Today's guest post is by Marcie Colleen, Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales, who has just completed the first of what we all hope will be a series of Curriculum Handbooks for our future titles suites. With the Beware Madame la Guillotine Curriculum Handbook, Marcie has managed to extract all the juicy goodness from the story, and then make it ever better!
Thank you, Marcie! Now, take it away...

As a Curriculum Writer, I am like a translator: Every project I take on must be uniquely tailored to the nuances and intentions of the originating title. Therefore, when Sarah Towle approached me to create the Curriculum Handbook for Beware Madame La Guillotine, I knew it had to be vibrant as her interactive tale. But more than that, it had also to be connected to the heart and mission of her developing digital publishing company, Time Traveler Tours & Tales.

The interactive StoryApp Tour of Beware Madame La Guillotine brings to life, through narrative storytelling and extension games, the streets of Paris during the French Revolution. By compelling family and educational travelers to follow in the footsteps of the story’s protagonist—to literally stand on the very ground she stood upon—the interactive StoryApp washes away the modern day and reveals the world of the Revolution for its reader/users. History enthusiasts need only figure out how to travel to Paris; Sarah’s brilliant StoryApp completes their journey by taking them back in time.

The challenge for me was to apply this same concept, heart, and mission to make the French Revolution come alive within the classroom walls. So, just as Sarah’s interactive StoryApp brings the streets of late-18th century Paris to life through dramatic storytelling, I resolved that the Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook would bring the classroom to life through the dramatic recreation of Revolutionary Paris. The only travel necessary would be through imagination and historic exploration.

It was then time to lay a solid foundation onto which teachers and students could create an enriching, full sensory classroom experience to complement either the interactive or print versions of Beware Madame La Guillotine. To do so, I focused on the following elements:

Narrative Thread. Every good story has a hook. And every good lesson plan does, too. The Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook is designed to pose compelling questions to keep students’ curiosity piqued; to keep them wanting to know more and to discover what will happen next. This is done not through the delivery of facts and statistics as in a traditional approach to education. But instead, by first introducing themes, then deepening their complexity, then inviting students to research the facts and figures themselves.

In Session One, for example, students meet Charlotte Corday, the story’s main character, as a typical young French woman of the late 18th century. They then learn that she was condemned to death by beheading. They are left wondering why. They want to know how a well-educated convent-school girl came to murder a man and thus become a central figure in the unfolding Revolution. Their intrigue leads students on an intrinsically motivated exploration of the life and times of Charlotte Corday, not because they will be tested on the subject, but because they are hooked. 

The Five Senses. Every traveler knows that when experiencing a new location all five senses are on alert, soaking up the novel atmosphere. Simulating this reality in the classroom required some creativity. To do so, I drew on lessons from Process Drama to engage students using hands-on, sensory-based techniques to build the world of the French Revolution in their classroom. In this world, students are transported through imaginative play to explore issues and solve problems within the story’s context, thus gaining a greater understanding of the historical period, its people, and issues. Supplemental reading, writing, and research investigations broaden the scope of learning while also adding to the work within the drama.

For a wonderful introduction to Process Drama, I highly recommend The Kennedy Center ArtsEdge article: Process Drama: Taking a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes. Many of the aspects discussed within this article can be found within the Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook.

Cross-Curricular Exploration. Educators around the globe recognize that learning and retention are deepened when students explore a topic or theme from multiple perspectives. In the US, the Common Core State Standards, for example, have students reading and writing in all subject areas…not just in the English Language Arts. At the Middle and High School levels there is a pull away from the reliance on textbooks and a shift toward using primary sources as well as compelling narrative non-fiction.

The Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook utilizes Sarah Towle’s captivating interpretation of Charlotte’s story as a jumping off point for further research, making it suitable for English, Social Studies, History, Drama, and even French classrooms. The Handbook also lends itself to cooperative inter-disciplinary teaching. Such curricular crossover makes for increased learning time, allowing students to become further saturated in the historical period while studying it through various lenses and from multiple angles.

Building Better Citizens. State-of-the-art teaching methodologies seek to reflect the way the world works, to point out that life is seldom black or white, but contains many shades of gray. Throughout history, as today, choices have been debated, sometimes fought over. Decisions have made that are not always agreed upon. There is rarely a right or wrong answer. The sooner students are taught how to function in such a landscape, the better they are for it.

The Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook is developed to help students think beyond a single point of view. By playing multiple roles, they walk in the shoes of others and thus develop empathy and a broader worldview. This builds space for reflection and self-investigation, while also providing the framework in which conflicting opinions may be safely shared. As visitors to another time period, it is not our job to bring judgment. Charlotte’s sentence has already come to pass. But with the Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook, students become more than mere observers of history: they become active participants, invited to form rich and honest opinions that may even find application in the world today. 

Needless to say, I am proud of Beware Madame La Guillotine Curriculum Handbook. I am excited that teachers around the globe now have the opportunity to share the gripping story of Charlotte Corday and the French Revolution with their students in a way that promotes collaboration, participation, investigation, and self-reflection. I am also incredibly honored to be a part of Team TTT&T, and I look forward to creating similar Curriculum Handbooks for future titles.

Please check out my Curriculum Handbook and the eponymous title by Sarah Towle. You don’t need a passport or luggage for this adventure, but beware—imagination can be so vivid, you may lose your head!

Interested in obtaining a FREE copy of both Marcie’s Handbook
and Sarah’s interactive or print book
in exchange for your honest feedback?
Join the TTT&T Teacher Vanguard today.
Contact us here for details.