|The Miracle Worker
Theme: Communication and the Senses
Grades: Grades 9-10
The Miracle Worker is a three-act play based on Annie Sullivan's
heroic efforts in the 1880s to teach her new pupil, Helen Keller. At
the beginning of the play, an illness renders baby Helen blind, deaf,
and, therefore, mute. Pitied and badly spoiled by her parents, she learns
no discipline and grows into a wild, raging creature by the age of six.
Desperate, the Kellers hire a young governess, Annie Sullivan. After
several fierce battles with her new charge, a determined Annie convinces
the Kellers to give her two weeks alone with their child. In that time,
she teaches Helen discipline and fingerspellings for words. The child
ultimately comes to understand the fingerspellings as language in a
dramatic "miracle" at the play's end.
- In Someone Else's Shoes.
Urge students to imagine that they have suddenly lost both their sight
and hearing and to consider how this new challenge might affect their
normal activities. Then ask students, working either individually
or in groups, to describe how they would need to change some of their
activities to adjust for their blindness or deafness. Have students
record their ideas in a two-column chart, one column labeled "Activity,"
the other labeled "Ways to Adjust for Blindness/Deafness."
Urge students to imagine, as above, that they have lost their sight
and hearing. This time, ask them to consider how such a loss would
affect their relationships with other people. Divide the class into
pairs and have one student in each pair wear a blindfold and ear covers
or plugs. Then tell the students to attempt a "conversation" without
speech. Using whatever means they can think of, students must try
to communicate with one another. Afterwards, have them share their
results, including successful and unsuccessful means of communications
and the feelings that resulted from their attempts.
Ask the Expert.
Urge students to think about the problems facing disabled individuals
in their community, particularly those who are blind and deaf. Help
identify local agencies or groups that might have information about
the disabled. Then have students write interview questions that
they would like to ask a guest speaker from one of these agencies.
- Talking Hands.
Direct students to a book that teaches the fundamental vocabulary
and grammar of American Sign Language. Then have students work in
pairs and write a short conversation on any topic, which they will
then translate into ASL. After they have practiced, invite them to
perform their conversation for the class, speaking and signing simultaneously.
- Talking Sense.
Divide students into groups and ask them to research the five human
senses. Suggest that they divide research and writing responsibilities
into five categories, one for each human sense. Ask students to explore
the purposes of each sense, how the sensory organs work, and the art
forms or other human efforts that appeal to the various senses. They
might also explore the causes and effects of sensory loss, such as
blindness or deafness. Suggest that besides using a library or computer
network for their research, students can contact agencies or institutions
that specialize in disabilities resulting from sensory loss. Have
students prepare their findings in a written research report.
- Blindness in Children.
Instruct students to research blindness in children, focusing on the
typical reactions of parents who discover that their child is blind
and the recommended parenting methods for a blind child. Have students
write a magazine article in which they discuss the challenges of raising
a blind child and recommend helpful approaches.