Getting your students excited about writing can be a challenge sometimes. As teachers, we try our best to get kids excited by giving them writing prompts that will be of interest to them, but often they get bored with the same types of assignments over and over with just a different title.
Writing for a purpose
Students usually love participating in Reader’s Theatre because they enjoy acting out the things they are reading. It gives them ownership of the material. It wouldn’t be that difficult to do the same with writing by allowing the students to collectively write a play the first semester of school and perform it the second semester in front of parents and other students. This can get them excited about what they are writing and give them a real purpose for doing it. The main idea as a teacher is that you remain the facilitator of the project and not the dictator.
First things first
After pitching the idea to the students, brainstorm as a whole class activity what type of theme the play should have. After a theme is decided on, students can create characters using a character worksheet and present their character to the class. The class can then vote on the characters that are used in the play. Of course, as the play is developed, characters can be added as needed. The same can be done with the setting of the play. They need to be aware of how each of the settings will be able to be depicted on stage.
Continuing the process
Brainstorm ideas for plot development. Allow students to submit new ideas via text, email, or an idea box in the classroom. These ideas can be discussed during writing sessions of the play. Be careful not to allow one or two students to dominate the writing process, but it is perfectly fine to allow students to take on leadership roles based on their strengths along the way. Remember, this should be a student written play. Don’t over exert your ideas in the process. Allow the students to continue to develop the play throughout the first semester until they are able to produce a final product.
Planning the production
Once the play is written, then stage production begins. A student director needs to be identified and auditions need to be scheduled. After the roles are filled, then rehearsals begin. Students need to work together to create the props and backdrops needed for the production. You will need a Stage Manager and stage crew. These are usually very dependable students who do not prefer to be on stage. It is not necessary to have everyone on the stage; the stage crew is a vital part of every production as well. Once the dates have been set for the play, students need to create tickets and posters for the play. Depending on your school’s policies, students should be able to charge a small fee for tickets. You can decide together what needs to be done with the funds that are raised. It is appropriate to have a program to hand out at each of the performances which highlights the role of each of the students in the process.
Wrapping up and celebrating the success
This is one project students will not soon forget. They will have been involved in the entire process, and they will feel a sense of accomplishment. There will be bumps along the way, but the process will teaching life skills that a teacher could never accomplish with students remaining in desks. Remember, the play will not be perfect. That is perfectly acceptable! But, by all means, celebrate the successes of the students. If it gets written and produced on stage, then your mission is accomplished. The depth, length, and complexity of the production will vary by grade level, but this can be done in any grade. Play development is a great activity which will take a lot of planning, but will do an amazing job of connecting writing with the arts and getting your students involved!