When I was in high school, the excited countdown to summer vacation began right after Easter.
Conversely, the dread of being back in a classroom began long before the arrival of Labor Day. It’s not that I didn’t like learning or doing homework but, rather, that I saw June-August as a glorious stretch of freedom to write stories, go to the movies, and work on my tan out by the swimming pool. How could so much fun possibly be compressed to a scant three months? The following lesson plans focus on making the most of time off – a luxury you may not truly appreciate until you join the workforce and only earn two weeks of vacation a year.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. What’s your idea of the perfect summer vacation?
2. Describe the best vacation you’ve had so far.
3. Stay at home or travel somewhere?
4. If you could graduate early by attending summer school every year, would you do it?
5. If you had to take a job for the summer, what would you most like to do (and why)?
6. Would you rather have three months off every summer or a two-week break every quarter? Why?
7. If you could have three consecutive months off from school, would you choose summer or a different season? Explain your answer.
8. Have you ever had a summer crush? Did it last after summer was over? Why or why not?
9. If you could be a foreign exchange student for one summer, where would you go (and why)?
It’s going to be a long and boring summer at Camelot: no dragons to slay, no damsels to rescue, no travelers to escort through the forest. The knights are restless and need something useful to do. “Hey, I know what!” declares Sir Lancelot. “Why don’t we coach our young squires how to play softball in a courtly and chivalrous way?”
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which the knights attempt to explain the rules of the game to young players that clearly see no point to it.
In the 1978 musical, “Grease,” teenagers Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsen fall in love over summer break and then part ways, not realizing their paths will cross again on the same high school campus.
Your assignment: The lovestruck teens in your own movie are initially pleased to discover that – despite attending different high schools – they’ve both been accepted to the same internship program. Imagine the awkwardness when they next discover that his widowed father and her divorced mother are dating each other. Write a one-page synopsis of the complications that unfold and how these relationships are resolved.
KEEPING TO THE BACKGROUND
It’s a fact that a number of famous painters used apprentices to fill in their background scenery for them, thus freeing the masters to focus on the main subject. Not only was it a way for hungry art students to earn a little money but also to quietly observe the techniques and brushstrokes of a genius at work.
Your assignment: The protagonist in your film has landed a coveted summer job with Leonard da Vinci. One day while da Vinci has stepped out, the subject of his latest painting – Mrs. Gherardini – stops by the studio to see how her portrait is coming along. Write a two-page scene in which the art student tries to learn the secret behind Mrs. Gherardini’s enigmatic smile.
FANCY MEETING YOU HERE
When I was a junior in high school, my mother was not amused by my attraction to a cute guy on the wrestling team. Fearing that we might start dating during the upcoming summer vacation – and this being a time that predated email, cell phones and texting - she offered to send me to cooking school in Paris in order to make me inaccessible. I’m wondering if it ever occurred to her I could meet someone an ocean away that she’d like even less…
Your assignment: What does a king do when his only daughter, the princess, is spending way too much time with the court jester? To break up the budding romance, he tells her that she’ll be summering in the country with a maiden aunt. En route, she meets a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom. Is it a lovely twist of Fate or did Papa have something to do with aiming Cupid’s arrow? Write a three-page scene in which the prince confesses the summer set-up was all part of a merger for their respective kingdoms.
JANE AUSTEN, SOCCER CHAMP
The summer camp experience is no longer about s’mores, campfire sing-a-longs, and sleeping under the stars. Today there are opportunities to attend space camp, work backstage in summer stock productions, master new skills in a favorite sport, match wits with wizards and warriors, live on a sustainable farm, and have jam sessions with professional musicians.
Your assignment: Choose any famous person from history and define a modern-day summer camp experience that would be completely out of his/her comfort zone. Write a two-page scene about this individual’s first day with fellow campers.
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 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.