When I was in first grade at Riverside Elementary there was a Friday morning tradition called “Show and Tell” in which everyone was supposed to bring in something interesting to talk about.
This ran the gamut from toys and puppets to frogs, ant farms and weird looking rocks from the backyard, many of the latter purported to be genuine dinosaur parts. On this particular Friday, I intended to wow my classmates with something extraordinary. Not only would I show them the color illustrations from my “Peter Rabbit” book but I would also read the story aloud to them. My mother dropped me off at school early that day. Since my best friend was already there, we decided to steal a few extra minutes of fun on the swings before the bell rang. I carefully set my book on a bench by a tree and ran off to play, certain in my childhood innocence that no harm would come to it. When we came back, however, the book was gone. Even though the bookplate had my name on it, it was never found…or returned. Sadly, it was a loss that colored my impressions of school for the rest of the year, specifically, my feelings toward my classmates; I never looked at any of them in quite the same way after the stolen bunny book incident.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. Have you ever lost anything that was dear to your heart? What was it and what were the circumstances of losing it? Was it ever found?
2. Did you ever lose something that belonged to another person? Did you offer to replace it? Was the relationship the same afterwards? If not, how did it change?
3. What is the one possession you would be devastated to ever lose? Why is it irreplaceable to you?
4. What is the strangest place a lost item of yours ever turned up?
5. Have you ever kept something that you found? Why or why not?
6. To what lengths would you go to return a lost item to its rightful owner?
7. Would you ever loan anything to a careless friend? Why or why not?
8. Have you or a family member ever had luggage lost by an airline? How did you/they react to this?
9. What are some of the things you do in order to not lose any of your stuff?
10. Have you ever gotten lost from a group? What did you do?
THE MISSING MONA
In August of 1911, one of the world’s most famous paintings – the Mona Lisa – was stolen from The Louvre. Because the Paris museum was so well guarded, it was inconceivable to anyone that Mona could simply vanish off the wall. Two years later, it was learned that a thief named Vincenzo Perugia had donned one of the white smocks worn by Louvre staff, hidden overnight, and removed the painting from its frame. When the museum opened the next morning, he simply walked out the door with the rolled canvas hidden under his clothing and no one noticed. Perugia wasn’t arrested until 1913 when he tried to sell the painting to an art dealer in Italy.
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which the authorities question Vincenzo regarding his motives behind the theft.
THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE CLOSET
Have you ever had clothes vanish from your closet, only to reappear a few days later in exactly the same spot you were looking? Assuming that you don’t have a sibling who borrows your apparel without asking permission, the only possible explanation is that your closet is the portal to another dimension. Hey, it worked for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, didn’t it?
Your assignment: Write a two-page mime skit in which a pair of characters on either side of a center-stage closet respectively search for lost clothes and discover items they’re pretty sure they never bought. Although they don’t speak any dialogue, you’re welcome to incorporate music and sound effects in this comedic tableau.
HOW MUCH WAS THAT DOGGY IN THE WINDOW?
When a beloved pet is lost, we’ll do anything to try and find it, including offering a reward. It also goes without saying that the person who finds that pet and brings it back will be nothing less than a hero in the eyes of a grateful owner. But what if that same person had something to do with the pet’s disappearance in the first place?
Your assignment: Write a one-page film synopsis in which a high school student decides that the best way to impress a popular classmate and get her to go to the upcoming prom with him is to “find” her dog after it escaped from her backyard and gallantly turn down any offer of a reward. What he didn’t count on when he cleverly facilitated that escape, however, is that her cousin was visiting that day and it is actually the cousin’s pooch - or, rather, the pooch that she was dog-sitting - now in the thief’s possession. As if this weren’t enough of a wrinkle in his plan, the next door neighbor may have looked out the window to witness the dog-napping and wants a favor to keep silent about it. How can things possibly get any worse?
GPS ON THE BLINK
In 1960, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels was adapted (for the second time) to a fantasy adventure flick called The Lost World, the premise of which involved an expedition’s discovery of a mysterious jungle realm inhabited by dinosaurs, man-eating vegetation and savage tribesman. (This being produced in an era prior to computer generated wizardry, the featured dinos were actually lizards with doofy-looking glued on fins and horns.) In 1999, the storyline was resurrected for a television series which lasted three seasons prior to running out of money (and viewers).
Your assignment: Create five disparate characters for a new TV show in which a modern-day expedition discovers a secret – and hostile – civilization of Ancient Egyptians who apparently missed the memo that the 4th century B.C. is over. Write a two-page synopsis for the pilot episode which will introduce the recurring characters, identify their respective motives, give the protagonists their first major challenge, and close with a pulse-pounding cliffhanger.
There’s just no telling what kind of treasures will turn up in a lost and found bin at a community park. In this case, it’s a vintage brooch. Since it looks to be valuable, the park puts a notice in the local paper but leaves out just enough detail so that only the true owner can describe it accurately. When two people show up and supply exactly the same description – but with two different back-stories about the brooch’s history – the park superintendent is stymied insofar as which one is telling the truth.
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which the two claimants pitch their stories to the superintendent. When the latter leaves the room, however, the dynamics shift. Is it possible that these two strangers already knew each other…or is there a spark of chemistry that maybe they’d like to get to know each other better? Surprise us with a twist we didn’t see coming.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 30 books, 154 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.