A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Day Three - Review Scenes I-V

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Objective

SWBAT interpret A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE through writing and collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

"You take it for granted that I am in something that I want to get out of" (Stella, Scene IV, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE).

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  Activities in this lesson take 80 minutes to complete. The lesson below outlines Day Three on A Streetcar Named Desire. Today students review Scenes I-V of the play through small-group discussion on their own questions about the text.

For all-class reading and discussion, teachers working with students who are building critical reading proficiency can use a teacher-developed study guide on the play as a resource. It includes discussion questions on each scene as well as extended learning opportunities. I have included it as a resource in this section and will include it in each subsequent lesson to facilitate its use.

Warm-Up

20 minutes

At the beginning of class, I ask students to complete a small-group warm-up to review Scenes I through V of A Streetcar Named Desire (Warm-Up: Small-Group - What Do You Know?)Each group chooses a leader to facilitate the conversation and a recorder to write down the group's paragraph.  As I circulate about the room, I notice that students return to their copies of the text for clarification while reviewing characters, plot events, and their opinions on the text.

I ask volunteers to share their writing. One group writes:

Blanche loses Belle Reve, so she travels to New Orleans to live with Stella and Stanley. It is obvious that Blanche is a burden by the tension she causes between Stella and Stanley.  Stanley is very skeptical of Blanche, thinking that she has stolen Stella's share of Belle Reve; he does not believe Blanche lost it.  However, he may just be looking for his own financial benefit as Stella's husband. Blanche is coping with her own problems, such as the loss of Belle Reve and the death of her husband.

After listening to volunteer groups' writing, I ask students to use my Learning Scale (Picture: Learning Scale - Use for Lesson Checkpoint) to rate their level of proficiency on the play so far.  Since all students rate themselves at a 4 or 5, proficient or higher, we proceed to collaborative discussion on Scenes IV and V.

Collaborative Discussion

60 minutes

Students remain in their established small-groups from the warm-up.  I tell them to take out their homework from last class, the ticket out in which they had to write 20 discussion questions ( on the play through Scene V.  I remind them that today we will engage in small-group discussion on the play, using the questions they created. In preparation for the discussion, I ask them take a few minutes to read their questions silently and highlight the five questions they deem most significant for today's discussion. I provide directions for and insight into their interaction in the video narration of student work (Video: Narration Student-Created Discussion Questions).

Without prompting, my students return to the text for clarification and textual evidence to support their interpretations. Sample student questions and answers from the small-group discussion are as follows:

  • Why do you think Stella goes back to Stanley after he beats her the night of the poker game? She loves Stanley and is motivated by pure desire for him, which she explains to Blanche early on in the play.  Besides, Belle Reve is lost.  Where is Stella going to go if she leaves Stanley for good? She has no job, and he is her only means of support.
  • Do you think Blanche is lying to her sister about losing Belle Reve? Explain. No, if Blanche had sold Belle Reve, I don't think she would have come to stay with Stella on a long-term basis because Blanche would not stay with Stella; she would stay in a luxury hotel.  Blanche also seems to love Stella and value their relationship.
  • Do you think is Blanche a hero or a con artist? Explain. Blanche is a hero because she tries to save her family home and stays behind to care for family members who are dying. She values family.

 

Once groups complete their discussion, we debrief as a class.  I ask each group to write a one paragraph reflection on what they learn in their discussion.  We debrief as a class with each group reading the most important section of their reflection:

  • Blanche is hiding something from Stella. The text also makes it seem like Stanley is catching on to Blanche. 
  • Blanche is poor but maintains a collection of expensive items.  The fact that she creates a dramatic scene every time she is questioned proves she doesn't want anyone to know her dirty secrets. 
  • Blanche brings a great deal of mystery and drama; she has a very flustered and crazy demeanor; but she shows care to her sister at times.  It seems as though her past is very dark, and Stanley becomes very suspicious and even begins to investigate.
  • Although Blanche clearly dislikes Stanley, Stella wants to stay with him and not leave for more money like Blanche does.  One central message that is developing in this play is that "You can't always get what you want."
  • Blanche is an attention seeker, and we can see this because she's always worried about her appearance. Stella is Blanche's foil in the play; she doesn't really know how to stand up for herself; so she's always being controlled.

We begin to run out of time, but the class tells me that this activity helped them to process their interpretations of main characters and plot events.  We discuss how the items Williams' portrayal of characters and events, starting the plot in medias res, allows us to focus on character motivation without the complete back story, which could be wholly revealed later.

I explain that we will finish reading the play next class.  A question I want stuents to consider is, "Are Stella and Blanche both delusional, or do they simply have limited options as women during this time period?"