Skills and Best Practices
“Writing must receive major emphasis in teaching-learning situations. There are important differences between creative endeavors and those that involve role learning and exact answers. Creativity emphasizes the novel, the unique, the original, and the open-ended. Creativity should stress writing across the curriculum, and should involve reading and writing both prose and poetry.”
–Ediger, Marlow. 1991-00-00 ERIC #: ED341051
A BioPoem is a structured collection of vivid details about a character’s life, personality traits and aspirations: a portrait in words. In creating your BioPoem, try to avoid generalizations, which tend to be boring and uninteresting, in favour of vivid details which reveal interesting aspects of your subject. The structure of the BioPoem you are going to use is outlined below. An example is also provided. Begin each line with the words in quotes where indicated, and after research supply the details requested in the parentheses. Good luck!
Line 1: (Character’s first name)
Line 2: “Relative of…” or Friend of…” (List 3 or 4 relatives or friends)
Line 3: (List 4 character traits that would describe this person or his personality
Line 4: (Position or job)
Line 5:“Lover of…” (3 things, people, activities, etc.)
Line 6:“Who felt…” (3 emotions and explanations)
Line 7:“Who has been…” (3 places or events this character has been)
Line 8: “Who needed…” (3 descriptions of things this character may have needed)
Line 9: “Who feared…” (3 descriptions of things this character may have feared)
Line 10: “Who gave…” (3 descriptions of what this character has given to family, friends, the world, etc.)
Line 11: “Who longed for…” (3 descriptions)
Line 12: “Who would like to have seen…” (3 descriptions of things the character may have wanted to have seen in his lifetime)
Line 13: (Synonym – one profound word that describes the character)
Line 14: “Resident of…” (description of place, dates, location, etc.)
Line 15: (Character’s last name)
This site also provides an excellent example using Winnie the Pooh as an example.
The Western Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (1991) suggests that role playing, Socratic instruction, and small group work are effective teaching strategies for curriculum infusion.
Instructions for Role Play:
Role-playing is an activity in which students assume the role of another person and act it out. In a role play, students are usually given an open-ended situation in which they must make a decision, resolve a conflict, or act out the conclusion to an unfinished story. Role-playing is designed to promote student empathy and understanding of others. By acting out the role of another individual it is easier to see others’ points of view, including how other people think and feel. Role-playing can give students the opportunity to learn behavior appropriate for various situations. Role-playing is also useful for developing critical thinking, decision making, and assertiveness skills.
- Selection of the Role Play Situation: There are a number of situations which lend themselves to the use of role play. These situations include individual dilemmas (e.g., dealing with a pushy salesperson, observing a crime, or testifying in court) and conflict-resolution situations (e.g., a tenant negotiating with a landlord over the terms of a lease or a police officer confronting a suspected shoplifter). Role-playing can be used to deal with a specific issue or problem; for example, role-playing could be used to discuss whether or not adopted persons should be given access to records that reveal the name and whereabouts of their natural parents. Finally, role plays are useful for developing student skills as an interviewer, negotiator, assertive consumer, investigator, or decision maker.
- Preparation and Warm-Up: Students should be told the situation or problem and instructed as to the various roles. If role-playing is new to the class, “warm-up” or introductory activities may be helpful. For example, students might be asked to role play greeting a long-lost friend, or to role-play the way someone who had just won a large sum of money would act.
- Select Participants: Students can either be assigned roles or the teacher can ask for volunteers. Role plays may be conducted in front of the entire class or a number of simultaneous role plays could be conducted by dividing the class into small groups. Students who do not participate in the role play should act as observers.
- Conduct the Role Play: Direct students to act out the role the way they think someone faced with the same situation would act in real life. The teacher should not interrupt the role play; however, if the students need some help in getting started the teacher should assist the students. After conducting the role-play it is sometimes useful to have students reverse roles or to conduct the same role play using different participants. For example, two students might role play a confrontation between a youth and a police officer. After conducting the role play once, the student who acted as the youth could assume the role of the police officer and vice versa.
- Debrief: The role-play activity should be debriefed and evaluated. This is an opportunity for both the participants and the observers to analyze the role play and to discuss what happened and why. Typical debriefing questions include the following:
- How did you feel about the role play and each of the various roles?
- Was the role play realistic? How was it similar to or different from real life? Was the problem solved? If so, how? If not, why not?
- What, if anything, could have been done differently? What other outcomes were possible?
- What did you learn from the experience?