Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 1: Engagement and Dialogue
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Peer Facilitation Circle
Talk Show
Identity Stories
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Teaching Strategies
Talk Show


The talk show dramatizes the exploration of literature. Because students are generally familiar with the format, talk shows are a particularly engaging form of "reader's theater," or minimalist classroom theater in which the students write and perform skits based on the literature they are studying. In creating a talk show, the students interpret characters, conflicts, themes, and issues for a live audience on a classroom "stage."

To create a talk show, some students role-play key characters from one or several texts, while other students role-play interviewers or reporters. Often, teachers will host, directing the flow of questions and answers among characters and reporters. After the class has experience with this strategy, a student might take on the role of host.

Talk Show in Carol O'Donnell's Classroom

Before creating their talk show, Carol O'Donnell's students read works by Julia Alvarez, Gish Jen, Khoi T. Luu, Lensey Namioka, and James McBride that explore issues of identity. Then students take on roles. O'Donnell comments, "Often I assign roles, as it helps me challenge some students to take on particular roles they might not have chosen themselves." The students who will play reporters determine their media affiliation and write open-ended questions for a specific character or for the group. Each character-playing student writes an "identity statement," drawing on the text and their imagination. (See Student Work.)

When the talk show begins, the students playing characters sit at a table with identifying name tags, while the students playing reporters sit across from them with media affiliation name tags. The panelists first present their statements of identity, then the reporters pose questions. O'Donnell acts as the host, directing the flow of questions and answers and occasionally adding comments.

Tips and Variations for the Talk Show

  • Teachers should remind students throughout the process, as Carol O'Donnell does, that this activity must be very strongly grounded in the text. Though the students will have a great deal of imaginative input, as characters they must speak, act, and emote in ways consistent with the literature. (The students might even be required to use a certain number of actual lines from the text to make sure they have consulted the literature closely enough.) Similarly, the issues that these dramatic presentations explore must be true to the original text.

  • The students might collaborate to write and perform a script based on a pivotal scene, chapter, or event in a text. Sometimes, as in O'Donnell's class, this script is based on a text the whole class is reading, and the whole class can collaborate in writing it. Other times, a script can be written and performed by a small literature circle group to introduce to the rest of the class a book that the group is reading.

  • Other formats for dramatizing textual issues include trials, newscasts, debates, or a vignette series.

Assessment of the Talk Show

To help students assess their own learning through this strategy, teachers might pose questions such as:

  • What did you learn by playing a character or reporter?

  • What did you learn about the text or theme from this conversation?

Benefits of the Talk Show

  • Students generally find this creative drama activity motivating and memorable. Drawing upon their interpretations and their imaginations, the students can demonstrate their understanding, synthesize information, and make sophisticated connections between texts and their lives.

  • Including drama in literary studies provides access points for students with diverse learning styles.

  • By deciding how to communicate their understanding to an audience, students are challenged to interpret texts persuasively.

  • Role-playing helps students to empathize with people of diverse cultural backgrounds.

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