Students will demonstrate their understanding of effective dialogue by writing a 2 ½ minute scene between two people.
Excerpts from “The Tempest,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Everyman,” and “Tartuffe” (SEE LESSON SUPPLEMENTS), DVD player, TV, DVDs (When Harry Met Sally, Pride & Prejudice, Penelope, The Incredibles, Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping, Finding Nemo, Psych: Season 1), video clips filmed earlier of people interacting on the street, at the mall, in a park, at a gas station, etc., chalk, chalkboard.
Tell the students that you need four brave people – two boys and two girls. Have the four students get in front of the class and distribute scripts. Have the students read from the scripts prepared earlier (dialogue from the four plays all mixed up into one scene).
Step 1 – Discussion: Ask the students to describe their thoughts and feelings during the scene. Get the students’ feedback and whether the scene was effective or not. Questions to ask: Was this an effective scene? Why or why not? Could you follow it? What was ineffective about it? How could it be better? Possible Answers: Confusing, dialogue didn’t make sense, characters not listening to each other or responding to each other.
Step 2 – Instruction: Ask the students what makes good dialogue in a play. Have a student go to the board and list the answers the students give. Possible Answers: Fits the characters, believable, advances the story, helps us learn about the characters, helps connect the audience to the story, adds to the conflict / intimacy / immediacy, etc. From all the answers given, the teacher goes to the board and combines them to “simplify” to four answers:
Advances the plot and adds to the action Fits the characters / reveals more about them Conveys info and emotions to spark audience empathy Creates immediacy and intimacy
Step 3 – Guided Practice / Discussion: Have four students perform a scene from “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Have the students describe how this dialogue was more effective and what made it so.
Step 4 – Discussion: Show examples from films with effective dialogue. After each clip, have the class share what was effective in the scenes and why. When Harry Met Sally – “High maintenance / Low maintenance” scene Pride & Prejudice – Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth in the rain Penelope – Max & Penelope playing chess through the mirror The Incredibles – Bob & Helen’s fight while driving on the freeway Sleepless in Seattle – Tom Hank’s character describing his late wife over the phone While You Were Sleeping – First hospital scene with the entire family Finding Nemo – Dory asking Marlin not to leave Psych – “Spellingg Bee” episode when Shawn poses as the Spellmaster (“Banana”) Mid-Lesson Assessment Point: Have the students identify elements in the clips that make the dialogue effective.
Step 5 – Directions: Show the students the silent clips the teacher filmed earlier. While still working in pairs, have them come up with a 20 line scene between the two characters in the clips.
Step 6 – Discussion: Have each pair perform their scenes (as the characters). Ask the students to share what was effective in each one. Assessment Point: Determine the student’s understanding and utilization of effective dialogue.
Step 7 – Objective Activity: Allow the students 15 minutes to individually create their own original scene that must have two characters and be 2 ½ pages long. (Wander throughout the class and determine whether the students will need more time to finish.)
Step 8 – Final Assessment: Students work with others to present their final scripts to the class.
Step 9 – Closure: What was the most significant thing you gained today regarding effective dialogue? How has your opinion of dialogue changed as you’ve learned about it? Buddha said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or evil.” Whether using them to create dialogue in a play, or in our daily conversations, we need to remember that words are powerful and must be used with care.