Comprehension through Performance: How was Tea Involved in the Boston Massacre?

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SWBAT comprehend the growing tensions between the colonists and the British by acting out and discussing the play, "The Boston Tea Party."

Big Idea

Students learn about the Boston Tea Party through acting out the scenes. Learning comes from taking on the persona and narratives of each person and from viewing others performances.

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

This event is shared in story books from prior years but I didn't want students to just recollect facts, but rather to live them and to learn more about the perspectives of the varied characters who were involved in the dumping of the tea (RI 5.3). I am going to encourage them to think about why this decision was made, the risks to those who were involved and whether or not it was the right decision. I am focusing on having students "live" through this time in history so that they can create deeper meaning from each event and then understand how these events all connected to each other in their final timeline activities (SL 5.1b).   

I share with students that they are going to get the opportunity to act out scenes from a play titled "The Boston Tea Party" to learn the next event that led up to the Revolutionary War with Britain.

To start off the unit I read the Boston Massacre - Tea Party introduction and ask how they feel the colonists feel about the attack? and How the British feel about the attack? We do a short discussion taking responses from students to get the class thinking about their prior knowledge of this topic (SL 5.1c).

I then tell them that our objective for the lesson is to develop an understanding of the events surrounding the Boston Tea Party and the tensions developing between the colonists and the British by acting out the scenes from that date in history.  

Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

I share that students will each get a part in the The Boston Tea Party Play (a copy from History Alive textbooks)  through random selection (pulling name sticks). I go on to share that some parts are single speaking roles, some are groups responses and some are background characters in the play. I have three narrators because I have such a large class this year and want them all to have a role. There are four acts in the play so characters can be replaced at any of the scenes.  

I review with students how actors/ actresses use expression to entertain their audiences and model a few sentences from the play to teach and model SL 5.6 and L 5.3b (adapting speech to a variety of contexts and tasks and situations) This also helps them to create stronger characters both for their own presentation skills and for their audiences increased involvement. 

I ask students to read the first scene of the play silently before we begin the acting out of the scene. This helps them to learn the wording, sound out unfamiliar words and practice their parts to improve oral speaking skills (SL 5.1a). When the characters in the play are done I show them their locations on the "stage" - we use the white board and draw out the scenes needed for each act - you could also do this beforehand on large sheets of paper, or project the scenes on the board using the projector.

Student actors/ actresses are ready for action!

They dramatize each act and students waiting for their parts become a part of the audience (SL 5.6).

Act one - no practice raw footage - so much fun!( SL 5.6) 

Those in the audience are asked to be aware of the events that are occurring and to write down questions and notes as they watch each of the scenes. This not only keeps them actively involved in the learning but also helps them remember key details shared quickly in the scenes. These questions and notes are used later to support our whole class discussion and to help them on their written responses (W 5.8).         

Play Performance

30 minutes

I ask them questions at the end of the acts to check for understanding such as what actions were the colonists prepared to take? Why? What actions were the soldiers prepared to take? Why? What was the governors reaction to the complaints of the colonists? What events led the colonists to decide to dump the tea overboard? Why did the colonists dress as Indians? What do you think the king's reaction will be?  (SL 5.1c, 5.1d)

Act 2 - getting new actors to participate here... ( SL 5.6) 


Act 3 - here's some new actors and they were chosen at random. Could explain why they look so nervous:) (SL 5.6) 

The final act - and the last of my student actors:( SL 5.6) 








Closing the Loop

5 minutes

When the play ends I have students come together to share a summary of the events that occurred (SL 5.2, RI 5.2). We create a timeline on the board to demonstrate how cause and effect affected the events which surrounded The Boston Tea Party. (RI 5.5) I do this last step because the play performance tended to skip from one scene to another causing some students to lose their flow of events. This timeline helps them fill in the gaps in their sequence of events to build a stronger understanding of what led up to the Boston Tea Party and what happened afterwards. This also begins to build their understanding for our final timeline created at the end of the unit to show how all these events tied together to cause the Revolutionary War. 

I then have students complete a review The Boston Tea Party reading passage (RI 5.3) and The Boston Tea Party Response sheet (W 5.1b) (copied from the Huntington Library of Arts Collection) to assess their levels of understanding of the topic. This could also be given as homework in that there is a review passage of the Boston Tea Party attached.

I give a quick lesson on using bold words to find facts in a passage or informational text book (L 5.4c). I make sure to circulate and answer questions as needed but for the most part it is primarily behavior warnings and asking them to lower their energy levels after the excitement of the play.  

I use the collected worksheets to assess their levels of comprehension and to check for any points I need to review more with the class before I move on to the next lesson.