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Kazan, Miller and the McCarthy Era
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students


Although director Elia Kazan won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement at the 1999 Academy Awards, his career and reputation have remained clouded by his 1952 decision to "name names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kazan's testimony not only diminished his reputation; it also led to a personal and artistic rupture with good friend and playwright Arthur Miller. In this set of learning activities, students will use the Miller-Kazan story as an introduction to the McCarthy era, one of the darkest times in America's cultural history By studying the Miller-Kazan relationship, students will also explore the political ramifications of censorship. After conducting research, students will present their information in an "exhibition" that showcases what they have learned about the Hollywood Blacklist and discrimination in America. Students will also perform several acts of The Crucible, an allegorical re-telling of the McCarthy era, using a reading strategy called Reader's Theater. They will then write a brief allegorical script that explores their own experience of discrimination.

Grade Level:
9th to 12th grade

Time Allotment:
  • Eight to twelve class periods for introductory activities, video, and subsequent discussions.
  • One to two class periods for presentations, depending on class size
  • Teachers should be aware that students will have to do a majority of the preparation for the Reader's Theater unit and the final project for homework.

Subject Matter:
  • English, Drama, American History

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  • Develop a stronger understanding of the text through repeated readings and interpretation.
  • Relate information and context of a text through dialogue rather than pure narration.
  • Hone their decoding and reading fluency skills.
  • Adapt a chapter of narrative into script form.
  • Work cooperatively in a team situation.
  • Use various types of presentation software.


National Standards:

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 1
Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical and observational narrative compositions.

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 6
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of literary passages and texts (e.g., fairy tales, folktales, fiction, nonfiction, myths, poems, fables, fantasies, historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies, chapter books)

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 5
Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 8
Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 9
Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

MCREL TECHNOLOGY, Level 4, Standard 2
Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs.

This lesson was prepared by: Anna Chan Rekate. Anna Chan Rekate is currently a High School English Teacher at Trevor Day School in New York City. Previously, she was the Upper School Coordinator at the Manhattan School for Children. She has also taught all subjects for the sixth and eighth grades at the City & Country School in New York City. Rekate has a master's degree in Educational Policy from Columbia University's Teachers College and a master's degree in Leadership and Supervision from Bank Street College of Education.

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