Lesson Plan : The Tragedy of Death of a Salesman

Teacher Name:
 M. I. Friedman
Grade:
 Grade 11-12
Subject:
 Literature Activities

Topic:
 Tragedy and the Common Man
Content:
 This lesson, which will span a three day period, has the students respond to an essay by Arthur Miller, "Tragedy and the Common Man." Prior to the reading the essay, and responding, the students will view the 1966 television production, with Lee J. Cobb playing Willy Loman.
Goals:
 Aims: 1. How are the characters of Death of a Salesman developed in the 1966 television production? 2. How is the conflict of Death of a Salesman introduced in the television production? 3. In what ways is Death of a Salesman a tragedy? Outcomes: Students will write an essay that responds to both the play, and Miller's essay, "Tragedy and the Common Man."
Objectives:
 Students will be able to view the play with a critical eye; they will be able to respond critically to the play, and to author's essay--which was, itself, a response to the critics.
Materials:
 DVD player Death of a Salesman (DVD--1966 television production w/Lee J. Cobb as Willy) "Tragedy and the Common Man" handout
Introduction:
 Do Nows: 1. Pick one of the following characters: Willy, Biff, Linda, Happy. Review your copy of Death of a Salesman, and pick details--lines, stage directions, and descriptions--that help to develop your chosen character. 2. Consider, the part of the DVD that we watched, and refer to your copy of the play. In each, how is the conflict between Biff and Willy established? 3. Based upon what we have seen in the DVD, list three characteristics of Willy Loman, that might make him a tragic hero. Classroom Conversation: Engage the class in a brief discussion of their responses to the "Do Now" assignments.
Development:
 Viewing the Play: 1. During each day of this lesson, the students will view the 1966 television production of Death of a Salesman. 2. After they have seen the entire movie, they will be given copies of Miller's essay, "Tragedy and the Common Man." They will be instructed to read the essay. 3. Have students summarize Miller's definition of the tragic hero. Ask them whether, based upon this definition, Willy fits this category of dramatic character. 4. Instruct the students that they are to use their response in a four paragraph essay that explores Willy as a tragic hero.
Checking For Understanding:
 Student understanding of the play, and of the underlying topic of this lesson, will be a four paragraph essay that explores their view as to whether Willy fits the definitions--Miller's and the traditional one--of a tragic hero.
Closure:
 Homework: If, on the third day, students do not have time to read "Tragedy and the Common Man" and write their response to the idea of Willy as a tragic hero, they will be permitted to do this at home.
Teacher Reflections:
 The 1966 television production runs 120 minutes. For this reason it will be necessary to have the students watching for three days. I don't feel that it is advisable to go beyond this time frame. For this reason, I have determined that the essay assignment might be best given as a homework.

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