On Wednesday and Thursday of the past week, February, 23 – 24, 2011, students from Mrs. Mary Beth Farrell’s and Dr. Michael Degen’s Junior AP Literature classes participated in a unique reflection activity about their required reading material, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This synthesis activity is known as a News Conference, where about half of the students in the class dress up and act in the persona of a major character from the book.
The teachers encourage the students to develop deeper insights into a character’s emotions and motivations through reflection over the text and in role-play. Mrs. Farrell added that the News Conference “is also a good culminating activity, as it reinforces themes, characterization, and other important literary elements found in our readings.” Teachers also encourage students to go all out on their costumes. For example, Daniel Williamson, acting as Lucie Manette, came dressed in a shocking costume: a blond wig, knitted sweater, and tights. The other half of the class served as reporters, asking the characters hard-hitting questions. While most of the characters were well prepared for tough questions, other students flubbed at imitating their character’s persona. For example, Ms. Pross, the wild caretaker of the Manette Family, of Mrs. Farrell’s 4th/5th period class was unprepared for the extremely challenging questions tossed his way. Meanwhile, in Dr. Degen’s 9th period class, Harrison Ainsworth, role-playing as Madame Defarge, the crazed leader of the French Revolution, spoke in a mix of French and English, highlighting his bilingual talents and emphasizing the wide array of talent present in the Junior AP English classes.
Upon reflecting on the activity, Jack Greenwood praised “how the activity gave [him] insights into the complexities of the colorful cast of character” in Dickens’ masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities. When asked about the News Conference, Ben Warren put his opinion very simply: “I loved it, like seriously.” The News Conference reflection activity served as a useful tool to analyze a character, giving the reader a means through which he could experience a character first hand. When asked about why the AP English teachers enjoy the News Conference, Mrs. Farrell commented that the News Conference serves as a “nice change from the norm, and it provides the students with an opportunity to develop their creative sides.” With all of these wonderful benefits, the News Conference looks to remain a favorite AP English class activity for years.