Friday, January 16, 2015

Script Analysis- Dramatic Elements

Please Take Care My Dog Smells. This is the sentence I teach my kids when we begin our unit on script analysis. In my experience when a teacher says "today we are going to learn about script analysis" almost all the class shuts off. They groan and whine and complain. Lots of kids think that analyzing scripts is too hard they give up before they even try. Teaching students this silly sentence helps make script analysis easy.

Aristotle said that there are six things that make a good play. Plot, Theme, Character, Music, Dialogue, and Spectacle. Memorizing my silly sentence helps students memorize the six aspects of a good play. I have found that once they can identify the dramatic elements, they have a much easier job in analyzing the script.

I like to start and finish with plot. Most students know the basics about plot. It has a beginning middle and end. There needs to be a conflict and resolution. Most students as young as first grade are good at identifying beginning middle and end. At the beginning of the lesson this is where I start. After we cover the other dramatic elements I come back to plot and teach the plot diagram. Students learn about exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. I find that coming back to the plot diagram after you have covered the others elements allows the students more time to gain confidence in script analysis. Feel free to use my plot diagram poster that I provided. You can also download the entire packet on teacherspayteachers.
Check out my entire Plot Diagram Packet at TPT

Theme is another difficult element at first. Help the students by starting off with fairy tales and working your way to more difficult literature. Making an anchor chart of common themes also helps student gain confidence in identifying themes.

Character. This element you can go as simple or as complex as you want.  You can talk about simply identifying characters. You can talk about the difference between main and supporting characters. You can talk about dynamic and static characters. You can talk about the protagonist, antagonists, and foils. How in depth you go about characters really depends on the age and maturity of your students. My second graders have a great handle of stock characters but foils are well beyond them. Have fun with this part of your unit. In my opinion, characters are what makes theatre unique. Students of theater love studying about character, so push your students to discover all they can about characterization.

Music. According to the Greeks music encompassed sound effects, background music, and singing. Have students discuss how music enhances a play. This is also a great time to talk about how to choose background music or sound effects for a play. In my first grade theatre SLO this is a major part of the test. Students must be able to read a simple play and identify appropriate sound effects and music. 

Dialogue. This is another very easy part of the analysis to teach. Students find it easy to figure out when a character talks. I like to talk about the difference between monologue and soliloquy in this section. I also will touch on how characters talk. How they say something is just as important as what they say. Getting students to identify motivation of dialogue is very important to script analysis.

Spectacle. Spectacle rhymes with technical. Spectacle is all the other technical elements and special effects that make a play what it is. This is a great time to show several different versions of the same play and talk about how the different elements enhance or detract from the play. 

Download this FREE poster at TPT
Once students learn all the vocabulary words associated with each element, I recommend helping them create a graphic organizer. This does not have to be fancy (on some days i literally just have the students divide the paper in 1/2 one way and in 1/3 the other so that there are six boxes for the kids to work with. Have the kids watch a movie version of a Broadway play (my two favorite to show are either Peter Pan or Into the Woods depending on age).  Let the students practice identifying the different dramatic elements as they view them on the movie. I usually let the students work in groups for this activity so I can make sure they have the concept down.

If you want to take the concept even farther have the students brainstorm a play using the dramatic elements as a guide. You can then have them write the plays if you have time (I did this for my anti-bully campaign videos and it worked great!) However far you go with this lesson, know that students chunking the elements will help students no only identify the elements but also analyze scripts more effectively. And remember Please Take Care, My Dog Smells!