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Beyond Curriculum #1: A Literary Analysis Project that Reaches the Multiple Intelligences

Teaching with the multiple intelligences in mind is an admirable goal 'and a difficult one. How do you effectively incorporate the multiple intelligences, meet the requirements of your school's curriculum, and make sure that your students are developing their verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences all at the same time?

In most cases, the answer is: you don't 'at least not all at the same time. With careful planning, teachers can create a balance in their lesson plans so that they accomplish all three of these goals over a period of time. Teachers who try to accomplish this feat every day will burn themselves out and will probably succeed in entertaining their students rather than teaching them.

Every once in a while, an assignment has the ability to meet all of these requirements, and better yet, has the potential to reach all of the multiple intelligences (as opposed to two or three). The Performance Adaptation Project is my personal favorite because my students were so deeply engaged in the process. I watched students who very rarely participated in class exchanging ideas, helping to decide what music best suited a particular scene or whether or not Brutus had to die in order to fulfill the theme of the play.

The Performance Adaptation Project is a writing assignment that encourages students to use non-traditional skills and talents to respond to literature. The purpose of the writing assignment is to assess the skills learned during the unit and to foster a deeper understanding of the literature through extended analysis and discussion. Students are organized into groups of approximately five or six and are asked to adapt a work of literature according to a specific theme. I provide suggestions, but also allow students to select their own themes. When presenting the project, I use Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol as an example since most students are familiar with it. Adaptations of this classic include old black and white versions, cartoons like The Flintstones and Mickey Mouse , and modernized versions made for TV and film.

Several ready-to-use handouts guide the groups of students through the analytical process. Once the analysis is complete, the students write their own scripts, create their own costumes, sets, props, and sound effects, and finally present their adaptations to the class. Some students choose to stage live performances, while others video tape their performances. Each performance is evaluated by the audience as well as by the performers.

In the past, my students have adapted Shakespeare's Julius Caesar using the following themes: a super-hero theme, teenage conflicts using stereotypical social groups, Disney films, etc.

In addition to the traditional verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences used to write about and analyze literature, this writing assignment asks students to call upon the spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, and interpersonal intelligences. The self-evaluation used at the end of the project even incorporates the intrapersonal intelligence.

This writing assignment is particularly well-suited to Shakespeare's works, but it will work successfully with other dramas as well as other types of literature.

I have had more success with this project than any other I have ever attempted. The students love it and the quality of their work demonstrates a far greater understanding of the literature than they would have otherwise achieved. It requires a bit of work to arrange, but it is well worth the effort.

Michele R. Acosta is a freelance writer, a former English teacher, and the mother of three boys. She spends her time writing and teaching others to write.

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