Intro to Playwriting

Lesson 1: Intro to Playwriting


Lesson Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of plot structure by participating in a pre-assessment activity. They will also demonstrate their understanding of the difference in storytelling and in formatting between a short story and a play by transforming existing stories into plays in small groups.



TH:Cn10.1.I – Investigate how cultural perspectives, community ideas, and personal beliefs impact a drama/theatre work.



Divide students into four groups by having them count off. Have each group move to a designated place in the room. Go around to each group and assign them one of the following four parts of the Plot Structure: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action/Denouement. Explain the activity to the students like this:


You will be telling the story of Cinderella as a class. Each group has a part of that story that they will tell. Write down your group’s best storytelling of ONLY the part of the story you are assigned. For example, If this were the story of Frozen, the group that has Exposition might say something like, “There was once a faraway kingdom where two young princesses lived happily with their mother and father in their beautiful castle. They loved to eat and swim and dance. But most of all they loved to play with ice. Elsa, the oldest princess, had the special ability to create and manipulate snow and ice. They spent hours building snowmen until one day, Elsa accidentally hurt her sister Anna with a ball of ice. To save Anna, her family took her to some trolls who wiped her memory and healed her. Because her family was scared that Elsa might hurt someone else, they taught her to conceal her powers from everyone, even her sister, and to never use them. Over the years and through the death of their parents, Anna and Elsa grew apart because of this secret.”


Emphasize that they can have fun with this and make it detailed like the example above.


Step 2:

Once students have had some time to plan, have them gather their groups in a line in the order they will be telling their story. Let them know that it’s okay if their interpretation of the story or what parts of the story fit into their elements is different from everyone else’s. They don’t have to change what they wrote, even if the pieces don’t fit together perfectly. Encourage them to just have fun and enjoy moments where it doesn’t quite fit together right.


Step 3:

Draw a plot diagram on the board.

What is this? (They may call it a plot triangle or the plot structure)

Why is this important to understand as a writer?

How can this help us create interesting stories?


Step 4:

Pair Share

If basic plot elements can make a story interesting, what makes a story meaningful? What’s the point of telling stories or doing theatre? Think about the books, the plays, the movies you have seen that changed you, made you feel something, or made you think. Turn to a partner and discuss what made that story or that work meaningful to you.


Step 5:

Share with the students why YOU as a teacher are passionate about theatre. What makes it meaningful for you? Share a specific example of something you have learned or changed in your life because of something someone wrote or performed.


Step 6:

Have students think quietly to themselves for a moment. Have them think of the book, play, movie, tv show, poem, song, etc that has had a great impact on them that they discussed with their partner earlier. Ask them to reflect for a moment on why they like that particular work and how it affected them or what it taught them. Ask them, if they can, to synthesize that reason into a short life lesson or theme. When they are ready, they may come write those themes or life lessons on the board. This may need to be modeled for them. Write on the board, “Sometimes all we have to do is listen” and “we should celebrate our differences” and “Feminism is for everybody” or any other example theme or idea.


Step 7:

Words are powerful. Words written for the stage have an extra power to come to life that can teach us and inspire us. If we want to learn to share our voice and say what the world needs to hear from us, we need to study a few things first. Next time we are going to talk about dialogue.


Assign Homework: Students must record at least 40 seconds of a natural conversation. This can be at the dinner table, at the mall, at lunch at school. They must then transcribe that dialogue into the format of a play.