The following activities will help familiarize your students with the plot of Werther, forge connections between a variety of classroom subjects, and creative responses to the opera. They are designed to be accessible to a wide array of ages and experience levels.
Letters to My Love
Love letters play an important role in the relationship between Charlotte and Werther. Invite students will create “magnetic poetry” using a list of words related to the notion of love. Then have them read and analyze selections from Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther and write a love letter of their own from Werther’s perspective.
Have students listen to and analyze four arias from Werther (“O Nature, pleine de grace,” “Lorsque l’enfant revient d’un voyage,” “Va! Laisser couler mes larmes,” and “Pourquoi me reveiller”). Then invite them to create a modern translation of one of these arias.
Have your students ever felt blue? Teach students to recognize and notate the blues scale, identify stylistic features of blues music, scat, and improvise a blues melody with an original blues text. Use this opportunity to listen to the work of noted blues artists like Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Muddy Waters, and ask students to think about how different kinds of music express sadness or sorrow.
Have students create a mood board for a modern production of Werther. Guide them through an analysis of the opera’s libretto and music, and then support them as they use these analyses to design their own production.
“I AM” Selfie
Many students struggle with anxiety, and the pressure to consistently perform at a high level may leave them feeling as if they are never enough. Invite students to come up with a list of positive attributes about themselves. Using Bitmoji or another portrait app, have them create a selfie that incorporates these positive attributes. Finally, share these portraits over a virtual learning platform or post them around your classroom.
Note that the Google Classroom associated with Werther also includes a collection of materials designed to support students and educators struggling with mental health challenges. These include stress management bingo, mental health myth busters, and first aid tips for recognizing and responding to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
COMMON CORE CONNECTIONS
These activities directly support the following ELA-Literacy Common Core Strands:
Seek to understand other perspectives and cultures and communicate effectively with audiences or individuals from varied backgrounds.
Interpret, analyze, and evaluate narratives, poetry, and drama, aesthetically and philosophically by making connections to: other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations.
Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.