TC: Day One

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Nov
  • 24
  • 2008

Contrary to the way I start most units, today we simply jumped into Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic The Crucible. No set up. No lead in. No into. We didn’t even discuss witches or McCarthy. I tend to over think everything; teaching units are no exception. But that means that I don’t take action until well after I usually should. I’m trying to change. Here’s what I did.

Times And Handouts

This takes about thirty-five minutes.

  • Act One opening stage directions (PDF) (Word)
  • Character Chart (PDF) (Word)
  • A piece of binder paper titled TC Notes


We read those opening stage directions three times, doing something different each time. Everyone has a piece of paper with the title TC Notes written in large print across the top of the page. We keep this paper throughout the entire unit. Tell them to fold the paper like a hamburger; today, we’re going to do one thing above the fold and something else below it.

  1. Follow along on the page with me as I read. Afterward, discuss what we now know. What time of year is it? What time of day is it? What year is it? Where are we? Does that ring any bells? What’s the trouble here?
  2. Close your eyes. Imagine you just walked into the theater. You gave your tickets and are walking down the aisle to your seats. You are with whatever company you want to be with (pause for the “Yeah!”s that will issue — mostly from your male students). As you read your seats, you have good seats and can see the stage clearly, you talk a little bit with the people around you. The lights dim, everyone grows silent, and the curtain starts to rise. As it lifts up, this is what you see: (now read the opening stage directions). Open your eyes. Above the fold on your TC Notes page and using the full width of the sheet of paper, draw what you saw. How many people are on stage? Where are they? What’s on the right? What’s on the left? What else is in the room? What’s at the back?
  3. Keep drawing as I read it again. Pay attention for what kind of people these folks are and what we know about them. What does the burning candle tell us? What do the contents of the room tell us? How old is she? What’s his first name? Get all these facts below the fold. You could just as easily fill in the appropriate spaces on the Character Chart (if you prepare it ahead of time, which I sadly did not).

Largely, this is a play about desire and fear, the way those two things interact with each other. We’ll keep track of the major characters by writing down whatever we know about them, along with what they want and what they are afraid of, on the Character Chart. Later, we’ll use that to make some assumptions about the play.

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