Book Reviews

from Hands on English
2000, Volume 10, Number 2
Reviewed by: Anna Silliman, Editor

Celebrating American Heroes:
Plays for Students of English
by Anne Siebert
© 2000 Pro Lingua Associates
ISBN: 0-86647-127-8

This is a unique and wonderful book of 13 short plays in praise of American historical figures like Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Jackie Robinson, and the first astronauts to land on the moon. The tone of the plays is passionate - they are exciting and fun but involve serious subjects such as war, slavery, race relations, sacrifice, hard work, effort. The language isn't all "easy" - some of the main roles would be best for intermediate students or higher - but there is a special role for beginning students as part of the Chorus.

Like a 'Greek chorus', this group speaks in unison and adds commentary to the action. For example, in a play about Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Chorus describes the public reaction to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation: The crowd went wild! Everybody cheered! They Clapped! They waved! They stood on chairs! Imagine 20 voices giving these lines and you'll get a sense of what fun this could be. Everyone gets to participate in the play, even in a multi-level class.

You could think of these plays as "Jazz Chants" but with cultural and historical content. That is, all the students get to speak lines in loud, confident voices which is good for pronunciation, intonation and fluency. At the same time they are portraying and discussing meaningful issues from history.

You don't have to be extremely brave to put on a play with your class. The Teacher's Guide gives you short, clear instructions on how to proceed. Students get to read their lines from the script, and props can be very simple. We think these plays will bring a level of excitement into the classroom and give students the unforgettable feeling that they are participating in American history.

(By the way, if you do one of these plays with your students, I would love to visit your class to see it!)

--Anna Silliman, Editor
Hands-on English

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