) so they don’t become bored.

After reading about half of Act I students then had to complete a characterization activity. They had to choose five ‘traits’ or adjectives of their jurors and give actions that prove why that characteristic fits the juror. (Ex: Seven is rude because he complains about wanting to leave to he can go see a movie).

For homework they will take their chart and turn it into a literary element paragraph, something that is a requirement on the midterm and the NYS English Regents. This lesson can be adapted for any book that has some decent characterization, just remember to give them a time limit and use lots of transitions! This worked for even my ‘bad’ class. Enjoy!

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