This guide was written by Marjie Chud.
As you scroll through this guide you will find curriculum connections, notes from the costume designer, discussion questions, units of study and more. You will also be able to click on any templates, worksheets and/or graphic organizers. If you wish to create your own lesson plan from the study guide copy, we have created a lesson plan template for your use. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Karen Gilodo, Associate Artistic Director, Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With favourite tunes such as “Jolly Holiday”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, Mary Poppins is a familiar tale for many of us, harkening back to the nostalgia of our childhood. And yet the themes still ring true for young audiences today. How do family members connect with one another? Why is it important to find the fantastical in every day? What does it mean to believe in your potential to be “practically perfect”? This play tells the story of a family that is dealing with very real concerns. When nanny Mary Poppins blows into the Banks household just as the “threads of their lives are all raveling undone”, she provides just a “spoonful of medicine” to begin the healing. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, discover they have the wisdom and heart to affect change as they come to connect to their father and he connects with them. Ultimately, like this season’s theme at YPT, it takes the spirited motivation of these children to change the world around them.
We hope this study guide will help you to prepare students for the play and more fully integrate the performance in to your curriculum. The pre- and post-show lessons encourage reflection and engagement with some of the show’s central themes through improvisation, drama and movement exercises, storytelling, writing and discussion. The activities will help students to better understand the complexities of the relationships of the characters in the play, examine the underlying themes, and reflect on their theatre going experience.
- Kindergarten Curriculum
- Dance and Movement
- Family Studies
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
SEVEN ANCESTRAL TEACHINGS
- Finding the Fantastical in the Everyday
- Reconnecting with Family and Community
- Believing in Your Potential
By participating in these activities, students will:
- demonstrate an awareness of themselves as dramatists, actors, dancers and musicians through engagement in the arts
- use the arts as a way in to engage, explore, investigate and communicate ideas
- use problem solving strategies on their own and with others when experimenting with the skills, processes and techniques uses in drama, dance, and music.
- demonstrate an understanding of character by adopting thoughts, feelings and gestures relevant to the role being played
- develop an appreciation of multiple perspectives
- apply the creative process using drama, dance and writing to communicate feelings, ideas and story
- communicate feelings and ideas to familiar audience (e.g. classmates)
- understand and apply the elements of drama, including character, relationships, setting, tension, focus, and emphasis
- work individually and collaboratively to generate, gather and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience
- describe some of the ways in which people’s roles, relationships, and responsibilities relate to who they are and what their situation is, and how and why changes in circumstance might affect people’s roles, relationships and responsibilities as well as their sense of self
- investigate some aspects of the interrelationship between their identity/sense of self, their different roles, relationships, and responsibilities, and various situations in their daily lives
- demonstrate an understanding that they and other people have different roles, relationships, and responsibilities, and that all people should be treated with respect, regardless of their roles, relationships, and responsibilities
- identify some of the specific people, places and things in their life
The Banks family of Cherry Tree Lane is in disarray. The children, Jane and Michael, are refusing to behave. To make matters worse, Mr. and Mrs. Banks are too busy with their own problems to engage with them. Mr. Banks decides to put an advertisement in the paper for a new nanny. The children write their own advertisement, but Mr. Banks destroys it. Yet somehow, Mary Poppins appears with the advertisement in hand and perfectly matches the children’s desires. She becomes the children’s nanny, and it is immediately clear that she will not tolerate any nonsense. While the children are adapting to Mary’s rules, she introduces them to the delightful chimney sweep Bert, and together they go on great, imaginative adventures. Meanwhile, Mr. Banks is facing difficulties at the bank where he works. He must decide between investing in a dubious money-making idea or supporting a good man with an investment that could cost Mr. Banks his job if it fails. When Mary decides to leave and “the holy terror” Miss Andrews takes her place, the children and their parents must learn on their own the importance of family, compassion, and imagination
Costume Designer’s Note
by William Layton
When I was asked to design the costumes for Mary Poppins the first thing I did was read the original stories by P. L. Travers. I always look at the original story and illustrations when I am going to design a famous story/movie in order to make our own version. I have done this before, for example, when I designed The Hobbit and The Wizard of Oz.
