Bringing Drama Alive: Lessons and Scripts
Reviewed by Erin Corrigan-Smith
Teaching drama is one of the most difficult tasks in the English Language Arts curriculum.
Getting students to understand the stage direction and actor prompts while also grasping what the story is about is always a feat in itself. Students often struggle to visualize what is happening on the page, though there are descriptions about what they are encountering.
There is no avoiding teaching drama because it is also one of the “core” ELA Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and students must be exposed to it in order for them to succeed.
Many districts now offer a “Dramatic Writing” Endorsement, which can be added to the teaching certificate, but there are often gaps in the “how” of teaching drama in the classroom. Much of the instruction focuses on teaching drama in the high school setting, though drama appears as early as sixth grade in the CSS.
Help is here, thanks to Alice Savage
Finding a good resource that both supplements the instruction of the endorsement while also giving clear-cut ideas and resources for middle school is a necessity. The Drama Book: Lesson Plans, Activities, and Scripts for the Classroom is the perfect bridge of support and extension, and it also offers practical teaching advice (and amazing lesson plans) to help students and teachers succeed with drama.
Alice Savage is an instructor, and her focus is often on working with English Learners. Regardless of the English level of students, The Drama Book is an excellent resource for helping any student understand drama and all its intricacies.
The introduction of the book lays out what to expect when using the book in the classroom. It is well written, and it clearly informs the reader about will be covered. The introduction also explains general aspects of what will be encountered in drama, i.e. Reader’s Theater, sketches, monologues, etc. There is a nice description about the merits of each and how to best implement them for student success.
Activities, scripts and more
The book is organized into parts. Part One: Activities introduces students to elements of drama, and the successive parts draw from these skills. There is truly something for everyone in Part One, even for those who love the stage but who wish to work behind it. Teachers may be most interested in the subsection on “working with academic content,” though the entire section addresses academic alignment.
Part Two: Scripts includes all the material necessary for teaching drama in the classroom. Savage has included reproducible monologues, sketches, scripts, and even a short play. All of the materials could be used for teaching drama as well as for revisiting those elements of literature students often struggle with (i.e. elements of plot, theme, summary, etc.).
Part Three: Appendixes contains worksheets and rubrics for the lessons in the book. The worksheets are not as rigorous as many would need, but they would be good for a ticket out the door or a review sheet. The rubrics are the same: they are basic, but functional.
All in all, this is a great resource for introducing drama into the ELA classroom, especially for teachers who are unsure how to best tackle it. It is not comprehensive enough to be the only tool we use, but it is definitely a rich resource to help inexperienced or struggling teachers tackle a difficult genre.
Erin Corrigan-Smith is a middle school ELA teacher in a suburb of Atlanta. She has a B.A. and M.A. in English, and her focus of study is children’s literature. During the school year, she is faculty advisor to the Book Worms book club. In her downtime, she enjoys going to her family’s cabin in the North Georgia mountains, with her husband and dog, to read, craft, and relax.