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This lesson is called Our Town and involves Imaginary Maps
9, 10, 11, 12
Our Town Imaginary Maps
by Christopher Partin
Our Town: Imagining Grover’s Corners
As a result of this lesson:
The student will give a graphical interpretation of his learning
The student will connect setting to drama
The student will understand the concept of staging versus setting in drama
The student will synthesize material related to theme and text
The student will connect with characters and themes in a work of literature
Elements of Literature texts
a quantity of markers and “butcher paper”
straight edges, rulers, etc.
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town was considered quite radical for its day in popular theater for the almost complete lack of set or stage dressing in the play. Unfortunately, when students read the play in class, they often do not understand how the extremely minimalist staging contributes to the central theme of the play: the basic human condition does not change as our environments and times do. By engaging students in the process of creating their own picture of Grover’s Corners, NH, the teacher may more successfully stimulate the student’s response to the importance, or lack of importance, that readers sometimes attribute to place, time, and historical context in a work of literature.
As students come into the classroom, they will see a list of features in Grover’s Corners on the chalkboard. The teacher will divide the class into groups of three or four (by counting off students into 7-10 groups). 5 Minutes
Students will then be informed of the task in which they are about to become engaged. Students will draw a map of the town from the description given by the Stage Manager in the beginning of Act I that includes the following: the Webb house and Gibbs house (which should be in the center of their maps), Main Street, the churches, the schools, the mountain, the cemetery, the stores, and the train station (students may add other elements that they think are important). 10 Minutes
The teacher will supply students with one large sheet of butcher paper and a share of markers per group. Students will be advised to sketch out the town on a piece of notebook paper before working on their final map. The teacher will circulate as needed around the room. 60 Minutes
At the end of class, students will display their maps to one another.
Although the depictions of Grover’s Corners will vary from group to group, students will have drawn the same basic features as directed on the board. The placement of these features, however, will be different due to the minimalist description given by the Stage Manager. Students will write the following journal entry.
Respond to the following statement in no less than a page in your journals:
“The Town of Grover’s Corners exists only in the mind of the playwright and the reader.”
If time permits, one student “volunteer” (the best artist of the class) will come to the blackboard and sketch the staging of Our Town (two benches and three chairs placed in specific locations). Students will be asked to respond in their journals (and in a class discussion) to the discrepancy between the two conceptions of the town (the imaginary map and the actual stage diagram).
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