The next stage was to read the script that we will be using. I had a brief conversation with the director, Thom Allison. He said he wanted blazing colour. He also wanted the costumes to reflect each character and tell the story through what they were wearing. He emphasized how important costumes were to the production, because most actors would be playing many parts.
I then did a lot of research. I looked up what people such as the chimney sweeps, housekeepers, bankers, and children were wearing around 1910. I made a folder filled with images for each character that the director could then look at. After reviewing the images with the director, we had a clearer idea for the characters and I had enough information to draw sketches of each character in detail. The overall look of the show began to take form.
I then showed the pencil sketches to the director. Fortunately we were on the same page, so copies of these sketches were then given to the Head of Wardrobe. It is important that she became involved as early as possible because the Wardrobe Department makes the sketches come alive in 3-D. I then painted the final sketches and shared them again with the director.
The Head of Wardrobe was given the final sketches so that she could decide how they could be achieved with the time and the budget provided. Some costumes are built from scratch and some are bought. We made the Mrs. Corry’s bright fantasy scene costumes a priority because they are totally unique to this show. And, of course, Mary Poppins herself was a big priority.
The Head of Wardrobe and I then met with the cutter, who makes the patterns for the costumes so that the sewers can stitch them together. This is an extremely important part of the creative process as they are the ones who interpret the designs.
Another very important part of the process is shopping for the fabric as many design decisions are made at this stage as well.
Each actor is called for fittings, where they try on all their costumes. The many costume changes are a big design consideration. There is a lot of dancing and that also must be taking into consideration so that the costumes can be durable enough.
Many design decisions are made when doing research, when shopping for fabric, when fitting, during the dress rehearsals and right up to the opening of the show. Long hours and many people work hard so that they will be, as Mary Poppins says, “PRACTICALLY PERFECT ‘ by the time you come and see the show!
Brimstone: Sulphur; in the past it was believed to have medical properties to cure ailments and was often mixed with treacle or syrup to make it easier to tolerate.
Character: A person or animal in a story, novel, or play.
Director: A person who is responsible for the overall production of a show – usually with responsibility for casting actors, leading rehearsals, and collaborating with the designers.
Designer: A person who is responsible for the concept and execution of one or more design elements in a show (i.e. set and props, sound, costumes, lights).
Illusion: A deceptive appearance or impression.
Mime: The use of gesture, movement, and facial expression without words or sounds to communicate actions, character, relationships or emotions.
Monologue: A speech delivered by a character intended to provide further insight into the character.
Moral: A lesson that can be derived from a story or experience.
Nostalgia: A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
Responsibility: An obligation; a required action.
Status: The relative social, professional, or other standing of someone or something.
Tableau: A silent motionless image created by actors to represent a scene, theme or abstract idea.
Teacher in Role: A teaching strategy in which the teacher provides input into a drama activity by playing a role in the drama.
Treacle: British term for molasses (thick syrup).
Wisdom: The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
Writing in Role: Writing done from the point of view of a character in a drama.
PRE-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- What does it mean to be fair? What does it mean to be “good?”
- What does judgement mean? How does it feel to be judged?
- What does respect mean? What are some ways to show respect? How does one gain respect?
- What are the responsibilities of the members of a family?
- What responsibilities do children have today?
- How can music and dance help to tell a story?
Pre-Show Warm-up Activity: Uses of an Object
Through participation in this exercise, students will learn to make an ordinary object become extraordinary by using it in a unique way.
Scarf, empty water bottle or any other “ordinary” object
- Sit in a circle.
- Hold up an object, such as a scarf, and tell students, “This is NOT a scarf.”
- Take the object and mime the use of it in an extraordinary way. For example, place the scarf on the floor and stand on it, miming surfing, or shape it into a bundle and rock it in your arms.
- Identify what the object has become by saying, for example. ““It is a surf board,” or “It is my baby,” as you continue to mime its use.
- Pass the object around the circle with each student improvising a new use for the object. Challenge students to avoid repeat uses for the object. Encourage students to act on their impulse when choosing a new use for the object. If they are having difficulties, suggest that they manipulate the object for inspiration.
- How did you come up with your idea?
- Did you face any challenges and, if so, why?
- What does finding the extraordinary in the ordinary mean?
