We all have tried and tested resources and strategies which we use again and again, whether we're teaching practitioners, design elements or practical devising. This week, I would like to share with you four versatile resources and strategies for teaching set texts, which can be used for Key Stages 4 and 5. All the resources I refer to in this article have just been added to the Resource Library and are FREE to download. More details at the end of the article! So here we go...
Function of the Scene
One of the first activities I do with my students, as we explore each scene from a play practically, is to discuss and write down the 'function' of each scene. This is when you write one sentence which summarizes the scene's main 'function' within the play. This is what the playwright reveals or develops in the scene, in terms of plot, character or theme. In Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good, for example, we could say that the main function of Act 2, Scene 1 is that "Wertenbaker wants us to understand and empathize with Liz, by revealing her backstory". This sounds like something quite straight forward but it is actually quite challenging for students to grasp initially, especially if they are just getting to know a text. It encourages a great deal of debate about the characters, the objectives and main themes within in each scene. Yet, it is an excellent exercise which enables them to consider the real 'core' of each scene, the main action and can be used for revision, leading up the exam. If students then use these in the exam, when they introduce a key scene, it demonstrates a secure knowledge of the play and the specific extract they are discussing.
Creating an 'overview' of each character within the play is something I would focus on mid-way through exploring a set text, although it is also a useful revision tool. This facilitates students' understanding of the character and also enables them to explore ideas around casting, for director and actor questions. I would give each student in the class one or two characters each, as homework task and then feedback and share the information on each character. This is a great way to share knowledge and provides an opportunity to debate the characters, their motivations and 'function' within the play. Once students have decided on basic information such as age, class, they should then move onto consider the character's 'journey' in the play, using the sentence starter "At the start of the play, ___________ is.....and at the end of the play they....." In addition, they begin to develop costume ideas and produce sketches at this stage, before moving on to write a concise, informative paragraph about the character which is ideal for consolidating their knowledge and ideas, and great to use for revision, leading up the exam!
Scene-by-Scene Directorial Notes
A template which I find incredibly versatile, and can be used for any set text at GCSE or A-Level is a Scene-by-Scene Template, which can be used during an after practical exploration. I print these off in a pack, depending on the number of scenes in the play. This a great way for students to develop their own notes and you can also keep a track of where gaps in student knowledge are, if students have missed lessons. As we know, practical work is very difficult for students to 'catch up' on if they miss it but this provides some support for students. Each page has the 'function' of each scene, basic given circumstances, consideration of mood and atmosphere and then aerial view sketches of what has been explored practically in terms of staging and positioning. They also identify key quotes and any relevant contextual information in the scene. I find that it is much better to leave time in lessons to write these up and discuss the practical work as they are writing the notes, or they go to their next lesson and the details of the practical exploration (the really useful notes) are forgotten!
Production Concept Template
If students are building towards developing a Production Concept for the set text, use a structured template, which they can work on independently to brainstorm their ideas. This should ideally editable so that it can be set as an independent study task . The students might create several concepts and present them in class before 'fixing ' their ideas and moving on to more developed mood boards.
I hope these are useful revision tools for too for students, as we go into the summer term! There are PDF and Editable versions of the all the resources too. All of the resources can be downloaded now, if you have already registered by clicking here: https://www.weteachdrama.com/free-resources or you can register here: https://www.weteachdrama.com/get-the-password.