Above is a PDF from Centerstage about how to introduce playwriting to your classroom.

 

MY undergraduate degree from NYU came from Tisch’s Dramatic Writing department and my area of specialization is in television comedy writing (I am very, very available for hire!).  This type of writing is my passion and is the kind that I am best at so, of course, I look for ways to include it in my teaching, partially because it is a type of writing I feel I can teach better than many other people and also because I hope to reach students who love watching TV and have always wondered how it was made.  Playwriting is the root of all TV (unless you are writing Game of Thrones, TV generally has a small budget which limits a lot of the action to “people-talking-in-rooms.”  And, if you are writing Game of Thrones, once again, I am available!), and it also allows for 1. students to produce their own work and 2. students to take a fun and actually educational field trip to a theater at the end of the unit.  This set of guidelines is wonderfully helpful to English teachers who are just diving into playwriting with their students despite not having a strong playwriting background.  Almost all students read plays, be it Shakespeare, Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams; why shouldn’t they write some of their own?

 

The checklists at the beginning of the “Playwright’s Handbook” are particularly helpful for teachers wondering what their students will need to avoid getting bogged down in the details and formatting vagaries of playwriting.  These lists should form the basis of a series of worksheets students must fill in as they work through their early play ideas.  This process is valuable from a Common Core standpoint because, while playwriting is a wonderfully creative process, the early stages especially offer students the opportunity to learn how to format their work in different ways, how to follow a foreign structure, etc.  Like math education, the real mental work isn’t preparing them for careers as future playwrights (or, in the math example, astrophysicists) but it is preparing them for when they go out into the world and are repeatedly wrong-footed at work by new software/hardware/requirements. 

 

The dialogue-heavy nature of playwriting is also a great way to get students to think about the most succinct and interesting ways to express information.  Providing them with limitations like “all character changes and major story points must be expressed in dialogue” often brings out the best in writers who otherwise may have avoided writing in a vernacular or who may have been unwilling to write about their feelings via expository texts.  Exercises in the Handbook like “Story of a Journey,” “Secrets,” and “Round Robin” are classic exercises that strengthen student understanding of narrative, of the quickest ways to express information, of collaboration (great plays are rarely written by only one brilliant genius, TV shows are almost never written by only one person). 

 

Finally, the list of young playwright’s festivals at the bottom of the handbook can serve as great motivation for students when test scores or simple good grades do not.  The Common Core stresses that student publishing and choices are very important and playwriting in the classroom provides ample opportunities for both.


Via Daniel Moore