Pre-Show Activity: Statues
Students will explore how their body moves and is influenced by a variety of types of music and the environment around them.
- Space in which to move.
- A variety of instrumental music recordings
- Ask students to find a space where they have enough room to move independent of others. Students can define their own space by stretching their bodies out as wide as they can ensuring they are not able to reach anyone else.
- Explain to students that when the music is played they are to dance/move within their defined space. When the music stops, they freeze.
- Once you have tried several rounds with the same music, ask the students to begin to move around the space when the music is playing and to freeze like a statue wherever they end up when it stops. Change the music each time encouraging students to allow their movement to be influenced by the music.
- After a few rounds of this, ask students to find a partner.
- Try the same exercise with students facing each other. Challenge them to dance and freeze directly facing their partner.
- What were the challenges in becoming a statue?
- How did the activity change when you were moving through the space?
- How were your movements influenced by the music? By your classmates?
- Did working with a partner influence your dance movement or the shape of your statue?
- Still using the music, instruct students to freeze in a tableau when the music stops that represents a word that is called out. Words may be connected to a theme (e.g. animals, structures, shapes etc.) and the number of students that work together in a tableau can change. Call out the word or theme each time before the music begins.
- Now, instead of freezing, ask students to move to the music around the space. Instruct students to move in unison or in small groups, improvising collective movement pieces based on a word or theme you call out.
- Create a theme based “statue” garden:
- Did working with a partner influence your dance movement or the shape of your statue?
- Choose a theme (i.e. household items, elements in the environment, animals, historical figures, original characters).
- Ask students to determine who or what object or character could fit that theme.
- Instruct students to write a monologue (see Glossary) from the perspective of their object or character.
- Like in Mary Poppins, create a living statue garden instructing students to perform their monologues in role.
Pre-Show Culminating Activity: Machines
Using movement and voice, students will explore their individuality and their responsibility as part of a community.
Space in which to move.
- Standing in a circle, ask each student one by one to say their name out loud in a unique way accompanied by an action. Ask the class to mirror/repeat the name and action collectively each time.
- Discuss: What is a machine? What are some examples of machines? Why do machines work? What can cause them to break down?
- Pair students. Ask students to share their name and action with each other, then combine them to create a simple machine. It is ok if the actions or sound of names are adapted as they create their new machines.
- Combine pairs of students to make groups of 4 to share and create a new machine with 4 names and actions.
- Keep growing this exercise until the whole class has combined to create one machine.
- What did you enjoy about working with a partner?
- What were some of the challenges in combining your names and actions?
- How did it feel as you added more parts to your machine?
- When did the machine(s) work best?
- What was your responsibility in the machine?
- How is a class/school/family/community/world like a machine?
- What were some of the challenges in combining your names and actions?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of members of a class/school/family/community/world?
- Have your responsibilities changed as you get older? How?
- What else could cause someone’s roles and responsibilities to change?
- Students can create machines in smaller groups based on themes or for specific purposes.
- The class machines can be used to devise scenes or for story writing.
POST-SHOW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- What does Mary mean by, “practically perfect”?
- What responsibility do members of a family have to one another?
- What role does Bert serve in the story?
- What do each of the characters learn about each other and themselves by the end of the play?
- How does Mary use her magic to teach Jane and Michael?
- What is the wisdom that the children share with their parents?
- What do Mr. and Mrs. Banks learn from Michael and Jane?
- Where do we see forgiveness in the play?/li>
- Why do Mrs. Banks’s guests not show up for her party?
- What does Jane mean when she asks her father if he looks for a “good man” or a “good idea” when making a decision for the bank’s money?
- Why do you think Mr. Banks makes the decision give the bank loan Mr. Northbrook? Is this a “good” decision?
- How are Miss Andrew and Mary Poppins the same and how are they different?
- Why does Jane say that she and Michael do not need Mary anymore?
- Why does Mary leave the Banks family the first time? Why does she return? Why does she leave at the end? Do you think she will come back again?
Post-show Warm-up Activity: Big, Bigger, Biggest
This physical and vocal warm up is a fun way to play with the concept of exaggeration.
Space in which to move.
- Ask students to stand in a circle.
- The first student makes a single syllable sound and simultaneous action. Label this as “big”.
