Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1976: A Unit on Pantomime

Question: In an era of high-stakes testing, how do students benefit from a unit on pantomime?

Answer: Preparation, practice, performance and evaluation. From writing a script to practicing to performance and evaluation of the finished product. The following example will illustrate the finished achievement.

“Performances are, of course, delightful. Topics range from ‘shoplifting to ‘the subway.’ A memorable reducing salon routine was created by an extraordinary group of girls. They made their entrances in their fathers’ jogging outfits stuffed with pillows, front and back. They were so obese, exercises were practically impossible for them. But they attempted a number of them, one of which involved the girls plopping in unison on their derrieres. Their feet suddenly disappeared, and there they were bouncing on their extra flab.

“One of the girls indicated a time change on the chalkboard as she exited, and a ‘week’ later they reappeared in the salon. Fewer pillows made each appear thinner. A week later they were thinner still. Finally, the girls reappeared dressed for a celebration. They were stunning, and they knew it! The celebration was dinner in a restaurant. They were very proper and calm as they ordered and as they were served. However, once the waiter left, the girls simultaneously lost all control and forgot their weeks of weight struggle. They gorged themselves, even grabbing from one another’s plates!

The routine was successful because of the planning and pantomime skill the girls showed in their performance. Though one could guess the routine’s development, anticipation added to the fun of watching the manner in which the girls worked things out. Their routine brought tears of hilarity.”

Comment: In today’s culture of high-stakes testing, a unit on pantomime doesn’t make much sense. It probably won’t contribute to scores on reading or math tests or even writing tests. But learning how to prepare for a project, from planning to performance, teaches students how to organize, work cooperatively, understand the stresses and strains inherent in the completion of any project. That is what occurs in the real world. And that is worth teaching. RayS.

Title: “Junior High School Harlequins.” Janet E Cushman. English Journal (March 1976), 74-77.

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