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Foundations Of Acting/ Scenework

Lesson 1.Honesty


Students will show their ability to synthesize confidence, creativity, and honesty by reading a short, original poem to their classmates.


Students can be assessed by their group members on performance and participation through a peer evaluation rubric.


Video clips from Friends, chalk/dry erase markers for writing on the board, visual or audio examples of “I am From” poetry, individual copies of Almost, Maine scenes for each student, copies of Lesson 1.Peer rubric for original poem exercise

  • Step One—Hook

Ask students to watch for qualities of good acting and bad acting as they watch the following video clips: Friends Season 2 Episode 13: Joey overacting in the end credits, Season 3 Episode 7: Joey becomes a lecturer for Soap Opera acting

Transition: Draw a line down the center of the board and label one side “good acting” and one side “bad acting.” Invite the students to come up to the board and write down their ideas.

  • Step Two— Graffiti Wall Discussion:

Brainstorm as a class the qualities of good and bad acting. Discuss with the students the general trends shown on the graffiti wall. Guide the discussion so it narrows in on a focus of honest acting:

o Good acting: honest, sincere, relatable, practiced, believable, well-rehearsed, genuine, open to constructive criticism, not overdone

o Bad acting: fake, hamming, craves attention, overacting, seeks spotlight, detracts from others in the scene, misses the big picture, overly dramatic, trite and expected rather than creative, defensive

  • Step Three— Directions

Explain that the goal for the day is to practice qualities of honest acting. Tell the students that this exercise will better prepare them for future performances. They will be writing short, original poems and then reading them to their classmates.

Introduce the “I am from” poem by displaying projected examples, listening/watching performances, or distributing printed copies:

o Basic poem template

o George Ella Lyon reading her poem (audio)

o Where I'm From poetry examples

  • Step Four— Discussion

Use the poetry examples to spark a class discussion about confidence, creativity, comfort, and honesty:

o What qualities about these performances demonstrate honesty? (creative, original, sincere, not showy, relatable, personal details and stories)

o How can we imitate those qualities in our own performances? (brainstorm personal stories, add thoughts, feelings, and opinions, be confident, say it in your own words, do it in your own way, don’t try to be something/someone else, do what makes you comfortable, be honest with yourself)

Challenge the students to pick 2 or 3 specific qualities from the graffiti wall that they are going to try to incorporate into their poetry performance. Iterate that this is a low-risk activity.

  • Step Five—Independent Practice

Give the students individual practice time to compose their short “I am from” poems and rehearse reading them out loud. Make sure the students are aware of how much time they have remaining by periodically checking in and announcing the time they have left. Assist the students who are struggling to write or practice. Consider leaving examples available for the students to look to for guidance. Or generate ideas of what to write about as a class, writing down the answers on the board for the students to reference later.

  • Step Six—Group Practice

After the students are done composing and rehearsing, play a few short warm-ups altogether to bolster confidence and comfort: (tongue twisters, ghost giggle, send a hand squeeze around the circle, etc.). Explain that acting warm-ups are a great way to battle nerves and make room for confident, creative, and honest performances.

Divide students into groups (about 4 students each) for poetry readings. Pass out copies of the peer review rubric to the students, giving each student enough to evaluate each of the other students in his or her group. Encourage the students to give positive feedback about the qualities of good performance that they observe after each student presents his or her poem. As the students share their poetry, move around the room observing every group.

  • Step Seven—Checking for Understanding

Gather students back together as class and ask if anyone saw some qualities of honest performance they want to share. Be prepared to share success stories that you observed as a teacher as needed.

o Did you have a favorite poem you heard someone else read?

o How did it feel to read your poem out loud?

o Were you successful in incorporating the qualities of honest performance?

  • Step Eight—Directions

Having predetermined partnerships and scenes from John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, explain the parameters of the upcoming final performance for the unit—contemporary scenes with partners. Tell the students that the future lesson topics will help to prepare them for their scenes but encourage them to begin memorizing right away. Distribute the assignments for scenes and partners. Give them the remaining class time to meet with their partners, read their scenes, and brainstorm ideas. Ask the students to think about how they will apply the qualities of good, honest acting into their performances.

Possible Almost, Maine scenes

ProloguePete and Ginette
Sad and GladJimmy, Sandrine, and Waitress
Getting it BackLendall and Gayle
Where it WentPhil and Marci
Story of HopeMan and Hope