Objectives and Tactics

Lesson #1:    Objectives and Tactics



Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of objectives by participating in activities that require choices to be made.



What is an objective? Can I pick any objective for my character?

What are tactics? How do I know what tactics my character will use?

Do tactics always work? What do I do if I feel like a tactic is failing?

What kinds of tactics can I use?



Your character wants something — usually something they have to go through another person to obtain.

Your character also has smaller goals along the way. The more of these you can figure out, the clearer your choices are on stage.

Tactics are methods or practices your character attempts to get what they want. Some work and some do not, but characters will keep using different tactics until one of 3 things happens

  1. Their objective is achieved
  2. They realize their objective is (at least for the moment) unobtainable or unimportant
  3. Their objective changes.

Understanding your character’s background (age, upbringing, socioeconomic status, relationships, etc) as well as their context (where they are, why there are there, who else is there, what is going on in that place) helps inform what kind of tactics a character would choose.

Sometimes our tactics include avoiding the things we don’t want.


Materials Needed: 

Something the students want.



In this class, each day the students will see a quote written upon the board. At the start of class, students are to find a group of their classmates to improvise a small performance based on the ideas found within the quote. The groups are given 5-7 minutes to prepare based on the length of the quote and the flow of ideas. Students are then given the opportunity to perform their group scene in front of the class. After each group has performed, the students will take a few minutes to discuss the quote as a lead into our activities for that class period. This is done each class, and the students know what to expect.


The quote for this class is:

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Step 1:  Break it Down — Ask the students to discuss to picture themselves as people in war (or in something fictitious like The Hunger Games). Which of Sun Tzu’s strategies do they think they would have been most likely to try and why? What does that say about them? Do they think they’d be stronger than most? More emotionally in control? Explain that Sun Tzu was giving military tactics, but these are things that we use in our day to day lives all the time. Explain that we’ll come back to that idea and move to the next activity.


Step 2:  Park Bench — Take a couple of chairs and set them in front of the class so the rest of the students form an audience. Two people will come up at a time person A will be sitting on the bench. Person B has to get person A off the bench. They can do this in any way except by physically touching. Person B only has to leave if they feel that whatever A is doing would make them leave. However if the audience feel that person B should leave but they are refusing to then they can vote them off. They do this by slowly raising their hands in the air. When Person B leaves, a new person comes up and tries to get that person off the bench.  Keep this activity going until a wide spread of tactics has been seen and tested.  If neither the class nor the players make progress in over 2 minutes, go ahead and make the executive decision to move on.


Step 3:  Graffiti Board — After the game, ask students to go and list all the tactics they could possibly think of to move someone in a game of park bench. Allow them several minutes to write and discuss. Oversee what they write and ask them to be more or less specific as needed. The idea is to help them see a huge spread of ideas for how they could achieve an objective.  When everyone is done, have them return to their seats.


Step 4: The Storm of the Century — Have the students close their eyes and listen to a story. Explain that there was a film that Stephen King helped produce called “The storm of the century” in which a mysterious stranger visits an island town and causes natural disasters while only telling the police chief “ Give me what I want, and I will go away.” But what he wants is one of the children from the town. Ask what you would do in that situation. You’re the leader of the town, you have children yourself and a spouse, and if the storm doesn’t stop your people will die from its effects one way or another.  Ask the students to take a moment to think about what they would do in those circumstances. Have the students share with a partner their thoughts. When they have finished have each partnership briefly share their best or their combined idea. 


Step 5:  Give them what they want– Explain that you have something that all of the students want. In my case it was the choice between extra credit and a card that I got from a local restaurant for free fries. The students were to pick an objective and use their single best tactic (that could be inspired by the graffiti board) to seek to obtain their objective. Explain that the decision will be made in the next class period when I have time to think about it.


Step 6:  Bringing in the Closer — Have the students discuss at the end of class (like the backstage of an episode of Chopped) why they think they were or were not successful. If it had been someone other than me, would they have used the same tactic? Why or why not? Explain that in the next class, they’ll get to tie more specific emotive choices to these tactics and objectives.