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Lesson Plan

Exploring a Teen's World: Learning SAT Vocabulary Through Drama

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Exploring a Teen's World: Learning SAT Vocabulary Through Drama

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five to six 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Nancy Barile

Nancy Barile

Revere, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Sessions 1 and 2: Explanation

Session 3: Workshop Scenes

Sessions 5 and 6: Filming


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Decide how to use vocabulary appropriately and effectively by creating a drama that develops real or imagined events

  • Create a drama to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and a well-structured event sequence, and including narrative techniques such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines to develop experiences, events, and characters

  • Evaluate and self-assess the creation of a drama that reflects a particular tone and outcome, including developing a sense of mystery, suspense, growth, and resolution, while effectively using technology and digital media to produce, edit, and publish a shared writing product

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Sessions 1 and 2: Explanation

  1. Explain to students that they are writing their own teen drama as a tool for learning new words, and they need to incorporate SAT vocabulary words into their script. Give out the Rubric for Cooperative and Collaborative Learning, and explain that the final product needs to represent the entire class. For this reason, it is necessary to work cooperatively and collaboratively with one another. Tell students that they should attempt to reach the goals of the rubric while working together.

  2. Show students selections from High School Uncut: Revere High School's Teen Soap Opera to Learn SAT Words. Briefly discuss the viewed selections to make sure that students understand the assignment. You may want to talk to your students about how the students in the video were able to effectively incorporate the SAT vocabulary words into the drama while creating a plot at the same time.

  3. If the class is large, ask students to choose whether they'd like to be writers, actors, costume and set designers, camera people, or video editors. (Note that more actors and writers are needed than set and costume designers, camera people, or video editors.) If the class is smaller, students can share these roles. Choose a director if you’d like, although in most cases you are initially the best person to handle this role, with student assistance, until all students become familiar with what the task entails.

  4. As a group, decide what topics students want to explore in their teen drama. Students may want to focus on relationships, trouble with parents, bullying, stresses affecting teenagers, peer pressure, and so on. Note that this step helps students focus on a story line.

  5. Either as a class or with the writers assembled into a group, use the Story Map to begin identifying characters, setting, conflict, and resolution maps, and use the Plot Diagram to start writing the story. Students should aim to make the episode about four to eight minutes long with three or four scenes; this step helps facilitate the process. Students can refer to the Screenwriting.info: How to Write a Screenplay website for further assistance, but use the above time and scene limits as the general rule.

  6. Provide students with the web link for Vocabulary.com’s 100 Top SAT Words so that they can decide which words to use for this particular episode. (The students can continue this assignment throughout the year if you’d like, using 15 new words per episode and developing the characters and plot as their teen drama continues.)

  7. During the writing process, review as a class each sentence from the screenplay that uses a vocabulary word. Does the sentence and situation adequately provide clues as to the meaning of the word? For example, notice how the sentence "You’d better not be cheating on me; that would be reprehensible" gives the student a fairly good idea about the meaning of the word reprehensible.

  8. If the class is large and divided into roles, ask those students who are not yet working on a task to begin writing sentences that use the 15 SAT vocabulary words from this lesson. They should write one sentence for each vocabulary word.

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Session 3: Workshop Scenes

  1. When the story has been completely written, take it and make copies of the script for the entire class. After distributing it, have the actors start practicing. Use the Readers Theatre Rubric to make sure that students' delivery meets the "Excellent" standard. At this point, the costume and set designers should also begin working on the staging.

  2. Have the camera people work with the actors and set designers to begin staging the scene(s).

  3. Initially, have the writers work with the actors to tweak lines and help the dialogue run smoothly. When they are finished, they may begin working on the next scene. This may also be done as a class if your class is smaller. When you and the students are satisfied that the scene works, you can move on to filming. As director, you make the final decision about when filming can begin.

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Sessions 5 and 6: Filming

  1. Film the scenes. This may require a few attempts, but, generally, students improve with each take. Keeping the scenes to no longer than five minutes will make this process easier. Note that if you are working with younger or less technologically savvy students, you may decide to rehearse and film only one scene per class period.

  2. Have students upload the videos of each scene to a computer, and using the chosen editing software, edit the scenes and add titles. Add the SAT vocabulary words during and at the end of the episode. (Watch another episode of High School Uncut: Revere High School's Teen Soap Opera to Learn SAT Words if you need a refresher as to how the final product should look.) Although most students are adept at using editing software, it may be necessary for you to help them or to ask for help from your school's media specialist.

  3. Show the rough cut to students for feedback. Add to, edit, or change the video as needed. Here are some questions to consider as a class in order to decide what to change: Does the scene run smoothly? Are the characters believable? Does the story line seem realistic? Keep in mind that this is a student production and does not need to meet Academy Award standards.

  4. Present the final cut to the class. Use the video as a studying tool; start by giving students the test you wrote as part of your preparation for this lesson.

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View other critically acclaimed teen dramas, such as My So-Called Life or The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Discuss the episodes with students, asking questions such as, What is it about these shows that makes them compelling? What teen issues do they deal with? How are the characters developed? Use these and other similar discussion points to decide how to develop your own teen drama.

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  • Give students a test which requires them to know, understand, and correctly use the SAT vocabulary words used in their episode; for example, give them a sentence completion assessment that mirrors the SAT test.

  • Observe student participation in the initial discussions about teen dramas. Have students answer the following question: What will our video say about adolescent life and what we believe are the most important issues and concerns to address? After students create their scene, use informal teacher assessment to answer questions such as the following:
  1. Does the scene seem authentic to the teen audience?

  2. Is the scene structured appropriately so that events seem logical and well paced?

  3. Is the dialogue appropriate?

  4. Do the characters seem realistic, and is the plot understandable for viewers?

  1. Do you feel that your scene piqued your audience’s interest by using mystery and suspense?

  2. Does your video show or lay the foundation for eventually arriving at a resolution?

  3. Do you believe the class achieved the goals of effectively using technology to produce, edit, and publish a shared writing product?

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