School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 8

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

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

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

Objective c. Analyze how dialogue and stage directions work together to create characters and plot


The teacher should select from an age-appropriate play a fully developed speech and accompanying stage directions for a single character. Students should read both the speech and stage directions and then focus on the details about the character that both speech and stage directions yield. To critically analyze the speech and stage directions, the teacher can use the following questions… 1. How does the lighting affect the character's words? 2. How does the character's movement on stage support the character's words? 3. How do the props and costumes assist a reader's understanding of the play? 4. How do the character's words establish tone or mood? 5. How do lighting and sound effects alter the mood? 6. If a character speaks in a situation other than a conversation, what is the effect upon the play's action? Additional questions are possible and all questions listed may not apply to the selected play.


First, the teacher and students should read a selected scene from an age-appropriate play. Students should be directed to pay close attention to the stage directions and to determine their affect upon the character's words. Next, students should discuss what the combination of words and stage directions reveal about the speaker/character and then a volunteer student should read the speech in the manner the stage directions dictate, and, if present in the directions, demonstrate the accompanying movements. An alternate method of completing this activity can be accomplished if a video of the selected scene is available. Students can analyze the combination of words and stage directions and then observe their outcome on the video. Finally, the teacher and students should discuss how the combination of words and stage directions enhance their understanding of the play.


The teacher should select an age-appropriate play where there are multiple scenes within one act. All students should read silently that selected act. Once reading is complete, the class should be divided into small groups, and each group should be assigned a scene within the act. Each group will be instructed to study their assigned scene paying particular note to the stage directions. Students within the group will select parts and rehearse their scene using a modified reader's theater format. Individual students will "act" their roles using the stage directions to guide their performance. When rehearsal time is complete, each group will present their scene for the rest of the class. Prior to the performance, the teacher will appoint several students to serve as critics to observe how well the reader/performers adhere to the stage directions. Once performances are finished, the critics will comment upon how well performances followed the stage directions. Finally, the class will discuss how the stage directions affected the perception of character and how the development of character through dialogue and stage direction affects the plot action.