While I have not acted in a play since I played an angel in my church's Christmas pageant about ten years ago, I know I would be capable of teaching drama to my students, courtesy of my recent experience at a How-To-Teach seminar. Ashley G, a teacher from New Jersey, came to TCNJ to share methods for teaching drama to students. She uses the play, The Miracle Worker, in order to teach the students about stage directions, prop usage, etc.
Before beginning the unit, to test students' prior knowledge, Ms. G gives each student a red strip with Helen Keller's name on it and a blue strip with Annie Sullivan's name on it. She asks biographical questions about each person, and the students raise the corresponding strip. Quickly, Ms. G can look around the room and survey which students know which pieces of information.
Also, before they begin reading The Miracle Worker, the students listen to an NPR recording from 2004 in which playwright William Gibson explains his motivation for writing The Miracle Worker. Click here to listen to Gibson's NPR interview.
For the students' final assessment, Ms. G divides the students into groups of four or five. Then, she lets the students choose which roles they want. (Throughout the unit, Ms. G spends time teaching the students about the different theater roles, such as prop master and director, so that by the time they are ready to complete their final assessment, they understand each of the roles and can choose the one they want.) Once all of the students have their roles Ms. G passes out "Admit One" backstage passes with the name of their role and its description (see above picture).
I would love to adapt this final project in my classroom for teaching Shakespearean plays as well!