My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day. Activities in this lesson take about one class period to complete. The lesson below outlines Day One on A Streetcar Named Desire. Please view the video overview for more information (Video: Overview Day One).
This is the last unit of the school year, and students in my honors class are highly proficient readers and thinkers. Instead of focusing on text-dependent questions and critical reading strategies students have acquired, I target students' independent reading abilities through the following activities:
Teachers working with students who are building critical reading proficiency can use a teacher-developed study guide on the play. It includes discussion questions on each scene as well as extended learning opportunities. I have included it as a resource in this section and will include it in each subsequent lesson to facilitate its use.
I remind students that we have studied the hero's journey (the departure, the quest, the return) by exploring works of literature, such as Beowulf and Macbeth. I explain that now we will look at the hero's journey through the lens of a post-World War II New Orleans setting by exploring A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.
I often talk to students about how an author's lives can inform the literature they write. We read background on Tennessee Williams from biography.com. I ask students to note elements of Williams' life as we read Streetcar.
Before we read the play, I tell students that in the post-World War II South, industrialization led to the decline of the agrarian society. The industrialized workforce became increasingly diverse, including African Americans, women, and immigrants.
I introduce the characters:
I ask students to consider this question as we read the text, "Who is the hero in A Streetcar Named Desire?"
We read Streetcar (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004) accompanied by the audiobook (HarperCollins, 2008), a taping of the 1973 Lincoln Center performance of the play, that I purchase from audible.com. I can play the audiobook directly from my book library on the Audible website or from an iPhone audible app. The audiobook performance includes music at the beginning and end of each scene, which allows time for students to read the narration preceding or following action.
After reading each scene, I ask students to do a think: pair: share:
When students share impressions with a partner after each scene, their discussions incorporate plot summary, observations about characters, and predictions about the plot.
We debrief as a class after Scene III. Sample student impressions are below.
This section of the lesson allows students to read the text independently while engaging in discussion on their impression and interpretations about the text. During the share part of the think: pair: share, they can return to the text for clarification and engage in discourse and questioning about the text. Since my students are highly proficient readers, they can read and interpret a text independently. For students who may be less proficient readers, you could use the Mr. Roddy's Study Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire (Lindenwold High School); I have included it as a resource in the Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers section of this lesson.