Drama and The Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Part of:

Google Expeditions
Lesson overview

In this lesson students will use Google Expeditions to explore what life was like for people living in the Lower East Side tenements during the 19th century, focusing on characterising their imagined roles.

Learning outcomes
  • To suggest how our modern lives are different to those of the 19th Century
  • To investigate the homes presented in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
  • To imagine the lives of the characters described in the museum
  • To collaborate to create a story showing the lives of our chosen characters
  • To act out / perform the imagined lives of character from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum Expedition.

Expedition Prep Checklist

Download the Google Expeditions App on all devices and select the expedition Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Explore the expedition and locate points of interest.

Review the content in the Lesson resources section to update your knowledge and develop some teaching ideas.

Lesson steps
  1. Introduction (10 mins)
    Ask students the key questions and discuss; Can you say ‘yes’ within an improvisation? How can we create a short scene? What do you need to do next? Can you change your voice, gestures and movements to show a different persona? Then direct a series of improvisations.

    Dependent on the particular expertise of the teacher, students should begin with a warm-up to prepare for the expedition and subsequent lesson. Teachers and students may wish to do a physical warm up (stretching, vocal exercises, tongue twisters, etc.) first.
  2. Activity one (15 mins)
    In pairs students play a game called ‘What are you doing?’. The purpose of this game is to activate students’ thinking and performing skills and develop an open mindset for the task ahead. Student A begins by acting out any activity. After a moment of doing so student B asks ‘What are you doing?’ to which student A responds with ‘I’m not….’ and answers with a completely different activity that student B must then act out. Student A will then interrupt with the same question, with student B again suggesting a totally different exercise. The game is then repeated as often as you like, with person A and B alternating activities and questions.
  3. Expedition (15 mins)
    During the expedition lead a class discussion around the following questions: What do you think of this room? What kind of family lived here? Would you like to live here? What objects catch your attention? If you were someone who lived here, what item would be yours in this room? What might you be doing in this room?

    Students work in groups of 4 / 5 (with one person being the expedition leader, with the others as followers) students should be divided to explore the various rooms in the museum, with the leader supplying the group information from the expedition. While still in the scenes, the above questions should be asked to guide students thinking. Students could note down their thoughts / ideas around the guiding questions.
  4. Activity two (15 mins)
    Lead class discussion around the following questions: How do your characters connect to each other? What will your scene be about? How many of the expedition details can you include? How will your story begin / end?

    Students create a short drama in which they act out the imagined lives of the families in each home – they can be linked to the facts of the expedition or entirely fictional. Scenes may include narrators; they could be linked or could be stand alone. Students are encouraged to experiment with a range of ideas before settling on their final story.
    Use the scenario cards as a prompt if students need help creating scenes (see Student Sheet, found in the Lesson resources section). Groups come together after rehearsal time and perform their scenes.
  5. Extension
    Students use another expedition location as a stimulus for a drama.
    Students write the script for a scene of a play, based on what they created. Students connect their ideas to the work of famous playwrights e.g. Arthur Miller.
    Students design a set based on the expedition to be used in their dramatisations.