The Ten-Minute Play: Encouraging Original Response to Challenging Texts

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions (plus performance time for each group)
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


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.

Featured Resources

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.

Further Reading

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.

State Standards

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




Student Objectives

Students will

  • 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.

Session One

  1. 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).

  2. 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?
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Have groups spend the rest of this session skimming the novel, discussing thes planning questions, and considering their options.

Sessions Two to Four

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Session Five

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.

Session Six

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Add new comment