Introduction to Lesson Plan
Biopoem form (fill in the blank poetry)
Presidential info (website for student research in this project)
Sample dialog (George Washington)
Extension: Envelope Puppets
Student-written example, Rutherford B. Hayes

See also:
Classroom Drama (tableau)
Envelope Puppets

This is a learning experience that involves reading, writing, research, and process drama. Since it is about Presidents, it is also social studies. If you include campaign songs of different presidents or music related to presidents, then it could be a music lesson as well.

It begins with writing a biopoem, which requires doing research in order to fill out the poetic form. Then students create a tableau and take a picture of it using a digital camera. They write a paragraph about the tableau. Then they create a dialogue or script around the events depicted in the tableau. Finally, if they want, they can create Envelope Puppets and perform their dialogue. Sources for web-based research are embedded below. First is an example I created and then some examples from students.
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Line 1: First name
Line 2: Four traits that describe character
Line 3: Relative (“brother,” “daughter,” “aunt,” etc.) of _
Line 4: Lover of _ (three things or people)
Line 5: Who feels (three items)
Line 6: Who needs _ (three items)
Line 7: Who fears _ (three items)
Line 8: Who gives _ (three items)
Line 9: Who would like to see _ (three items)
Line 10: Resident of _
Line 11: Last name
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Using the web as a source for research, write a biopoem (form above) about a President of the United States. Just for kicks, Washington and Lincoln are out--choose a different president. In fact, it would be really good to choose a president you don't know much about. Here are your choices:
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After you have written your bio poem, then with everyone in your group, create a tableau that represents your president--something important to him or a scene from his life. A tableau is a form of drama where people create a still picture. In other words, if you were going to do Washington chopping down the fabled cherry tree (which you aren't because you gotta do someone besides Washington), you would have one person pretend to be Washington, maybe mid-swing of his axe and another person would be his father approaching, looking horrified. Try to have everyone in your group in the tableau.

Now, take a picture of your tableau and post it here. Write a paragraph describing your tableau. Also put your biopoem here.
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Think about the tableau you made. What were the various people thinking about? What were they doing? What were they saying to each other? Go back in time about five or ten minutes and write a dialogue between the characters in your tableau, taking them through the action of the tableau and a little beyond. If we were doing George Washington and the cherry tree, we might start out:
Scene: inside George Washington's childhood home
George: I'm bored.
George's mom: Why don't you go outside and play?
George: Okay.
[George goes outside. He kind of wanders around aimlessly. He goes next door and knocks on it. Thomas Jefferson's mom answers the door.]
Tom's mom: Oh, hi George. Let me see if Tom is around. [yelling] Tom??? George is here.
Tom: [yelling] Just a minute.
[Tom runs in, a little out of breath]
Tom: Hi George.
George: Wanna come outside and play?
Tom: Sure.
[Both boys go outside.]
Tom: Do you want to play cowboys and indians?
George: Nah, we did that yesterday. How about pioneers?
Tom: Hey that's a great idea. Let's say we're in the woods.
George: Yeah, we gotta build us a cabin. [he starts to run off]
Tom: Where are you going?
George: [turns around but clearly intends to be off] I'm gonna get the axe my dad gave me.
Tom: [runs after him] Great!
George: [comes onstage with an axe; Tom follows] All I need is a tree to chop down.
Tom: Hey, there's one right there!
George: That's my dad's tree. I can't chop that one down. He'd kill me.
Tom: You're just afraid. Chicken!! Scaredy cat!!
George: I'm not scared--I just don't want to chop down my dad's tree.
Tom: I double-dog dare you to.
George: [sighs] Okay. [He starts to chop]
George's dad: [enters, running] Hey, hey there!! What are you doing?
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Optional: make envelope puppets of your characters and give us a show!!
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by Christine Reuther and Margaret Robinson

Ohioan, Statesman, Father
Nephew of Sardis Birchard
Lover of truth, arts, civil rights
Who feels hopeful, sober, unpopular
Who needs family, votes, Bayer aspirin
Who fears the South Cessation, Unlimited coinage of silver, Mexican marauders
Who gives support to public education, prison reform, and the temperance movement
Who would like to see merit appointments, united country, Gold Standard
Resident of Spiegel Grove, OH
B. Hayes

One person with cigarette and beer, other (Hayes) takes a pose of scorn/disapproval.
Description: Rutherford B Hayes was a supporter of the temperance movement (prohibition of sales on alcohol)in the United States. He himself did not drink, smoke or gamble and earned himself the reputation of a “Granny” among his more loose friends. This tableau would represent his reactions to his friends’ behavior in his presence. He cared deeply about principles that he held and did not worry whether or not his adamant decisions gained him political enemies or a reduction in future votes. The fact that he became president at all seemed a slim opportunity as he won by one electoral vote! The scandal that followed his election was notable and has been remembered, even today.

Scene: The parlor of friend, William Henry Smith. 1879
William- Oh, Rutherford, do put aside your aversions for alcohol, and sample this fine brandy.
Rutherford- (with scorn, and pointed finger) You know my stance on the corruptions and evils of the alcoholic beverages. They poison the mind and the heart of good men.
William- (laughing) I see why they call you ‘Granny’ good sir!
Rutherford- (with severity) My popularity is of little consequence to me. A tea for me or nothing.
William- Do calm yourself, Rutherord, or we will soon be visiting at your gravestone. By the by- what are your thoughts on the production of silver coins?
Rutherford- I shudder at the thought of bills not supported by the integrity of gold- how do those greenbacks sleep at night? Do you forget that I am trained in the art of law and see through your sheath of fallacy? We were discussing the evils of alcohol, if you will be so inclined to focus your attention on our current conversation….
William- As I recall, you were preaching the alleged evils of alcohol, whereas I was simply wetting my lips with the decadence of a supreme brandy.
Rutherford- When will your morals catch up to your decadent tastes! (pointing reproachfully at friend)
William- (takes an exaggerated puff of his cigar in response)
Rutherford- Don’t even get me started on the sins of tobacco!

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