Expand students’ cultural horizons by shaping a fun dialogue-writing exercise around Guy Fawkes Night, a November 5 historical observance that’s popular in England.
Students will sharpen dialogue-writing skills, learn about differences between Britain and the United States in terms of how English is written and spoken, and gain a better cross-cultural perspective on celebrations around the world, particularly one tradition that is even older than America itself.
History, Holidays, Traditions, British, Britain, England, Cross-Cultural, Multicultural, Guy Fawkes, Gunpowder Plot, Dialogue, Writing
Define dialogue for students, perhaps showing an example of a book in which dialogue is done well. You may want to cover the following:
The PDF document How to Write Really Good Dialogue provides good explanations of the above tips and also allows students to practice writing dialogue using comic strips.
1. Share with students the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
NOTE: For younger students, you will definitely not want to go into the details of Fawkes’ punishment. (Fawkes and his co-conspirators were charged with treason and subsequently hung, drawn and quartered.)
Here is the story:
Robert Catesby, a Catholic man living in England, was so unhappy with the fact that King James I was not also Catholic that he devised a plot to assassinate him so that a Catholic king could be put on the throne. He and his group reasoned that if they blew up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England's Parliament on November 5, 1605, the king and any successors would be killed, allowing Catesby and his conspirators to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne as the new Catholic sovereign.
Fawkes had the job of guarding the considerable amount of gunpowder that was placed beneath the Palace of Westminster. Everything would have worked, except for the fact that an anonymous note tipped authorities off. When they arrived in the wee hours of the night on November 5, they found Fawkes and the gunpowder and quickly took him into custody.
After some intense questioning, Fawkes gave up his co-conspirators, and they were all charged with treason and punished. To this day, November 5 is celebrated as Guy Fawkes Night in the United Kingdom. While the monarchy no longer serves as the head of state, British citizens celebrate with fireworks and merrymaking the thwarting of Catesby and his accomplices’ plan to take over the government.
2. Discuss differences in American vs. British spellings of English words. Students can do research themselves using this resource: British vs. American English. You may also want to write on the board a few common British expressions, and/or words that mean something different in America than they do in England (here’s one source for ideas; although student access to this site is not recommended, as some material may not be appropriate for young people).
Give each student a copy of the printable Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The exercise puts students in the role of one of Fawkes’ co-conspirators, and students respond to Fawkes’ lines by writing dialogue on the worksheet.
When writing dialogue, students are encouraged to (1) incorporate their knowledge of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 into the dialogue, (2) use dialogue to advance the story and flesh out the characters, (3) use the British spelling of words and (4) use terms and expressions that are popular in England.
To extend the lesson:
Student written products are evaluated in terms of the following:
Jason Tomaszewski, Education World Associate Editor
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