The Ten-Minute Play: Encouraging Original Response to Challenging Texts
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After reading Beloved or another suitable novel, students review some of the critical elements of drama, focusing on differences between narrative and dramatic texts, including point of view. They discuss the role of conflict in the novel, and work in small groups to search the novel for a passage they can adapt into a ten-minute play. Students write their play adaptation in writer's workshop sessions, focusing on character, setting, conflict, and resolution. When the play draft is complete, students review and revise it, then rehearse and present their play to the class. As the plays are performed, students use a rubric to peer-review each group's work. Because students are responding to a novel with significant internal dialogue and conflict, they are called on to use both analytical and creative skills as they create the adaptation, rather than simply cutting and pasting dialogue.
Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature: A Teacher's Guide: This resource offers point for consideration prior to teaching a racially sensitive piece of literature, including teaching and discussion ideas for the classroom.
Ten-Minute Play Planning Questions: Students can use the questions on this handout as a guide when planning their ten-minute plays based on a novel.
From Theory to Practice
When asked to read and respond to a challenging piece of literature, students can be easily tempted by the intellectual shortcuts of online summaries, responses, and student essays. Because this lesson requires students to make informed and thoughtful decisions about dramatic possibilities in a text, the assignment has several benefits. It is both imaginative and analytical, improving the likelihood of engaged, original, and thoughtful student work and response.
Students use existing dialogue and references to characterization, action, and behaviors in conjunction with imagined dialogue and stage actions to create a response to the text, all the while maintaining the integrity of the original. That is, they must keep in mind the author's own vision for the work while adding their own unique view and interpretation through a retelling. To encourage additional critical thinking, students perform their adaptation and participate in an analytical peer review process, placing the dramatic adaptation in the context of the novel as a whole.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Suggested Texts for the Ten-Minute Play
- Enough copies of Beloved or another appropriate novel for each student
- Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature: A Teacher's Guide (optional)
- Students should read Beloved, another one of the Suggested Texts, or any literary work with significant internal conflict and dialogue. If applicable, read the "Teaching Racially Sensitive Literature: A Teacher's Guide" and decide which activities or approaches would be appropriate for the work and the students who will be reading it.
- As part of your instruction of the novel, focus on literary elements that will be necessary for the completion of the ten-minute play activity. Discuss with students plot as the sequence of events in a narrative; the creation of character through direct and indirect characterization; the rendering of symbol through detail; and motif in connection to theme. (See the Websites section for literary term glossaries).
- You may also wish to refer to one or more of the following ReadWriteThink lessons to help students review plot, characterization, symbolism, and theme:
- Test the ReadWriteThink Drama Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- Prepare copies of the Ten-Minute Play Planning Questions, Play Assessment Rubric, Drama Reflection handout, and Play Peer Review handout.
- If necessary, reserve the computer lab for Sessions Two through Four.
- If necessary, reserve the school auditorium for Sessions Six and Seven.
- read a novel closely and analytically to understand the relationship of the parts to the whole.
- identify theme, motif, symbolism, characterization, and plot of a novel in order to integrate these elements in an original, creative theatrical adaptation of a section of the novel.
- increase comprehension of a work of literature by challenging it on an imaginative level.
- work collaboratively with peers in bringing a dramatic work to life by staging it in class.
- participate in peer response activities to encourage critical reflection on their work, as well as that of their classmates.
- After reading Beloved or another suitable novel (see Suggested Texts), present students with the assignment: in groups of three to four, students will select a section of the book and adapt that section into a ten-minute play (which should be approximately ten pages of dialogue and stage directions).
- Before beginning the writing workshop sessions, review some of the critical elements of drama with students. Prepare students to dramatize a section of Beloved by asking them:
- How is character revealed and developed in drama?
- What would be a crucial symbol in a dramatic adaptation?
- What patterns of imagery should be included for effect?
- How might you need to reorganize the plot for the dramatic adaptation (e.g., begin with the last scene)?
- Which scenes might work well in a dramatic setting?
- How can you adapt the novel while still maintaining the integrity of the text and original intent of the author?
- How is character revealed and developed in drama?
- As part of this discussion, ask students to list some differences between narrative text and dramatic text. As students offer examples of differences, you will want to guide student response to an extended discussion of point of view. Be sure that students understand that point of view exists in the narrative work of the novel but will not exist in its dramatic rendering, as the characters will speak for themselves in a dramatic work without the framework of point of view, i.e., a narrator.
