Drama in ELA: The Class Play
In this series, I’m going to share my experiences integrating Drama in ELA and producing a class play with my 9th grade English class. Drama is so engaging for students, but is often put aside because it seems like a lot of work or doesn’t obviously correlate to higher test scores. In this series, I’ll show you that Drama in ELA is not only possible, but beneficial to all students.
When I first had the idea to perform Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with my two Honors classes, I knew it would be a challenge. The students would have to buy into the idea. I’d have to structure in-class practices, but still give them enough freedom to engage creatively with the material. Most of all, we’d all have to work hard.
My first big hurdle was casting. My students read the play over Winter Break (the abridged version by Bob Gonzalez), came back and made a “wish list” of their top three parts.
Everyone wanted small parts.
This was a major blow to my confidence because I assumed that they weren’t interested in doing the play. Should I scrap the whole idea? Just move on? I sat down with a colleague and she advised me that perhaps it wasn’t that the students were lazy, but that they were scared of failure. After all, I’d told them that I wanted them to perform in front of the 7th and 8th graders, right? I’d turned up the heat.
The next day, I talked to my students and told them very honestly that my priority was that they engage with the play and that they make it their own – there was no “failure”, except not trying. They submitted new wish lists and worked on audition monologues (major characters) and read-alouds (minor characters).
I made a spreadsheet of everyone’s wish lists and took the auditions into consideration. I had to combine two small classes to cast the play, a step which could be skipped at a larger school. I moved people around and looked and pondered and erased and drew arrows and finally managed to cast the show.
When you cast a Class Play, here are the takeaways:
- Dig deep and figure out why everyone wants a small part. It’s probably not laziness.
- Make students audition – either a memorized monologue of ten lines, or a rehearsed read-aloud from the play.
- Cast understudies. For our play, it’s the eight students in the smallest parts who are understudying for the eight biggest parts. This way, everyone is busy.
And not to spoil the end of this Class Play Adventure too much, but go ahead and cast understudies for every part if you can. You never know who’ll get mono or tear a ligament. (Did I pique your interest? Stay tuned for the next installment to find out more!)
In the next post, I’ll talk about how I built drama skills in the classroom.
Want more resources for Drama? Check out this Pinterest Board:
Photo Credit: Fabian Florin via Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution License)