Engage & Learn

A Christmas Carol Activities

Curious to learn more from your study guide on A Christmas Carol? Many of the articles in A Christmas Carol study guide have corresponding activities that are great for the classroom or individual learning. The goal of these activities is to help enrich your understanding of the articles. Each activity is listed under the title of its article. These range from written projects, to research, to performances and presentation. Some require help from teammates, and some are individual endeavors. You can find them below:

The Old and New of a Beloved Production

Activity 1 (Marley’s Ghost): This is how Charles Dickens described the moment where Scrooge sees Marley in the knocker:

“…And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change-not a knocker, but Marley’s face. Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid color, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression.”

Now, how should this moment be staged? How does the text of the original story make you feel? How should this moment make the audience feel?

Facing Jacob Marley as a class, decide how you would stage this scene – especially the portion where Marley’s face appears. Where would you place the door on the stage for maximum effect for Scrooge and the audience? How would you make Marley’s face appear? Some other companies have: used lighting to project an image (or gobo) of Marley’s face on the door; used video projection in a similar manner; covered a part of the door with an elastic fabric which the actor playing Marley pushes his face through. Some companies make this moment more abstract – some will have Marley’s hand appear through the door instead of his face. Will Marley speak or stay silent? How do you think Goodman will create this effect?

Activity 2 (Focus on Performance): Professional actors will rehearse a play for weeks before the audience comes to see it. You can give your students a taste of what it’s like to work on a character through the following acting exercises. This activity is for the teacher, as the entire class must be organized in a certain way for this activity:

Who am I?

  • Have your students pick a character from the play.
  • In a central playing space (like the front of your classroom) have the student act out a moment in that character’s day (this can last about a minute).
  • Have your class guess whom the student is portraying by what they see him/her do, and the way that he/she completes the action. What are the major clues? Is anything confusing?
  • For an Extra Challenge: While the first student is acting, if another student thinks he/she knows who the character is, have that student join in the action. The challenge is to have student B act as his/her character, and also interact with character A in the context of the scene! You can have as many people enter the scene as you like. At some point say, “Freeze”! to stop the action. Ask students to determine which characters are being portrayed. Were the students thinking of the right characters?

How Old Am I?

  • Write the following on the board:Boy Scrooge, Young Scrooge, Old Scrooge.
  • Have each student pick one of the ages of Scrooge to portray – in their portrayals they should think about these things: how fast does their Scrooge move? how does his body look? Does he have aches and pains? Where? How does he feel emotionally at this age? What is his focus?
  • Have one student volunteer to be the observer. The observer will watch the Scrooges and try to distinguish what age each student is portraying.
  • Have your students walk around an open space as their Scrooge. One by one, the observer will tap each student’s shoulder and put each student in one of the three groups (Boy, Young Man, and Old Man) based on the word’s placement on the chalkboard.
  • At the end, see if everyone is in the right group. Talk about what movements, gestures, pace, and stance gave clues to the ages of Scrooge.
  • You can repeat this exercise again as much as you’d like with different observers.

Three Changes

  • Divide your class into pairs.
  • Have each pair sit across from one another and observe the other person. (What do they look like, what are they wearing, etc…). Give them two minutes to do this.
  • Now, have the students turn their backs to one another.
  • Each student will make three changes in his or her appearance, (take off jewelry, change hairstyle, take off glasses, etc…)
  • Now the students will face each other again and try to figure out the changes that were made.
  • You may continue this game by switching partners and/or adding more changes.
Charles Dickens, or How a Story Came to Be

Activity 1 (Writing from Life): Write a short narrative about growing up in your family. What events in your childhood affected you the most? What were the best times and the worst times? Why? Now think about how your childhood shaped who you are today: what you believe, how you behave, what kind of activities you enjoy, etc. How has your real life influenced the things you say, create and do on a daily basis? What about Charles Dickens? Did his childhood influence his writing and how he acted as an adult? As you read A Christmas Carol, think about which events in Dickens’ life may have affected how he created the characters and story.

Activity 2 (A Modern Carol): Write a modern adaptation of a scene from A Christmas Carol to reflect today’s issues. Which do you feel are the most important to address, especially around the holiday season? How are the characters affected by this issue? How will you use the characters, dialogue, and imagery to convey a message on this issue? Refer to the ACC script as an example if needed. Remember that the theme, action and characters are at the core of the play. Be sure to not lose these elements in your adaptation!

