The following activities will help familiarize your students with the plot of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, forge connections between a variety of classroom subjects, and encourage creative responses to the opera. They are designed to be accessible to a wide array of ages and experience levels.

Destiny vs. Agency: Choosing to Leave it on the Road
Discuss trauma, healing, and the quest for forgiveness with your students in a safe, serious way. Then invite students to create and perform a poem for two voices exploring these themes.

The Man in the Mirror: Finding, Seeing, and Loving Yourself
Students will deepen their understanding of the book and opera while exploring aspects of their own identities through a pair of “This I Believe” essays: One essay will be a personal essay about an aspect of the student’s identity; the second will be from the perspective of Charles from Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Both essays will explore one key belief that the speaker holds dear as well as the event(s) that shaped that belief. 

Peculiar Grace in a Dangerous Place: Considering Race, Gender, and Sexuality
Students will create a memory collage. Using an approach similar to the opera’s layering effect, they can explore the moments in Charles’s life that shape his character and motivations.

These activities directly support the following ELA-Literacy Common Core Strands:

Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Create interpretive and responsive texts to demonstrate knowledge and a sophisticated understanding of the connections between life and the literary work.

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.