Skip to main content
Writing A Short Play

Playwriting vs. Improv


Playwriting vs. Improv


Students will understand what playwriting is by discussing its advantages and disadvantages compared to improv.


Playwriting project explanation and rubric, Whose Line and Modern Family clip loaded on YouTube

Lesson 1.Playwriting Project Info Sheet

Unit Rubric for playwriting and presentation


When the students are all seated, name one student by name and ask them to come up to the front of the classroom with you. Tell the student and the rest of the class that you are going to start a scene of something that happened in your life once in college and you will play yourself and the student will play the professor. Start the scene with no further explanation. Let the scene play out until you feel it is a good place to end and call scene. Tell the students that the scene did not play out the way that it actually did in real life. But now they all need to think of an experience in their lives when there was a problem/argument/disagreement between them and another person. It should be a problem that was very soon after solved. Give them time to think.


Tell the students to find a partner and then once they have found a partner, find another pair to create a group of 4 with. Within their groups, 4 short scenes will be performed. Each person needs to perform that problem in their life with their partner for the other pair. But make sure to tell them that they are NOT allowed to tell their partner how their problem happened or was solved, just start the scene and let it flow. Action!


After the students have finished performing, ask a few students if their scenes went the same in performance as it did in real life. What made it so hard to make it happen the same way?


Bring up the same student who helped you in the beginning. Tell the students to sing a song to themselves as you whisper to your helper how your college problem with the professor actually happened. Now perform the scene again and when you are done. Explain that when I was able to tell the student how that time in my life went, the scene was a much better portrayal. 


Tell the students to get back in their duos and their groups of 4 and now tell your partner how your experience went. Don’t give exact dialogue but explain the general situation and how it was solved and then perform it.


Was that better? Why was it easier? But were there still problems? What were the problems that you ran into?


Tell everyone to take out a piece of paper. Now that they have performed (or tried to) perform their scene twice, they are now going to write down lines for their scene. This way, their experience from life can be accurately portrayed in the scene. Give them about 8 minutes to write down some lines for their scene.


Tell them to get back in their groups and do what they’ve always done but this time you will be reading a script. 


As the students finish and gather back to their seats, write the words “playwriting” and “improv” on the board. What is the difference between these two words? What are the advantages and disadvantages to both? What we just did was go from improv-ing a scene to playwriting a scene. Many times playwriting can seem scary and daunting but when you know what you’re writing about and you have learned the right elements, it’s not as scary as it might seem. 


Show this clip

And then show this clip

How do they differ? Add more differences, advantages, and disadvantages to the board under improve and playwriting. 


Hand out the rubric for the playwriting project. Read it over with the students and ask if there are any questions.