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Having a ball with historic--and contemporary--figures: grades 4-8. (What's Working).

Learning masqueraded as fun recently in Daniella Medford's class at Royal Oak, Michigan's Addams Middle School. Students invited to a fancy masquerade ball at the school were asked to portray famous Americans based on reading YA biographies, the Detroit News reports. As students circulated with food and drink, they shared the tales of their impersonated lives with each other and invited guests, including administrators and family members. Other students had to guess who their classmates were portraying.

"I wanted to integrate a masquerade ball into my class because by the time students get to me in eighth grade they are so sick of doing traditional book reports and reading about individuals that have been gone for more than 100 years," said Medford says. "This is my sneak attack at getting them to read, write and enjoy what they read. I let them pick whomever they'd like to read about as long as they're American because in eighth grade the state standards for English require us to cover an American biography."

What made this activity different than other famous figure portrayal days--in addition to the ball--was the fact that kids could choose contemporary as well as historic figures. At the event, then, Mark Twain and Albert Einstein mixed with the likes of singer Madonna and skateboard champion Tony Hawk.

"I didn't like reading about old, and what seemed irrelevant, people when I was in eighth grade," Medford says. "So I respect the fact that many of my students feel the same way. Why force something on them? I'd rather have them find a book about someone that they're actually going to enjoy and get something out of. I can't tell you how many times at the beginning of this assignment I had both the students and the parents calling and asking if it was really true that the students could read a book on anyone as long as they were American. It was hysterical. They were used to hearing their kids moan about having to read about people who have been dead and gone for a 100 years of more."

The event was such a hit that many kids in attendance said they'd read biographies of the people their classmates portrayed. "I noticed that most [biography subjects] came from poor or broken homes and had similar backgrounds," said eighth-grader Jenna Cortis, who came as actress Joan Crawford, toting an Academy Award crafted from a Ken doll and gold paper. "I also learned that most of the people at the ball had one specific thing that they admired about their character."

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Publication:Curriculum Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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