School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 7

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Advanced/Gifted and Talented: An advanced/gifted and talented tool is an idea for a complex, multi-step instructional task that requires students to apply knowledge and skills of multiple objectives that support one indicator. Tasks require students to interpret, analyze, and evaluate text at an appropriate level of complexity and embed a variety of differentiation strategies to challenge advanced readers. Many of these strategies and activities can be adapted for use with all students.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 5. Analyze elements of drama to facilitate understanding and interpretation

Objective b. Analyze the action of individual scenes and acts and their relationship to the plot

Other Objectives Addressed

c.Summarize or paraphrase

Instructional Task

Students will analyze elements of drama in order to assume the roles of actors who must infer subtext and motivation to interpret the characters. Students will use their analyses to score a script and enact scenes from a play (authentic product).

Development of Task

  1. Before reading, the teacher will introduce the concept of subtext, the underlying meaning of the text as implied by the dialogue and/or stage directions and interpreted by an actor in performance through tone and movement.
  2. The teacher will give pairs of students the same short dialogue with different sets of stage directions:

    A. You’re early.
    B: Is that a problem?
    A: Take a seat.
    B: So why am I here?
    A: Don’t you know?
    B: I’m not sure.
    A: Here, take this.
    B: I hope it’s not what I think it is.

    One pair might receive the dialogue with stage directions for a parent and child with a report card, another with stage directions for a boyfriend and girlfriend with an engagement ring, another with stage directions for spies with information on an assignment, another with stage directions for an interviewer and interviewee. Stage directions for the parent/child scene may start like this:

    (In a living room. An adult paces back and forth, stopping periodically to look at a piece of paper and sigh. A child enters the room tiptoeing and tries to slip past the adult. The adult suddenly turns and faces the child and points a finger violently, then just as suddenly drops it.)
    A: (surprised) You’re early.
    B: (meekly starting to back out of the room) Is that a problem?

  3. The teacher will have the pairs of students act out the dialogue using the different sets of stage directions (kinesthetic/tactile learning style). The other students will identify the tone the actors used, such as scared, sarcastic, angry, tired, humorous, or excited. The students will infer the different possible subtexts, plots, and character motivations based on the tone.
  4. The teacher will provide students with a play at an appropriate level of complexity that contains ample character development. Suggestions include The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Alternately, the teacher may select excerpts from plays of appropriate complexity.
  5. During reading, students will analyze the relationship between dialogue, stage directions, subtext, tone, character development, and plot (objective c). Students will discuss how an actor analyzes a script and communicates subtext and a character’s motivations using vocal inflection and pacing of dialogue as well as movement. Students will discuss how some plays require the reader/actor to make more inferences based on the degree of difference between the dialogue and the subtext (i.e., some characters’ motivations are not clearly revealed in their dialogue).
  6. After reading, the teacher will introduce the concept of “scoring” a script. Actors score a script by using symbols to indicate pauses, pitch level, emphasis, phrasing, and movement. For example, an actor may draw a jagged line above dialogue he wants to say quickly, a wavy line above dialogue he wants to say slowly, underline words and phrases once or twice which he wants to emphasize, and draw one or two slashes for shorter or longer pauses.
  7. The teacher will model scoring one version of the brief dialogue already performed to indicate the characters’ subtext and motivations through tone and movement. Students may devise their own symbols to use in their scoring. For example, in the parent/child scene the parent’s first line may be scored as:

    dialogue scoring example
  8. The teacher will then group the students and assign each group a scene from the play. Students will analyze the dialogue and stage directions in order to infer characters’ motivations for their assigned scene (objective b). They will then score the script as actors preparing to present the roles. The tone of the character’s voice and the movement will reveal the character’s subtext and motivations.
  9. In a brief constructed response, students will answer the question, “How does the text support your interpretation of the character’s subtext and motivation?
  10. In small groups, students will present their scenes from the play using their scored scripts. Other students will evaluate the effectiveness of the students’ interpretations in terms of the believability of the characters’ motivations and subtext (evaluation).
Resources for Objective 3.A.5.b:
Lesson Seeds | ADVANCED/G-T |