Telling New York Stories: Place, Identity and History
English Department, NYC College of Technology
Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity
For this project, students will read excerpts from Anna Deveare Smith’s Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities. They will then compare and discuss Smith’s depiction of the Crown Heights riots in 1991 with newspaper depictions of these events and oral histories from the collection at the Brooklyn Historical Society. After extensive discussion of the ethical issues given expression to by the play, oral histories from the collection at the Brooklyn Historical Society as well as news of the period, students will think about conflicts in their own communities. Using Anna Deveare Smith’s theater as a model, students will create a monologue based on either an oral history they conduct themselves with someone from their community or an oral history from the archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society and write a monologue based on this research to be performed for the class.
Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?
Students will learn to think critically about the relationship between place and identity, a central theme of the course which is part of a First Year Learning Community. They will use place-based learning and conduct research to develop their ethical reasoning. Lastly, they will develop an understanding of creative writing and theater as a means of ethical, political and social commentary and learn to develop a creative monologue which gives expression to a these concerns.
Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?
This will be a culminating project for this unit. The monologue itself will be written and performed in 3-4 classes but the research and textual analysis which inspires this assignment will take at least a month.
Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?
Reading excerpts from Fires in the Mirror and watching scenes from Anna Deveare Smith’s performance of these monologues will be crucial preparation as will visits to the Brooklyn Historical Society during which students will learn to conduct archival research and draw on oral histories for their monologues.
Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?
Students will be assessed throughout the project based on a customized rubric to evaluate their use of research, ethical reasoning, creative expression and presentation/performance
Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?
This project is still in course design stage.
Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These can be links to pages or posts on the OpenLab.
Please share a helpful link to a pages or post on the OpenLab