Login Now || Register for Free!

Set Design


Students will demonstrate an understanding of set pieces and design by creating a model set for a play script of their choice.

Materials Needed

Rulers, scissors, manila folders, tape, glue, colored pencils/markers, scratch paper, copies of several set descriptions from various plays.

Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Ask for a student volunteer and invite them to the front of the class.  Give everyone else a scratch piece of paper.  Instruct the volunteer to describe the living room in their house and as they describe it have the other students to either list objects or images, or draw what she is describing.  They do not need to ask questions to clarify, but can fill in the blanks however they want.  This doesn’t need to be a faithful replica of the volunteer’s living room, but your interpretation of it.  Proceed with the activity.


Step 1:  Transition.  Ask if any students added things to complete their room that wasn’t described by the volunteer.  As students look at their drawing, inform them that they have just created a set design.  Now let’s consider some other logistics of creating a set design.

Step 2:  Instruction.  As they look at their “set design,” consider how feasible it is for the stage.  On the board, create a list of things that are important to consider when designing a set. (room for movement, how it fills the space, cost of building, lines that are created, feeling/mood of the environment).

Step 3:  Discussion.  Now that we understand what practical things we have to take into consideration, let’s discuss how we create an environment that supports the mood of the play.  On the board, list different genres or types of plays (romances, comedies, fairy tales, mysteries, crime, tragedy, etc.)  Just as with costume design, colors can greatly impact the feeling the set creates.  Go through the list and have students name one or two colors that they would associate with the set of that type of play (romance-pink, mystery-gray, royal historical-purple/red, comedy-yellow, orange, etc).  We also can gather a lot of information about the play before any action happens when we look at the set, just from the set style, props, furniture, etc. 

Step 4:  Check for understanding.  Describe a few sets for students and have them guess what the set is.           

White, clean, one bed with white sheets, a tv suspended in a corner, tiled floor, a beeping machine, a bag suspended on a pole, a cheap art print over the bed, a window  (Hospital)

A pink rug, bed with fluffy purple pillows, a multitude of stuffed animals, a dollhouse in the corner, a flower printed bedspread, ruffled curtains, hand drawn art on the wall, a poster of Hannah Montana (Little Girl’s Bedroom)

Clean, carpeted, benches in even rows, a pipe organ, stained glass windows, a pulpit (Church)

Ask students what clues gave away the location.  There are specific things we can include that make the location clear.  These sorts of things are important to help communicate with our audience and let them know what kind of play they are watching, and can help influence the feeling of the play

Step 5:  Instruction.  Explain to students that they will now have the opportunity to work with a partner in creating a model set from one of the set descriptions you will provide.  First they need to understand that these need to be created to scale.  Ask if anyone can explain what that means.  (it is proportionally accurate, aka ¼ inch equals 1 foot.)  Quarter inch scale will work really well for this project.  On the board, sketch out your school’s stage and give them rough dimensions of where the set they are designing would be located (aka 24’ by 40’ because they are easily divided by 4).  Most real sets are constructed from three specific kinds of set pieces— stairs, platforms, and flats.  Ask if there are any questions about what stairs are (don’t worry about doing stairs to scale, just accordion fold the paper, and you’ll be fine).  Ask if anyone knows what a platform is (a raised floor).  These are used to create more levels on stage.  Ask students to give some examples on how they might use a platform in a set.  Ask if anyone knows what a flat is (a fake wall, essentially).  It can have doors or windows in it.  If you include doors or windows in your set design you need to include another important aspect of set design, masking.  Masking simply means that you put some additional flats behind the window or door so that they audience can’t see through to opening and into the backstage area.  Masking “masks” the backstage and keeps the illusion of the set.  Set pieces can be painted to mimic any kind of building material, so don’t limit yourself. 

Step 6:  Group Practice.  First you will briefly go through the set descriptions and students interested in that set can be paired together (or which ever way you deem best to team students together).  Explain that students will use the manila folders on which to mount their set design.  They will need to go through their set description and highlight specific things they need to include in their set.  This set description needs to be attached to the back of their set design with their names on it when they turn it in.  They will need to create the flats, platforms, and furniture from other pieces of manila folder and use colored pencils/markers to help communicate the mood and setting of the play.  Get to work! 

Closure:  Allow students to work on their project until 7 minutes before the bell rings.  Have them clean up.  Allow them to take projects home if they are unfinished, and they may turn them in at the beginning of class next time.  Take the last few minutes to discuss what was interesting about set design to them.  What does this room communicate by it’s cools, furniture, props, etc?  What does their own bedroom communicate about themselves?  Remind them to turn in their design today or the following class period.


Students will be assessed on in class participation and their completed model set.

User Comments

No User Comments

Any changes, additions, or links that don't work--please let the site administrator know.