February 17th, 2005
Lon Chaney: Three Faces of Lon Chaney
Lesson Overview


Lon Chaney was the “man of a thousand faces.” The legendary character actor — known for the title roles of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, as well as for the role of Fagin in OLIVER TWIST — developed his craft by mimicking and doing pantomime to amuse his deaf parents. Though he is most often remembered for his work in horror films, he firmly established himself as a character actor, makeup artist, director, and screenwriter. In this lesson, students will watch the Lon Chaney episode of American Masters, read chapters from three original books on which Chaney’s films were based, and use a reading strategy called Reader’s Theater to adapt each chapter into a script. After performing their interpretations of the chapters, students compare their own work to Chaney’s.

Grade Levels

High School (Grade 9 to 12th)

Time Allotment

4 lessons

Subject Matter

English, Drama


Students will be able to:

  • Work on comprehension and understanding of text through repeated readings and interpretation
  • Relate information of a text through dialogue rather than pure narration
  • Hone decoding and reading fluency skills by emphasizing reading and repetition
  • Adapt a chapter of narrative and turn it into script form
  • Work cooperatively in a team situation


  • Pencils and/or pens
  • Highlighters
  • Each group should have a computer to download the chapter from the Internet. They will then use the file to adapt the chapter into their own script.
  • Make sure that the computers are networked with a printer because all of the students will need a copy of the script.

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 word processing software like Microsoft Word

Selected Web sites


Language Arts:

Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

  • Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of literary texts (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, myths, poems, biographies, autobiographies, science fiction, supernatural tales, satires, parodies, plays, American literature, British literature, world and ancient literature)
  • Relates personal response or interpretation of the text with that seemingly intended by the author

Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

  • Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author’s purpose (e.g., organizational patterns, such as cause-and-effect or chronological order; imagery, personification, figures of speech, sounds in poetry; literary and technical language; formal and informal language; point of view; characterization; irony; narrator)
  • Understands the philosophical assumptions and basic beliefs underlying an author’s work (e.g., point of view, attitude, and values conveyed by specific language; clarity and consistency of political assumptions)

Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

  • Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade)
  • Uses a variety of verbal and nonverbal techniques for presentations (e.g., modulation of voice; varied inflection; tempo; enunciation; physical gestures; rhetorical questions; word choice, including figurative language, standard English, informal usage, technical language) and demonstrates poise and self-control while presenting
  • Understands how style and content of spoken language varies in different contexts (e.g., style of different radio news programs, everyday language compared to language in television soap operas, tones of news bulletins on Aserious@ and youth-oriented stations) and how this influences interpretation of these texts

Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

  • Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade)
  • Understands effects of style and language choice in visual media (e.g., use of long-shots to signify both real and metaphoric isolation; rapid editing in a television commercial; juxtaposition of text and color in a billboard; words in headlines intended to attract attention)

Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs

  • Uses desktop publishing software to create a variety of publications

Inside This Lesson


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