Martin’s Big Words

In 2006 and 2010 we used the book Martin’s Big Words, movement, and a large shadow screen to perform scenes from the story for the MLK Assembly. Students helped develop the scenes and performed for the school. It was a rewarding experience for the student performers, audience, and myself.

First about the shadow screen: My daughter Michelle sewed some sheets together and made a shadow screen 7’x15’. Sleeves sewn in the ends held two 2”x2” wooden rods to stiffen the screen. A spotlight from the hardware store lit the screen from behind. Any student walking in front of the spotlight would project their shadow on the screen which is what the audience would see. Even shy students who wouldn’t normally get on stage are willing to perform behind the screen with their classmates.

Our task was to make the pages of the book come alive on the stage. But we had to feature the words since that’s the focus of the text. Large cardboard stencils became our word signs: HATE, LOVE, WHITES ONLY, EQUAL… We could hold them up any time needed.

Acting as our own shadow puppets, we created protest marches, Rosa Parks being arrested, Martin with his mother, and all the vignettes in the book. The first year I was the narrator but the second time I relaxed and used student narrators which worked quite well.

Resource: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

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