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Integrating Costume Design and Literature: An Experiment Expounded

I gave my senior Brit Lit class freedom and choice within structure this past block semester.

For their final project, I gave them several options for a study of A Christmas Carol.


  1. Create a costume design sketch book and write character analysis and process papers

  2. Write a research paper and annotated bibliography over some aspect of Victorian society

  3. (By request) Write Sherlock Holmes fanfic (Spoiler: Prince Albert dunnit)

I gave a series of assignments designed to break down each part of the process*, but the dates were flexible within reason.

Each day of the unit, I checked in with my groups, provided assistance where needed, and watched them work.

For the most part, they remained focused and engaged for each 80 minute class period.

In the end, almost every student turned in ALL the work!

What Worked

  1. Peers (students) had a good work ethic.

  2. Projects frustrate students who prefer to write and research. The choice to do a paper engaged my less project-oriented people while the others could indulge their artistic proclivities.

  3. The novel is short and very familiar. This allowed for less focus on meaning and more focus on analysis and creation.

  4. Our school's set up is designed for projects over lecture, so having consistent work time kept out the frustration of trying to communicate in an open concept space.

What could be improved

  1. A better flow: I should have introduced several key concepts earlier in the semester. The annotated bibliography especially should have started in September.

  2. Scaffolding of the design aspect: I know my students, so I gave them the costume design project because most of them draw. However, if I were to create a program for an entire class, I would need to bring in figure drawing much sooner.

  3. Keeping up with due dates: the "flexible" dates were too flexible! I needed to have a clear cut-off date for the flex part to make certain that peers had time for revisions.

Below are samples from the sketchbooks. The peers had to create a costume based on textual descriptions and provide direct quotes and fabric swatches.

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