A Playwriting Lesson or How to Help Your Students Feel Seen
I’m old enough to remember the days in school when we wrote notes to our friends. Most of the time they were pretty innocent. Occasionally, they seemed very important–asking a friend to ask a friend to ask if a certain boy liked you.
That kind of stuff.
When I was fifteen, I’d had a crush on a boy for about a year. He (we will call Boy #2) had wanted to date me for about a year too, except I was going steady with another boy (we will call Boy #1) at the time. Then Boy #1 broke up with me (over the phone!) and Boy #2 was invited to a party that I was going to be at (you know where this is going, right?). I wasn’t quite over Boy#1 and not ready just to jump into another relationship (and frankly, I was still reeling from Boy #1 breaking up with me on the phone), so I didn’t go steady with Boy #2. That was a big mistake!
Now, I’m tenacious when I set my mind to something. I can focus like none other.
I decided I did want to go steady with Boy #2 but by then he had moved on.
Except he hadn’t. He strung me along for about six months. During those agonizing months, I was laser focused on Boy #2.
I wrote notes to my friend, Connie, lamenting about my problems with Boy #2.
“He’s always staring at me in choir,” I’d write. “Why? If he doesn’t want to date me, why does he sit there and stare at me all the time?”
Month after month, I’d pour out my feelings in a note (poor Connie.) Then one day something huge occurred.
I lost a note in a crowded hallway about my affection for Boy #2 and someone picked it up. Guess who? Boy #2!!
I didn’t realize the time, I was writing out my feelings more than writing about the boy. And I was writing more to myself than to my friend.
This leads me to writing dialogue.
Students really love writing dialogue because they get to say everything they would if they had the chance.
Did you ever have a one way argument with an imaginary parent or sibling?
Yup, just like that.
Why Should I Teach Creating and Writing Dialogue?
I was looking for information for this blog post and found this from American Alliance Theater Education website:
“From learning to read to the in-depth study of Shakespearean literature, drama can play a significant role in the continual development of students’ reading comprehension skills. Studies indicate that not only do the performance of a story and a number of other drama activities in the classroom contribute to a student’s understanding of the work performed, but these experiences also help them to develop a better understanding of other works and of language and expression in general. The results below were gleaned from studies where educators and students alike noticed a difference when drama played a part in their classrooms.
- A series of studies on the arts and education revealed a consistent causal link between performing texts in the classroom and the improvement of a variety of verbal skills, including especially significant increases in story recall and understanding of written material.
- Performance of Shakespeare texts helps to improve students’ understanding of other complex texts including science and math material.
- Drama can improve reading skills and comprehension better than other activities, including discussion.
In addition to building social and communication skills overall, involvement in drama courses and performance has been shown to improve students’ self-esteem as well as their confidence in their academic abilities.
- High school students who are highly involved in drama demonstrate an elevated self-concept over those who are not involved.
- Play writing original works and dramatic presentation of existing works can help to build the self-esteem and communication skills of high school students.
- The act of performing can help students and youth recognize their potential for success and improve their confidence.”
Convincing enough for you?
Help Your Students Feel Seen
I think of it this way–when you write dialogue and someone reads it aloud, a person feels seen.
Think about how many of our students need to feel seen? That they matter?
That’s enough reason for me to teach students about writing dialogue for a play.
If you are looking for a play writing lesson, here is mine.
Drama Lesson: Playwriting Dialogue
This play writing lesson is five days in length and gives students an opportunity to study writing dialogue for a play. Students in seventh (gifted) through tenth grades will learn about the various rules of play dialogue, characterization, voicing and write their own short scenes. Created to be non-threatening, the lessons are set up step by step to give students plenty of time for assimilation.
The product includes:
- Letter to the Teacher
- Rationale for Teaching Play Writing
- Three Warm Up–MY versions
- Teacher’s Script for Introducing the Lesson–what I say and how I say it!
- Teacher’s Script for Teaching the Lesson
- Slides to Accompany the Teacher’s Script
- 5 Handouts –Step by Step writing assignments–good for beginners and introducing the lesson
- 10 Writing Prompts–great for older students
- 6 Exit Slips
HOW DO I USE THIS LESSON? Use this lesson in a writing workshop, creative writing class, drama class or even a reading class when reading play scripts. Students enjoy writing dialogue because it is something they know!
Comprehensive? You bet.
Needless to say, Boy #2 and I never did date. We should have; I think we both know that. Or maybe not? Regardless, what great memories.
What memories do you have of a moment in high school that played out in your life in some way when you were adults? I’d love to hear about them.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net
If you want something for middle school students concerning writing monologues, try any of these I’ve noted below.
If you are looking for more information about my drama lessons, check out: