Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Students as Playwrights and Directors Part 2 (The Director)

Lesson Plan for student directors. #theatre, #education, #drama
Last post I wrote about how to help students creatively write a story that they can use in this lesson. Part one is a great lesson for any drama/ ELA teacher. You can decided to skip part one or you can use another method for helping students create a story (you can also just pull short scripts if you would rather use something more authentic). Regardless of your method make sure you have a unique story available for every student.

In doing this project I did something I have never done before. I didn't let every play perform. Every group performed at least once, but every play was not performed on stage. Check out below for how I worked this system. As a theatre teacher, the idea that not everyone was going to perform their play killed me but there simply wasn't time. I mean can you imagine getting through 30 plays in 40 minutes, it just doesn't work. Not having every play performed was actually more freeing then I thought it would be. It gave me the freedom to choose which groups were clicking during rehearsal and allowed me to facilitate more class discussion. I will definitely be using this method again. 

Step 1- hand out stories to each student. These can either be the stories they wrote in part one, a creative story they wrote at another time or  a play you found. After every student has a story divide the students into groups. I made groups of four but feel free to adjust as need. I would recommend not having more than 5 in a group for time reasons. Once students are their groups assign a director order.(director 1, director 2, and so on). I did this randomly but you could assign an order as well.

Step 2- review the role of a director and actor. Director is in charge of casting, running rehearsals, and making final decisions. Actors are in charge of creating a character and practicing their parts. This is a great time to talk about how you need to show respect for everyone. I also point out that  the director gets to make the final call about all decisions and I will only step in for emergencies. I also point out that sometimes you don't like the part you are assigned (and sometimes boys play girl parts and girls play boy parts). Everyone had to do what the director said and they couldn't tattle if they didn't like their part. I did encourage the directors to be kind when casting, and if they had to change the gender of a character to make someone happy that was ok. 

Step 3- Model a rehearsal. This is a huge step. Do. Not Skip. Students need to learn how to lead. If possible choose a group with a weird number (there is always one with more than everyone else). Have one of those students be your model for this experience. I recommend giving the directors an exact order for what their rehearsals should look like, this will help you when grading later.
1. Read the story to the group.
2. Cast the play
3. Perform any rewrites or revisions that are needed (should not take very long)
4. Block the play (tell the actors where to stand and move)
5. Rehearse the play until time is called. Make any other revisions/ changes that are needed.
6. Director reads the play while the group performs.

For the modeling section I recommend you talk the students through each step. This way they know what to expect when it's their turn.

Step 4- director 1 rehearsal time. Now it is time to turn your directors loose in each group tell director one to begin reading their play and casting. Walk around and monitor groups but try your hardest to let the directors work their problems out with their team (after all that is what is being a director is all about). After the allotted time (5-10 minutes) have the groups sit back down and choose one or two groups to perform their plays. This is also a great time to have a class discussion about any issues that arose during rehearsal. We had a great talk about how it affects a play when one actor doesn't show up (after a kid had to go to the clinic during class). It really helped the kids to see how they affect each other in a performance.

Step 5- director 2 and so on rehearsal times. After a few groups perform director 1 plays allow the students to break back into their groups and rehearse director 2's play. Continue this process of rehearsal and performance until all directors have had an opportunity to direct. Make sure that every group has performed at least once by the end of assignment. Continue to have class discussions between the steps as problems arise. This is a great opportunity to highlight problems you have been having in rehearsal as well. ( I have a huge problem with kids talking to each other during rehearsal, I made sure to point out how frustrating it is when you are trying to direct and someone is talking to another group). These discussions are so helpful and I really saw an improvement in the acting and directing over the course of the lesson.

Step 6- exit slips. I had each student write about who they felt was the best director in their group. They had to give me a legitimate reason why they felt that way (he was good at giving directions, she was organized, he told me where to stand, etc.) This served two purposes, I was able to see who they thought was the best director and I was able to tell if the students could identify positive director traits. You could do this step on appear or verbally as you were summing up the lesson.

Grading- if you have the students perform both parts of this lesson you can easily get three grades out of this assignment: a writing grade, rehearsal grade, and director grade. I always use rubrics when grading this type of work. Here is a sample of the directing rubric I made for the class. Feel free to download and use in your class as well. You can purchase the full set of theatre rubrics on my teacherspayteachers site (follow the link at the bottom of the page).

Directing Rubric to use in a theatre / drama classroom


This is a great assignment and the students really got into it. I have always struggled with hitting the directing standard in my lower grades. I will defiantly be using this again in my class.