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  • Simple Playwriting

  • admin

    Administrator
    October 8, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Purpose of the Lesson:

    To learn how to write dialogue and increase oral expression.

    Summary:

    This lesson teaches playwriting and play production to build many literacy skills.

    Literacy Skills:

    • Vocabulary Development
    • Writing – Dialogue
    • Oral Expression

    Materials:

    • Index cards with fun verbs written on them (i.e. swim, jump, run, jog, dive, eat, sleep etc.)
    • Index cards with adverbs written on them (i.e. slowly, quickly, happily, sadly etc.)
    • Two paper bags

    Introduction:

    Can you write a play about…? (The students will eventually fill in the blank. You may choose to have them write plays around a central theme, or plays about what it’s like to be a city kid, a student, an immigrant, etc). To help maintain a constructivist, child centered approach, plan your lessons around Critical Questions. Be sure you can determine how each question supports an academic standard. Playwriting actually covers English Language Arts standards 1,2,3 and 4.

    Process:

    Part 1. What is a Play?

    1. Get feedback from students and assess how knowledgeable they are about plays.
    2. Show them several different examples both DVDs and written plays.
    3. Find a short play and have the class read it out loud.
    4. Talk about what makes it a play.

    Part 2. What are characters and settings?

    This will be an improvisation class where the critical question comes up at the end of the lesson.

    1. Begin with a group exercise to get the class to focus and accustomed to performing. A great exercise for this is the mirror exercise. They will do this in silence with partners.
    2. Next have students move around in an open space. Ask them to walk in different ways, providing prompts of emotion and setting. (You’re sad vs. walking in a snowstorm.)
    3. Ask one student who is in an interesting pose to stay frozen. Ask other students who s/he might be? What might s/he be doing? Where is s/he?
    4. Ask other students to join the picture, adding new characters.
    5. Repeat this activity several times.
    6. Next ask the critical question, and let students respond freely. Ask for examples from the previous activity.

    Part 3. Characters We Know. Can you define yourself as a character? What is dialogue?

    1. Ask students to describe you – write their descriptions of you on the board.
    2. Next, ask them to describe someone they know very well. Have them make a short list of words or phrases that describe that person, and have some of them share their list with the class.
    3. Have students give examples of something they have heard or said recently. For example, “Can I go to the bathroom?” Write as many lines as they can think of.
    4. Write a series of lines between two people. For example: “Did you bring it?” is very good. Of course, the other person has no idea what you are asking at first, but the dialogue grows very fast:
    5. Character 1: Did you bring it?
    6. Character 2:
    7. Character 1: Why not?
    8. Character 2: I forgot, etc…
    9. Have students write their own dialogues in pairs and then act it out.
    10. Explain to all the students that they are now true playwrights because they have written a dialogue.

    Part 4. What is a protagonist/antagonist? What is the structure of a play?

    1. Give students the definitions of a protagonist and antagonist. Ask them for examples from their own plays or from movies/literature that they’ve seen or read. Record these on the board.
    2. Hand out sheets with play structure.

    Opening Scene (Scene 1): Just Protagonist and Friend. This scene should introduce their characters and their plans.

    Rising Action (Scene 2): Just Antagonist and Friend. This scene introduces these characters. It should also reveal how they are going to challenge the Protagonist.

    Climax (Scene 3): Here all of the characters meet and the Antagonist attempts to carry out his plot against the Protagonist.

    Falling Action (Scene 4): The Protagonist comes up with a plan to “win.

    Resolution (Scene 5): In this scene the Protagonist ultimately finds a way to defeat the Antagonist and does so successfully.

    1. As a class, students should come up with a common theme for the plays. Ask for short ideas of what some plays could be about. (For example: The theme of “Change” could be something with weather, a change in a child’s life, a change in the community, etc.)
    2. As a class, discuss and use the structure above to create a short play. Write the characters and plot points on the board.

    Part 5. Can you write a play?

    1. Break students into groups of 4 or 5. They can work together to create/write dialogue for their characters. This should take several class periods.
    2. Ask students to edit their work when needed and to work cooperatively.
    3. Once the plays are finished, begin the rehearsal process.
    4. Remind students that actors must speak loudly/clearly and with emotion!
    5. Also teach them about “blocking” – which is how the actors move around the stage during their scenes.

    Note: If there are students who do not wish to perform, they can be assigned one of the other tasks listed below.

    Props manager – gets props for performers, keeps them organized.

    Program Developer – this student will make a program for the show – featuring short bios for the actors and information about the production.

    Set Designer – for students who are experienced in the visual arts, these few could design a mural to be hung during the performance or invent new aspects of decorating the stage.

    Part 6. Can we perform?

    This is where the production aspect comes in.

    1. Students should rehearse their plays several times.
    2. They should memorize their lines. This is very good for them as it trains their brains. It sometimes helps them if they sing their lines at first using a common melody. If they can’t memorize their line, let they hold a script on stage, but they must still read their lines with feeling.
    3. Find appropriate costumes. This always makes a play more important.
    4. Created a stage set. It can just be a set of props or a chair and a desk with a cloth on it.
    5. Now they can finally show off their work! Theatrical lighting and sound effects could also be incorporated into their show, depending on materials supplied by the school.

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