National Writing Project

Learning From Laramie: Urban High School Students Read, Research, and Reenact The Laramie Project

By: Marsha Pincus
Date: May 2008

Summary: When Marsha Pincus, a teacher with the Philadelphia Writing Project, had her students read The Laramie Project, and then research circumstances surrounding the play's real life events and perform its scenes, they were engaged—and changed—by its themes of homosexuality, homophobia, and murder.

 

Excerpt

While I had previously studied the impact that writing original plays had on my high school students, I had not looked closely at the impact that reading and performing the plays of others could have on them. I had been planning to teach The Laramie Project to my drama classes. I was familiar with reader-response theory, particularly Rosenblatt's (1995) ideas about the relationship between efferent and aesthetic responses to literature. These ideas intrigued me and raised questions about the ways in which my students would respond to this play. Because the play was about homosexuality, homophobia, murder, and religion, I knew that they would have deep emotional responses to the text. I was less certain how they would relate to the text intellectually and what my role as the teacher in this process should be. In addition, I had planned to have my students perform parts of this play for an audience. I was not certain how that process would affect their responses to the text.

Copyright © 2005. Reprinted by permission of Teachers College Press.
Pincus, Marsha R. 2005. "Learning from Laramie: Urban High School Students Read, Research, and Reenact The Laramie Project." In Going Public with Our Teaching: An Anthology of Practice, edited by Thomas Hatch, Dilruba Ahmed, Ann Lieberman, Deborah Faigenbaum, Melissa Eiler White, and Desiree H. Pointer Mace. New York: Teachers College Press (Teachers College, Columbia University).

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