- Next, have students consider the various conflicts in Beloved, ensuring that students understand that the conflict should be central in their selection of an excerpt of the novel to dramatize. Use this opportunity to introduce the differences between character-driven and plot-driven dramatic works. Explain that, in simple terms, character-driven drama is mostly about internal conflict, whereas plot-driven drama is about external conflict. Ask students for examples of plays, movies, or television shows they have seen that exemplify these two types of conflict.
- With these preparatory discussions in mind, have students begin to consider what kind of play they will write. Arrange the class into small groups of three to four students. Ask groups to consider the sections of the novel to be adapted to the theater, thinking about the plot, conflict, and characters. Provide each group with a copy of the Ten-Minute Play Planning Questions.
- Have groups spend the rest of this session skimming the novel, discussing thes planning questions, and considering their options.
Sessions Two to Four
- Use Sessions Two through Four for writing workshop. Groups will be at different stages in the process. Some will still be considering the part of the novel to adapt. Other groups will be ready to write the play at once. Allow time for students who are still at the earlier selection stage, and guide them in moving forward.
- Before groups begin working, review the Play Assessment Rubric to help them stay on track. Distribute copies of the rubric for students to use as a reference as they work.
- As indicated on the rubric, small groups should use the ReadWriteThink Drama Map to assist them in beginning the process of writing of an original adaptation of the novel by focusing on character, setting, conflict, and resolution. Ask students to print out their work and be sure to review students' Drama Maps and provide necessary guidance before students move further in the writing workshop.
- After groups have received formal or informal feedback on their completed Drama Maps, have groups choose a primary playwright/note taker to help streamline the writing process, but encourage all group members to contribute during the writing process. For example, pairs of students can work on dialogue, while others work on important stage directions.
- For additional guidance in preparing play manuscripts, share with students the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Art's Playwriting Seminars Website. Students can refer, in particular, to the Manuscript Format for guidance. Direct students' attention to the Dialogue Pages near the bottom of the page.
- By the end of Session Four, groups should have their completed manuscripts. If not, ask them to finish the project outside class or for homework. Manuscripts should be ready for the writing workshop during Session Five.
- Have groups of students complete a final review of their manuscripts in a workshop setting. They should evaluate their manuscripts based on how well the play maintains the integrity of the original novel, the quality of the adaptation, and the dialogue (i.e., whether it is interesting and well-written). Have groups use the Play Peer Review handout to guide their final review. Ask each group to have some group members read and perform the play and others to complete the Play Peer Review handout. Then allow enough class time for groups to make any necessary revisions.
- Have groups decide which role each group member will play: actor, director, stagehand, and so forth. Students can spend the rest of the session working out the logistics of staging.
- Schedule the plays, allowing at least 20 minutes per group for set up, performance, and critique. (The written text of all the student plays ultimately will be evaluated using the Play Assessment Rubric.)
- The assigned writers within each group should plan on providing copies of their scripts to the groups' actors by the next session. Actors need to be responsible for bringing in the script when the play is scheduled to be performed. For performances, they need not memorize lines; instead, performances can be readings with script in hand.
- Students should use Session Six for practice and rehearsal. Actors should highlight their lines; directors should begin running a reading and perhaps blocking the play (determining actors' movements and use of props, and so forth). Every group should find a place in the room to work. You can reserve the school auditorium for rehearsals and performances, if possible. Alternately, create a performance space in the classroom for presentations.
- At the end of the session, give each student a copy of the Play Peer Review handout and go over it with students. Explain to them that they will use these forms in the critique process after performances. They should look for areas of the adaptation to praise, but also ask questions or raise points of concern that the perfomers will address after their performance.
Session Seven and Beyond
- Remind students of the performance and response process. They will watch the performances attentively, using the Play Peer Review handout to record their responses which they will then share out with the group.
- Begin the performances and facilitate a discussion of the peer reviews after each. Encourage all participants to raise relevant questions and defend choices and interpretations.
- If, as in the case of Beloved, a film adaptation of the novel exists, have students compare and contrast the choices they made in their adaptation with those made in the film version.
- If students in more than one class have read Beloved, arrange for students from one class to perform for another class. If you are not able to arrange live performances, videotape performances to share with other periods.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Use the Play Assessment Rubric to assess each group’s work, including their Drama Maps, their adaptations of the novel into a play, their written work, their ability to work within their groups, and the quality of their play preparation and performance.
- Distribute copies of the Play Peer Review handout to each group member. Ask students to write self-reflections based on their own self-assessment and their classmates’ critiques.
- Informally evaluate students’ Play Peer Review handout for participation credit.
- Have the whole class (or small groups) reflect on their understanding of drama elements. Distribute copies of the Drama Reflection handout to each student. Discuss the handout with the class or small groups, and then have each student complete the reflection handout.