Information for teachers:

Questions Children May Want To Ask Susannah Winslow

In the first part of the performance, children will have heard Susannah talk about many subjects such as: how she came over on the Mayflower from Holland/England; the first winter here; her house, vegetable garden, 50 acres, sheep and pigs; the interior of the house including furniture, books and inhabitants; the food they grow, hunt, fish, and eat; dinnertime at the Winslows; schools in Plymouth and nearby towns; church and other behavior on Sundays.

Sometimes Susannah doesn’t quite get to the last subject. (She begins thinking about how she wants to be sure to leave enough time for questions and interaction so her last subject is schools.) Therefore, you might want to have some of the children listening to see if she talks about Sundays. If she doesn’t that would make a good first question. (“Does everybody go to church? Is Sunday a regular day otherwise?”) Other good possible questions are:
• How do you care for your children when they are sick?
• What games do children play ? Do they enjoy sports? What toys do they have?
• What happens if someone breaks the law?
• How often do you take baths and showers? Do you have a bathroom? Do you have a tub? Where do you get your water?

As you can see I am writing these questions from the children’s point of view. Susannah herself would never have heard of a shower and would probably not be too familiar with the concept of “sports.” She will say so as she answers, of course, and then continue on to tell about what she does know on the subject.

As Susannah Winslow, I am more than happy to answer any questions. But the reason I suggest some of the ones above is that in my first half dozen performances of the show I have noticed that some questions bring forth wonderful information that make for increased knowledge of the time period ( not to mention subjects that you can then expound on in class) but some of the questions can lead us down a dead end.

Let me give you an example of this. If children ask me, “Do you have a TV? Do you know what a car is? Do you have anything made out of plastic? Have you ever heard of an airplane?” the show can get a little boring as Susannah simply says “No” a lot! Of course she tries to turn it around and talk about how she does travel or how they do entertain themselves but still it is usually much better for children to ask about her life and what she does rather than asking about things she doesn’t do and doesn’t know about.

Two other things you may wish to keep in mind: the first is that if you tell the children that I am Susannah and I am living in 1653 right now and they can ask about how I live right now it will put the emphasis on the present. It’s fun when we are all really pretending that I am living this life at the present time. You’ll notice this if they ask “How do you make candles?” rather than “So how did you used to make candles back then?” On the other hand each audience varies tremendously and if one or two children anchor us in the past tense, that’s where we’ll probably stay, which is fine.

The last thought that you might want to consider is having the children listen for attitudes and points of view and prejudices. If you talk to them about this beforehand, they can very easily listen for things they don’t agree with and for things they find very strange and different from their own beliefs. If you urge them to listen for such things we might have a very lively discussion! Explain to them that it’s fine to, very politely, question Susannah about her beliefs.

Here are some examples of the polite(!) child talking to Susannah: “When you said you left England to worship God the way you choose, I wondered, can people be all different religions in Plymouth? Would it be O.K. to be Catholic? Jewish? Church of England? “ Or perhaps a much more basic question: “Goodwife (or Mrs.) Winslow, did you say that everybody has to go to church on Sunday? What if you don’t want to?”

And on other subjects, perhaps a child will ask: “Why did you say the girls don’t ever climb trees? Why can’t the girls play with balls and kites like the boys?” Or, “Why can’t children talk at meals?” Or (this was in fact asked by a 5th grader in Dedham), “Do you always do what your husband tells you to do? “Or “Do you think the school teacher should be allowed to whip the children?”Or “I’m a vegetarian. Would I have to eat deer and rabbit and squirrel if I lived in Plymouth?”

Thank you for reading all of these suggestions and for thinking about which ones might be interesting or fun to work on with your children as you prepare them to meet someone from a very different century. On the other hand, having once been an elementary classroom teacher myself I am fully aware that this may not be the week that you have time to fit in all these extras. If that is the case, do not worry! Your class will have an interesting, educational experience with Susannah Winslow regardless of almost anything other than a fire drill or really dreadful assembly behavior!

Thank you for anything at all that you are able to do to make this performance work in your school setting. Susannah Winslow is very honored to be asked to come and speak to your students.

Suggestions For Classroom Discussion After The Performance:

1. What did you already know about the Pilgrims that Susannah Winslow talked about?
2. What were some of the new things you learned from her?
3. What did you learn that surprised you?
4. What would you still like to find out about? How can you get this information?
5. In what ways do you think the Pilgrims had better lives than we do now?
6. In what ways were their lives not as good?
7. Would you rather live in the year 1653 or in the year 2000?
8. Values:
        a. Every society has values. What values did Susannah Winslow talk about that you agree with?
        b. What values of hers do you disagree with?
9. Do you have ancestors who came over on the Mayflower? If not, how did they get here and why did they come? Suggestion: interview each other and interview your teacher and your parents and read “Molly’s Pilgrim” by Barbara Cohen.

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