Analyzing Elements of Drama, Poetry and Characters using the
Tony Award Winning Musical“
Building Background Knowledge (week one): Immigration to New York City, Geography of New YorkCity, Types of Dramatic Writing, Musical Theater
April 16, 2012
May 18, 2012
Fifth Grade English/Language Arts
From April 24
we will be learning and reading about the Holocaust. I worked with theBaltimore Jewish Council to secure a Holocaust survivor to speak to our 5
graders. The only daythe survivor, Mrs. Edith Cord, was available was April 27
. Due to this, we will be dedicating April 24
to this topic. The connection between immigration and the Holocaust will be made as anotherperiod of time when immigration patterns to New York changed due to wars abroad.
Historically, after the Maryland State Assessment, English/Language Arts instruction for fifth graders atPatterson Park has focused on poetry and drama. For poetry, my co-teacher presented a project ideathat she had done the previous year
an individual poetry book for each student. With poetry covered, Iwas (gratefully) left with the task of covering drama. For me, this was an exciting and challenging topic.Exciting because I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, theater and musical theater, and challenging, because Iwould need to be selective in identify just a few areas to cover in three weeks.Trying to identify a handful of aspects of drama was challenging, so I first consulted with the MarylandState Standards for guidance. Upon first glance, I identified more than a dozen applicable learningobjectives in the areas of General Reading Processes, Comprehension of Literary Text, Writing andLanguage. These objectives include skills such as acquiring new vocabulary, analyzing elements of drama, understanding use and selection of language, reading critically to evaluate, identifying charactertraits, and describing relationships between characters.
Before settling down with “In the Heights,” (and, admittingly even a few times since), I toyed with the
idea of doing a unit on Shakespeare and short plays by Tennessee Williams. During a planningbrainstorm with my co-
teacher, I said “as I listen to m
y favorite musical on my ride to work, I just wish I
could use it to teach our students.” The following three words made my day, “why don’t you,” she said.
It was that small bit of encouragement that I needed to blend together my own interest and the learning
needs of our students. As I listen to the words of the script and the songs used in “In The Heights,” I
cannot help but myself analyze the characters, marvel at the clever use of language and rap, and relateto the overarching themes of triumph, struggle, community, and hope. All of these themes are set to thebackdrop of a tight-knit Latino community in Washington Heights in New York City. I believe that thethemes, characters, use of language and music will entice our students to learn about different genres of drama. Many, if not most of our students have not been exposed to theater that depicts our country aswe know it today
a melting pot of cultures
or that uses colloquial language and modern-style music