Middle school and high school students have a flair for the dramatic. All teachers know this. How often do we hear them “re-enacting" scenes from their favorite movie television show, or even commercial. They are constant performers, preening for their friends and stabbing their “enemy of the week" with freezing glances.
Students are often seeking an outlet to channel all their emotions. Why do teachers rarely capitalize on this and use it to our advantage? Yes, we may have them push desks in a circle and read Romeo and Juliet aloud, correcting every third word as students massacre Shakespeare’s language. Older students may read some Isben in British Literature or some other playwright, but unless students are enrolled in a Drama class or program, they do not have any real outlet for their pent up performance energy.
However, teachers, especially in Literacy and Social Studies have the perfect opportunity to use their students desire to perform to their advantage. How? Give them the actual words of trials, transcripts or speeches and make them become the historical figures who spoke the famous words. Can you picture a room full of young Lincolns; all interpreting the Gettysburg Address in their own way? Or, a tiny Patrick Henry thundering away about Liberty? Give the students the words to “own", to make theirs, and suddenly, history and the primary sources themselves become real to the students. They understand what is being said and they come away from the lesson with a real sense of comprehension and analysis.