LESSON 1: WHAT DO COSTUMES TELL US?
Introduction of Costume Design Interpretation
The teacher draws a basic costume design template on the board in a rather non-descript dress (with no facial features) and asks the students what they know about the character. The responses will probably be very vague as the costume provides little information. The teacher then changes the drawing making adjustments to the following:
- Length/Coverage (The skirt gets lower or higher, the neckline changes)
- Color (The costume is redrawn in red, blue, black, etc.)
- Fit (The dress is more form-fitting, it pulls away from the body, etc.)
- Pattern/Texture (Polka dots are added, stripes or plaids are put on, etc.)
- Hairstyle (The character’s hair is put in a bun, it is long and “flowy”, it is swept up, etc.)
- Adornment (Fancy jewelry is added, a coat is layered on, frills or lace are utilized, gloves are added, etc.)
After each minor adjustment, the teacher asks, “How did this change the character?” Responses will probably sound like the following:
- “She’s younger.”/ “She’s older.”
- “She looks rich.” / “She looks poor.”
- “She’s very conservative, up-tight.”/ “She’s very promiscuous.”/ “She’s powerful.”
- “She looks old-timey.”
After several adjustments/comments are made, the teacher helps the students identify how changes in costume can convey specific information about a character. The class generates two lists (“What We See” and “What It Tells Us”) which will probably look something like this:
LESSON 2: THE GRAPHIC ORGANIZER
Implementation of the Graphic Organizer
Students make a graphic organizer in their notebook that looks something like this:
Students then either look at a picture from a masterwork or watch a short clip. As they view the masterwork, they fill out on the “What I See” side of the organizer:
After viewing the masterwork, students are given time to fill out the other side of the organizer:
Students are then prompted to combine the two columns using the following sentence structure:
“Because I see [BLANK], I can assume that the character is [BLANK].”
Because I see lots of ruffles on the dress, I can assume that Dot is young and girly.
LESSON 3: INTRODUCTION OF THE WRITING RUBRIC AND FIRST DRAFT
Introduction of the Rubric
The teacher may now either introduce a pre-made rubric or create a rubric with the class to quantify what elements are important in a quality critical essay and how a writer may best use those elements in his/her writing.
Our primary rubric criteria are: (See attached rubric)
- Description: Does the student clearly describe the costume in detail?
- Interpretation: Does the student make appropriate inferences based on the costume?
- Support: Does the student use visual evidence from the costume to defend his or her inferences?
- Writing Mechanics: Does the student consider and edit for appropriate grammar and spelling?
Utilization of the Graphic Organizer
Students then begin to compile multiple sentences into a paragraph form. They are again prompted with the same prompt from before:
“Choose one character in the scene. Describe their costume and explain what their costume tells you about the character.”
Students write a full paragraph focusing on specific choices made by the designer and what information is conveyed by those choices.
Students now trade papers with a classmate and read the classmate’s essay. Using the rubric as a guide, they discuss the paper with the classmate and suggest areas of improvement. This feedback informs their final revisions.
LESSON 4: FINAL PAPER
Final Paper (Summative Assessment)
Students create their final draft of their critical essay analyzing the costume of one character in the scene. They refer to the rubric as they write and incorporate the comments if their classmates.
1. This entire process may be repeated as many times as necessary to help the students grow comfortable with analyzing design choices.
2. This can easily be adapted to analyze set design choices by utilizing photos of masterwork sets instead of costumes.
3. Students may take this assignment further, writing paragraphs about two or more characters in which they both analyze the costumes and compare them to one another.