1. GENERAL HEADING: Exploring the Text

2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Picturing the Words"

3. GOALS: To foster awareness of how learning dramatic text can be achieved by means other than imprinting words onto memory.

4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Small groups -- e.g., 8-12

5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: A selected speech, preferably one in blank verse that can be broken down into coherent phrases. A Shakespeare lexicon might come in handy.

6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Approximately 45 minutes for a speech broken down into 8-12 phrases.

7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: In selecting a speech, try to pick one that is rich in imagery and one that no participant has previously memorized. Arrange participants in a circle. Break the speech down into coherent capsule phrases and assign participants a discrete phrase, no longer than a pentameter line (can be shorter if punctuation summons), with the order of phrases following how people are seated in the circle. Each participant is then asked to convert the phrase into pictorial images or signals and to draw them on a sheet of paper large enough for everyone in the group to be able to see clearly. Words and letters cannot be used. Assure them that drawing skills are not important -- represent the icons as best they can; they will have the opportunity to explain what has been drawn. Think in phrases rather than word-by-word. Use images of association when words are abstract or hard to represent in straight-forward objective terms. Allow time. Provide help by asking questions about what the meaning of the word might look like, or what association the participant might have with the word, and so on. Avoid telling participant what to draw. Unfamiliar words should be looked up. Arcane metaphors can be paraphrased first.

Once everyone has drawn their pictorial codes, let each participant explain what she/he has envisioned and how it relates to the textual phrase. Others can ask questions to clarify -- minor adjustments to the drawing can be added on the spot. After each phrase/drawing is explained, everyone speaks the phrase while looking at the drawing. Work one phrase at a time, in order, around the circle. When all phrases have been presented, have group jointly speak the speech, phrase by phrase, as each participant holds up the analog drawing. Pause and re-explain where necessary. Repeat the sequence two or three more times until everyone seems somewhat confident. Then ask that they jointly speak the speech without the pictures being held up, trying only to remember the pictorial cue. The final stage can involve selecting individuals to recite or play the speech, again following the sequence of images remembered from the circle of drawings.

8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: This exercise works very well for those who create strong connections to pictorial references but it may not work equally well for all. Emphasize that our mnemonic processes may work in different ways. Some of my students who have had particular difficulty learning lines by rote, have found this method to be very helpful. The sequence aspect is very important. Discussion of how the logic of a speech or scene is sequenced can enhance understanding.

9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Paul Nelsen, Marlboro College.