Nation In Crisis

Elementary School – Lesson Plan Activities

Commonwealth Theater Center invites you to use the activities below to supplement your instruction surrounding the performance of Nation In Crisis.

These Lesson Plan Activities were developed and compiled by Meg Caudill, Education Resource Manager, and Mera Kathryn Corlett, Artistic Associate. Questions? You can email Mera by clicking her name.

Table of Contents

Monologue Project

Nation in Crisis looks at 8 different perspectives from the era, but it by no means encapsulates everything from Civil Rights history. 

For a class project, have your students extend the program by adding new monologues that they write, design, and film. In the videos below, you’ll meet professional artists from the Nation In Crisis team at Commonwealth Theatre Center. Each person/video will share details and advice on how to approach a part of your monologue project.

Part 1 - Writing

After watching the video, ask students to choose someone from Civil Rights history that they want to learn more about. The List of Prominent Civil Rights Figures is a great resource for students to start searching through. Once they have decided, have students use the Monologue Project Worksheet to build their monologue.

Part 2 - Costume

When students have completed writing their monologues, watch the video about costume design. Explain that they need to research the clothing that was popular and think about how their character would have dressed. Point out that the costume designer from Nation in Crisis had to be creative in making the costumes look like they were from a different time period. State that you want students to be creative as well. 

Part 3 - Set / Camera

Continue learning about the design elements of the Nation in Crisis production by watching the video about set and camera work. Ask students to think about how they will capture their monologue. Will they use one long shot or a variety of angles? In their time outside of class they should play around with some ideas and practice in front of the camera.

Part 4 - Acting

Have students watch this final video from the Nation in Crisis actor, Jacqui Blue. It is now their turn to build their own production. Have each student film their monologue. 

Decide what you want to do with these monologues. You can edit them together to create your own production. If you chose to do this, be sure to ask the class to generate a title for the program.

If you share your creations on social media, please be sure to tag Commonwealth Theatre Center and use the hashtag #NationInCrisis.

A Picture is worth 1,000 words

Tableau is a french word meaning frozen picture. They are often created to represent a scene from a story or history. For this activity, students will choose a picture from the accompanying google slide options and will recreate the picture to the best of their ability (this can be done socially distanced in person, or virtually over zoom, google meet, etc.)

Directions: Click the button above to access the images and share them with your students. Ask them to notice the body language and facial expressions of those pictured. 

  • What do they think is happening in the photos? 
  • What emotions do they see? 
  • How does the body language give us information about the events?

In groups, have students select an image to recreate. As they are working to build the tableau they should think about something they might say or do if they were the character they’re portraying. When the students are ready to present, have them freeze in position on the count of three. You can bring the tableau to life by unfreezing each person in turn and having them say something, or show a movement, as their character.

Optional Activity for High School students: Compare these images from the civil rights movement to more modern images. How has the civil rights movement impacted the way we affect change today?

Walking for Justice

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom happened on August 28, 1963. On this date over 250,000 people marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to hear Civil Rights leaders address the crowd. People came from all across the country, each marching with strength and courage to make our country a better place. 

Ask your students to think of what they are willing to stand up for. Have them use the shoe template to tell a time when they walked for justice. After, have students share.

This activity was adapted from a lesson created by Deborah Menkart titled Big Shoes to Fill: A Teambuilding Lesson. The original lesson plan can be found here