Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teaching Drama in the Classroom

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!


  1. I was thinking the same thing with Shakespeare! I think I'd do station activities to introduce students to Shakespeare first. We learned a bit about those in one of last years seminars. But I think that having the unit be drama based can give students a fresh look on The Bard and so many others.

    I also think that the idea of film adaptation is an interesting one with plays. 'Scotland PA,' A film adaptation of Macbeth starring Christopher Walken is of particular interest to me. Here's a trailer:

    It's good to try to find innovative ways to teach this stuff and keep students interested!

  2. I was extremely glad I went to this seminar, when trying to get students to act out in front of the classroom it's hard to get them not to fall into the monotone, no acting involved, virtually reading in front of the class attitude. The fact that she instead put it on her students the roles of director and such to help encourage the acting was so clever to me. And I agree it would be interesting to develop a similar unit on Shakespeare.

  3. This is an interesting notion for assessment that I think is particularly useful with an inclusion class! My issue with teaching plays is takin students from a world of literary Interpretation to visual interpretation (which they are usually more comfortable with once the concept sets in)