Imagine a Greek Chorus singing –to the tune of the Bohemian Rhapsody (the part that starts with “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me”):
“He’s just a lump of dough
From a farming family
They were so hungry
What would become of Gingy?
Bake him now! We want to eat him now!
Bake him now! We’re craving him now!
We will not let him go, we will not let him go.
Let him GO!!!”
Could you imagine it? I certainly imagined nothing of this sort when I signed up to teach my current learning community (World Literature combined with Art Appreciation.) Neither did I imagine anything of the sort when I started teaching my students the tragedy of Antigone. So how did this happen?
It happened by accident. While researching the role of the Greek chorus in the plays of Sophocles, I came across an intrepid drama teacher who asks students to write Greek tragedies based on fairy tales. One of the tales on the list provided to the students was “The Gingerbread Man.” I looked at it and said to myself “I know that one doesn’t end well—it could be a Greek tragedy—worth a try, anyway–It would teach them about the structure of a Greek tragedy and the importance of the chorus . . .” So I decided to make it an assignment.
I wanted the students to do this in one class period, so I figured I would get them started by doing some scaffolding. I made up a guidelines sheet, and gave it to them with instructions that the class had to write a full script and perform the play within two hours.
The students did write the script within two hours (performing it took another class period) —and it was a wonderful, funny script—but what made me really proud was the fact that the script was written by the entire class, not a small subset of writers. A collaborative text written by twenty authors–I didn’t think a cohesive text could be written under those circumstances, but my students showed me it could be done!
At the end of the Tragedy of G-Man, my students’ Greek Chorus sang to the tune of one of the lines in “Jingle Bells’ that goes ‘Dashing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh”:
“Ginger thinks he’s right,
Was proven wrong tonight.”
Well, I was proven wrong about the feasibility and quality of collaborative composition. All I can say is:
“Oh what fun it is to teach when the students really write!”