Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Cost of Art

Thomas Lucey


Students experience difficult situations where they need to choose values. This lesson provides students with a role-playing opportunity to discover alternative ways of approaching these situations.


The student understands issues of personal concern: the rights and responsibilities of the individual under the U.S. Constitution, the importance of civil liberties, the role of conflict resolution and compromise and issues involving ethical behaviour

The student knows strategies for solving interpersonal conflicts without harming self and others (eg., peer mediation skills).


-Role Descriptor Sheet (see Associated File)
-Observer Sheet (see Associated File)
-Overhead to Summarize Observations
-Activity Involvement Checklist (see Assessment)


1. Duplicate the Observation Sheet for students. (See Associated File)
2.Duplicate the Role Player Descriptions sheet and cut the descriptions apart so they can be given to students involved in the role-play.
3. Have overhead ready.
4. Secure or prepare an area of the room for the role-play.


NOTE: This lesson may also be used at the middle school level in Tennessee. The following frameworks and standards apply:

Tennessee Grades 6-8 Social Studies Curriculum Framework of Civics and Government:
Standard 5: Students will gain knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to become contributing citizens in our participatory democracy
(Demonstrate an appreciation for the rights and opinions of others)

Tennessee High School Economic Standards
Economics 3431:
Standard 1: Gain an understanding of fundamental economic concepts and their application to a variety of economic systems. (Apply economic reasoning when evaluating historical and contemporary social issues.)
Standard 3: Gain an understanding of the roles individuals, businesses, and government agencies play in the larger economy. (Describe business firms in various market structures.)
Memphis City Schools:
Social Studies Standard #2: Students should be able to interpret social systems of different cultures, based on a knowledge of their arts, religions, and philosophies.
Standard #5:
Students should be able to make sound financial decisions based on a knowledge of different economies and economic systems.

Lesson Procedures:
The purpose of this lesson is as follows: Students experience what it is like when their employer says they may not do something they feel very strongly they should. Students role-play musicians who can not get their music released to the public. Each student receives the opportunity to either be a band musician, a music critic, or a music company representative and discuss the issue. At the end of the simulation, students consider how changes in discussion may provide different outcomes.

Phase One: Warming Up the Group
1. Introduce the problem, giving an overview of conflicts between people and cultures
2. Make the problem explicit, explaining that middle and high school students have many conflicts over ideas with others and need to learn to deal with these conflicts in a positive way.
3. Interpret problem story and explain that students will be role playing a true story about successful modern musicians who could not get their music company to release their latest music.
4. Explain role playing, telling students they will be playing the roles of the involved parties to experience the situation and come up with ideas on how to address the problem differently. At this time share the activity checklist with students and make sure they know that they will also be writing about the role play and the ways their classmates acted.

Phase Two: Selecting Participants
5. Explain the different roles. Share this background: The company was concerned about public perceptions of the group and music sales. The musicians were concerned about their ability to be creative. The critics loved the music.
6. Break the group into pairs, counting off by the total number of students, divided by two. In the event of an odd number of students. Create one group of three.
7. Select Role Players. Selections should be based on volunteerism. Recommendations of students for certain roles by other students should not be used. Do not select those with “safe” interpretations of the role.

Phase Three: Setting the Stage
8. Set line of action. Role players should outine the scene but not prepare any specific dialogue Simply orally -sketch- the setting. Restate roles by asking what the enactment is like, where is it taking place...etc.
9. Help students to get inside the problem situation. Keep the discussion focused and clarified. Ask the role-players where they want to begin.

Phase Four: Prepare the Observers
10. Decide what to look for by discussing with the group. A sample is included in the Associated File.
11. Assign observation tasks, one task per observer. This can be highlighted on the Observation Task Sheet or students can volunteer. Also assign each observer to watch the particular role of the partner. In the group of three, allow the three-person group to let one of their members observe the other two role-play.

Phase Five: Enact
12. Begin Role Play, done by role-players spontaneously.
13. Maintain Role Play only until the proposed situation is clear and the arguments in place.
14. Break Role Play

Phase Six: Discuss and Evaluate
15. Review action of role play (events, positions, realism)
16. Discuss Major Focus
17. Develop Next Enactment

Phase Seven: Re-enactment
18. Play revised roles, having the observers switch positions with their partner role-players.
19. Suggest next steps or behavior alternatives.

Phase Eight: Discuss and Evaluate
20. As in phase six

Phase Nine: Share Experiences and Generalize
21. Relate problem situation to real experience and current problems. Have students discuss situations they’ve experienced like this.
22. Explore general principles of behavior, talking about conflict resolution, compromise, and different methods of approaching it.
23. Assign students a quick write composition which describes how they might approach conflicts because of different value judgements differently than they have


Students are assessed in two ways. The participation in the role-play is assessed by the following Activity Involvement Checklist. The composition is assessed using the last item on the checklist.

Activity Involvement Checklist:

____Student presented viewpoint clearly.
____Student maintained composure while discussing options.
____Student offered suggestions reflecting reasonable compromise.
____ Student participated and was able to follow the development of the role-play.
____Student observed tasks and provided appropriate notes taken on the role-play and discussion.
____Student observed role player (partner) and provided proper notes on that person's activity.
____Student's composition displayed knowledge of the lesson content: The student knows strategies for solving interpersonal conflicts without harming self and others and the student understands issues of personal concern such as the role of conflict resolution and compromise and issues involving ethical behaviour.

Students who are not successful at this time will need additional instruction and practice in role playing situations dealing with compromise and conflict resolution. This should be used only as a formative assessment.


Have students research a current United States political issues and discuss the ideas or opinions which they involve.
Have the students research the sources of international conflicts and the different ideas or opinions they involve.

Web Links

Since this lesson is based on a real situation, information may be found at the "history" link here and additional information may be found by doing a Web search using the phrase "Stone of Sisyphus."

Attached Files

The Role Descriptions Sheet and the Observation Sheet.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.