Dickens’ Revival: Our Traditions

Activity 1 (World Christmas): Dickens gave us most of our traditions, but how did Christmas traditions in other areas of the world come to be? Using the information from Christmas Around the World, or your own knowledge, choose a country with different Christmas traditions than the United States. Where do these traditions come from? What do they say about the culture? Where do people in this country place the greatest importance during Christmastime? Based on what you discover, choose one of these traditions to recreate and present to the class.

Activity 2 (Our Origins): Look back to the origins of our traditions. How would they have been different in Victorian London? Choose a tradition, such as food, caroling, cards, decorations, etc., and examine what it was like during the mid -1800s. For example, look at the lyrics to a carol, or designs for Christmas cards, or recipes for favorite holiday dishes that Victorians enjoyed. Now, choose one – follow that recipe for plum pudding, make a Christmas card, learn the words and music to a Victorian carol.

Activity 3 (A Christmas Character): Design and write a Christmas card from the perspective of one of the characters in a Christmas carol, or make a dish using what you think their favorite recipe would be. To do this exercise you must, in a sense, become that character – Scrooge, Mrs. Cratchit, Fred, one of the Ghosts, whoever. Examine what this helps you to understand about that character – you may need to reference things in that character’s life that are not present in the play, even come up with a back story.

Dickens’ Times: Victorian London

Activity (The Times are Changin’): Have students choose a particular invention that arose from the Industrial Revolution. It can be one mentioned in this article, in Viva la Revolution,  or one that students find in their own explorations. Ask them to track the importance and/or influence the particular invention has had through the decades following the Revolution. What does the invention do? Why was it revolutionary? Is a modern version of the invention still in use? If so, what has changed about it? Students should also investigate which kind of people used the invention during the Revolution and if anyone still uses it today. Students should present their finding the class. You may also assign this activity to small groups if you wish.

Dickens’ London and Our Chicago

Activity 1 (Then vs. Now): Research London in 1846 and 2006 respectively. Write an analytical paper, fictional journal entries, or craft a visual presentation comparing and contrasting the city of Charles Dickens’ day to the city of today. Or, research the city of Chicago in the 1840’s just after it officially became a city. Compare and contrast the London and your hometown during that era and present your findings to the class. In either focus, keep in mind: are there any neighborhoods that are culturally or economically similar? Do London and Chicago’s neighborhoods follow a pattern?

Activity 2 (Old vs. New): Much of what an artist does, especially a writer, involves observing the world around them and paying attention to many details. Go on a walking tour of your neighborhood or the neighborhood of your school – or take a tour with your classmates. Carry notebooks with you to take notes about the buildings you see – how many buildings are old? How many are brand new? Are there any places where a new building is right next to an old one? Have older buildings been renovated to become new ones? What do you think these juxtapositions say about the character of Chicago? What do you imagine your city was like 100 years ago? Journal or free-write in class in response to what you find.

Two for Tea!

Activity (Food and Heritage): Take a look at your personal family heritage. Are there any traditions that place primary importance on good food and good fellowship? Try to think of things that happen fairly regularly (daily or weekly – up to monthly) rather than special holidays like Thanksgiving or even Christmas. Do most cultures have a tradition like England’s “Afternoon Tea?” Have a discussion or write responses to the idea of conversation and food in combination being a universal aspect of all cultures. Do you agree with that idea? Why or why not?

A History of Spirits

Activity 1 (Our Own Ghost Stories): Think of some other ghost stories you’ve heard. List a few of them, and describe their stories and characters. Try to think of ghost stories from different cultures and/or time periods. List the major themes. What themes are present in all or most of these ghost stories, or those you are familiar with? Are they popular or obscure? Why do you think this is?

Activity 2 (Designing the Ghosts): Research the role of a designer in a stage production. Think about what you would do as a stage designer to create the atmosphere and convey the themes in A Christmas Carol. As a costume designer, how would you handle the costumes of the four ghosts in the play? How would you portray them with colors and light as a lighting designer? If you were a sound designer, what noises would they make and how would their voices sound? What would you do to make each of them unique? How does this compare to the set for Goodman’s production of A Christmas Carol? Choose a design perspective and create drawings, plans, and justification for your design. Present your work to the class.

Other Activities
A Christmas Carol

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page to stage
From Page to Stage

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Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men

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Teddy Ferrara

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Measure for Measure

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By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

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Bayard Rustin speaking to a crowd in 1965. Photo by Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (via Wikimedia Commons)
The March on Washington

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Momma’s Boyz

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