Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Bill Irwin: All in a Day's Work
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities
Tips - Managing resources and student activities
Community Connections - Real world actions for students after completion of the lesson


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Personal computer: (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional).
Bookmarked sites:

Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links to distribute to students. Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class.
  • The Internet Movie Database
    Students will use the glossary section of the Internet Movie Database to research what a director, producer, choreographer, etc. does.

    Students will use this dictionary site to research the definitions of the roles that they could not find on the site.

  • Quiet Revelry: The Bill Irwin Home Page
    A site that students can access for a biography and listing of Bill Irwin's past performances.

  • Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson
    This is a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. The students will use this site to choose a fairy tale to perform.

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales
    There is a collection of 209 Grimm's fairy tales at this site. The students will use this site to choose a fairy tale to perform.

Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
Students will need the following supplies:
  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils
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Introductory Activity:

One class period

  • Ask how many students go to the movies and/or plays. Discuss what they like about movies or plays and why they like to go to them. Ask if anyone is interested in getting into show business when they grow up.

  • Then introduce the subject of the immediate lesson. Does anyone know who Bill Irwin is? List each of his credentials one at a time and see how many more students recognize who he is. By the end of the list, most students should have some idea of who he is.
    • 1989's "Largely New York" was Irwin's original work that was developed at The Seattle Repertory Theater City Center and The Kennedy Center. It ran on Broadway and received five Tony nominations including "Best Play," "Best Actor" and "Best Director," as well as several other prominent awards.
    • On "Northern Exposure," he played "The Flying Man" who wooed Marilyn.
    • He performed a solo dance in the movie "My Blue Heaven," starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin.
    • Starred in "Fool Moon" with clown David Shiner on Broadway.
    • He played Lou Lou Who, the father of Cindy Lou Who, in the movie "Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
    • He can be seen almost daily as Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street in the Elmo's World portion of the show.
  • Begin to explain to your students that Bill Irwin has a long list of credentials and job titles. These include:
    • Actor
    • Director
    • Producer
    • Choreographer
    • Performance artist
    • Vaudeville clown
    • Dancer
    • Writer
  • Divide the class equally in 8 groups, one for each of his jobs. Each group is responsible for defining the job and detailing what the responsibilities are for each role. Give each group the JOB RESPONSIBLITIES ORGANIZER. Explain that the groups should answer the questions on the handout and be prepared to share the information with the rest of the class.

  • Each group will report to the class the responsibilities for each role. Explain to your students that they will be creating a production and that each group will fulfill the responsibilities of the roles they just researched.

    Learning Activity:

    Two class periods

  • Show the GREAT PERFORMANCES episode, "BILL IRWIN, CLOWN PRINCE." Tell your students to focus on "their" jobs so they can see how Bill Irwin is able to juggle all of his different jobs. After each segment ask your students to identify the roles he was fulfilling and to explain what they learned about the responsibilities of the different roles.
    • Clown and Training/Education section - first 15 minutes of show
    • Writer and Experimentation with humans and technology - 15:00 to 25:00 of the show;
    • Actor and discussion about work in "Waiting for Godot" - 25:00 to 30:00 of the show
    • Creator/Writer of "Fool Moon" - 30:00 to 35:00
    • Playwright in Residence Program - 35:00 to 44:00
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    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

    Two to seven class periods

  • For the culminating activity, students will select a fairy tale of their own choice and perform it. Those who were the "directors" will serve as the directors of the play. The "choreographers" will take on that role. There can be several different acting groups going on at the same time, allowing more people to write, direct, produce and choreograph the short stories. Directors may also have to take on multiple jobs if there are not enough actors to fill the roles. Possible fairy tales include: For any of the following, go to for a comprehensive collection of fairy tales and stories by Hans Christian Andersen.
    • The Three Little Pigs
    • The Princess and the Pea
    • The Little Mermaid
    • The Emperor's New Suit
    • The Ugly Duckling
    For any of the following Grimm's fairy tales, go to There is a collection of 209 tales at this site.
    • The Frog King
    • Rapunzel
    • Hansel and Gretel
    • Cinderella
    • Little Snow White
    • Little Red-Cap
    • Rumpelstiltskin
  • While the writers work on the dialogue and the script, the actors should begin to learn their roles and work on costumes. The choreographer can work on different moves and blocking the scenes, for example. In the meantime, all of the cast members can begin work on the scenery, the playbill or program and arranging times to perform their stories for other classes in the elementary and middle school.

  • Once the writers have finalized their scripts, everyone should begin to memorize their lines and rehearsals should then begin in earnest.

  • Allow for two or three class sessions for rehearsals, depending on the capabilities of the students.

  • For the final class, students will perform their fairy tales.

  • After all of the performances, ask the students to reflect on their experiences as directors, writers, choreographers, producers, and actors. This should have a completely student-driven process. Possible prompts or questions include:
    • What was the hardest part of the process?
    • What did you enjoy the most about this activity?
    • What would you change?
    • What was the hardest job? Why?
    • What was the easiest job? Why?

    Cross-Curricular Extensions:
    • Write a biography about famous public figures who have also taken on multiple roles in their lives. For example:
      • Michael Jordan - athlete, businessman, cultural icon
      • Oprah Winfrey - talk show host, author, actress, publisher
      • Anna Quindlen - Nobel Prize winner in literature, mother, activist
      • Princess Diana - teacher, royalty, mother, peace maker, activist
      • Arthur Ashe - athlete, AIDS activist
      • Jimmy Carter - president of the United States, farmer, statesman, professor, humanitarian, peacekeeper
    Community Connections:
    • Perform your fairy tale for the younger students in the school.
    • Publish an "illustrated version" of the script for the school library or the classroom libraries in the school. During the performances, take photographs and those images can be laid out in PageMaker or Microsoft Word.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students