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Pre-Show Chalk Talk Activity

A blue sky with clouds in the background, as one man looks to his left, while another man looks directly at the camera.
Ronald L. Conner and Kai A. Ealy by Joe Mazza.

This Chalk Talk will help students begin thinking about some of the themes and ideas explored in The Island.


  • Activity Preparation
    • Supplies:
      • 8 pieces of chart paper 
    • Set-Up:
      • Place 8 pieces of chart paper around the room. 
      • On each paper, write one of the following questions. Each question should be on two different pieces of chart paper. Questions should be ordered so that students rotate through each once before encountering a duplicate question.
        1. What role does friendship play in dark times? 
        2. Why is some art continually explored for years, decades, or even centuries?
        3. How does the prison system impact imprisoned people?
        4. How does the prison system impact communities? 
      • For smaller class sizes, it may be necessary to have only four pieces of chart paper; groups should be small enough that students will not be crowded at each station.
      • Students will be moving around the room during this activity; consider mobility needs that students may have. 
      • If desired, this activity could be completed by having students pass the four questions around a small group, responding in writing as each paper is passed to them. 
      • Please note: The Island deals with challenging topics, including imprisonment, Apartheid, violence toward Black bodies, sexual references, and misogynoir (bias towards Black women/femmes). As needed, create opportunities for students to engage in reflection and self-care when preparing for, viewing, and discussing the topics of The Island
  • This activity will take approximately 50 minutes.

  • Learning Sequence
    1. As needed, review or establish classroom discussion norms for a Chalk Talk. Note that although a Chalk Talk is a silent discussion, students should still engage in collegial discussion norms with their ideas. (~4 mins) 
    2. Point out to students the chart paper around the room. Invite a student to read the questions aloud. (~5 mins)
      • Briefly review expectations for movement and volume level during the activity. Establish groups (depending on class size, 3-4 students per group) and which chart paper they will start with.
    3. Prompt each group to gather around their first chart paper. Have them read the question again and respond by writing on the paper. For students’ first pass at each question, they should write their own thoughts rather than responding to peers. (~5 mins) 
    4. After students have had a chance to write their responses to their first question, have each group rotate to their next question. Again give them a few minutes to read and respond in writing to the posed question with their own reactions and ideas. (~4 mins)
    5. Repeat this process twice more so that each student has responded to each of the four questions. (~8 mins) 
    6. Prompt students to rotate to the next poster and read their peers’ ideas. Have students respond to their classmates by writing a reply or annotating with check marks, stars, smiley faces, etc. (~5 mins) 
    7. Again have students rotate to read and respond to their peers on the remaining three posters. If time allows and 8 posters were used for the activity, consider allowing students to continue rotating and responding to peer ideas until they do so on each poster. (~13 mins) 
    8. Direct students to return to their seats. As time allows, consider having students share out what surprised, intrigued, or stuck with them. (~6 mins) 

  • This activity aligns with the following standards:
    • Illinois Arts Learning Standards 
      • Anchor Standard 8: Construct meaningful interpretations of artistic work.
    • Common Core State Standards 
      • CCSS.ELA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Posted on October 28, 2022 in Learning Guides, Productions

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