- The student standing next to them, exaggerates both the sound and the action slightly. This is “bigger”.
- The entire class now performs the “biggest” exaggeration of the sound and movement all together.
- Continue the pattern around the circle.
- What did it feel like to watch your idea become exaggerated?
- What happens to the sound and action as it becomes the biggest? Does it mean the same thing?
See activity below.
Post-Show Activity: One Up
Students will use improvisation and exaggeration to explore the idea of status to understand how choices are made by characters in the play.
- Direct students to find a partner and determine who is A and who is B.
- Partner A begins by making up a simple statement about something that occurred earlier that day.
- Partner B responds with a statement that attempts to outdo the other.
- Instruct the partners to continue to carry on the conversation trying to one-up the other. Prepare them with how you will ask them to stop.
- Allow this to go on for a while so that the conversation becomes ridiculous (and probably quite loud!).
- Did anyone “win” in the conversation?
- Who had the most power?
- What tactics or what did you use to try to one-up your partner?
- What does status mean? How was it used in this activity?
- In Mary Poppins, who has the power? Does it change?
Repeat the same exercise only this time with hard luck stories and discuss how status can also be derived from sympathy.
Post-Show Activity: Creating Super-self Characters
Students will reflect on their own identity and sense of self and their role in their families, school and communities by employing their creativity and imagination.
- blank sheets of paper
- black board or white board
- possibly – slips of paper for younger students with the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” written in bold letters
- crayons, pencil crayons or markers
- Write the word SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS on the white or black board.
- Read the following dialogue to the class:
Jane: “But it doesn’t mean anything!”
Mary Poppins: “It can mean anything you want to…”
- Ask the students to close their eyes and imagine that they have a special power that is not visible. It has long been a part of them and is used only for good and only in the most serious situations.
- Distribute one sheet paper to each student.
- Instruct students to write the word SUPER at the top of their page, then using the remainder of the letters in any order to create a nonsensical word. Add this to the word SUPER. For example, SUPER – Gafriloc. This will now become the name of their Super- self character.
- Instruct students to draw their Super-self character below their name. Refer to the Costume Design note above for inspiration!
- For older students, they can also write a character description.
- Why did you choose this special power for your character?
- What are the abilities of this Super-self hero?
- How does this character use their power?
- How would having this special power change your life?
- Would it make it better or more challenging?
- Statues – students create a tableau of their Super-self character in action.
- Character walks – students embody their characters. Once they have had time to explore how they move, host a Super-self Runway Show. Students can introduce themselves in character at the end of the runway.
- Role-play: Brainstorm a scenario where the school/community/world might be in crisis. Create a class improvisation of an emergency Super-self meeting with teacher-in-role as the leader of the Super-selves. How will the Super-selves devise a plan to deal with the crisis?
Post-Show Activity: Practically Perfect Advertisements
Students will create advertisements for themselves reflecting on what makes them “practically perfect”.
- printed copies of the Kite template (see Appendix A)
- lined paper
- pens and Pencils
- scotch tape
- Distribute lined paper and writing instruments.
- Prompt students to reflect on ways in which they would describe themselves. Begin with, “What makes you ‘practically perfect’?”
- Ask students to record their ideas. Encourage them to think beyond physical characteristics. Note that for younger students they may draw pictures for their ideas or use single adjectives instead of full sentences.
- Jane and Michael create an advertisement for “The Perfect Nanny”. Prompt students with the following question: If someone wrote an advertisement for you, what would you want it to say? Consider, too, why they are looking for you.
- Ask students to use the ideas they have recorded on their brainstorming sheet to create an advertisement for themselves. You may also challenge older students with a limited number of words (e.g. Describe yourself in 25 words exactly.)
- Distribute the Kite template.
- After student have recorded their advertisement on the blank side of the kite, encourage them to decorate it in any way that they are inspired. The bows may be decorated as well.
- Attach string to the back of the kite where marked. Ensure that there is extra length at the bottom to create a tail for the bows and at the top in order to hang the kite.
**Please send photos of the kites to YPT as we would love to see what makes our audiences “practically perfect”!
Ontario Elementary Curriculum (Kindergarten, the Arts, Social Studies)
The Oxford Dictionary – online