Acting It Out : Using Drama in the Classroom to Improve Student Engagement, Reading, and Critical Thinking book cover
1st Edition

Acting It Out
Using Drama in the Classroom to Improve Student Engagement, Reading, and Critical Thinking

ISBN 9781138677449
Published October 4, 2016 by Routledge
140 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $34.95

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Book Description

In Acting It Out, you’ll discover how to use drama in your ELA and social studies classrooms to boost student participation and foster critical thinking. With years of experience supervising arts integration programs in Chicago Public Schools, authors Juliet Hart, Mark Onuscheck, and Mary T. Christel offer practical advice for teachers in middle and high schools. Inside, you’ll find…

    • Group activities to improve concentration, harness focus, and engage students of all abilities and learning styles in teamwork
    • Close reading exercises that encourage students to think critically and build personal relationships with the text
    • Strategies for integrating active approaches to dramatic literature, such as improvisation and scene work
    • Ideas for using dramatic literature as a springboard for studying history and interdisciplinary studies
    • Annotated reading lists that highlight each play’s content and recommended uses in ELA or social studies

Throughout the book, you’ll also find handy tools such as reflection questions, handouts, and rubrics. By implementing the strategies in this book and allowing students to step into different roles from a text, you’ll improve reading comprehension and energize your classroom!

Table of Contents


Meet the Authors


Chapter 1: Bringing Dramatic Literature to Life Through An Active Approach

What Does "Acting It Out" Really Involve?

Offering A Bit of Context: TimeLine Theatre Company and Chicago Public

Schools Partnership

Not Just in Drama Class: Using Active Approaches in Any Classroom

Opportunity for Reflection

Chapter 2: Engaging Students: The Key Ingredient

Make the Connection: Engagement and Standards for Learning

Empowering Learners: Long Term Outcomes

Opportunity for Reflection

Chapter 3: Opening Up the Classroom Actor’s Toolkit: Promoting Student Engagement

How to Build an Ensemble

Introducing Classroom Actor Basics

Sharing Energy and Building Trust

Making Body and Voice Connections

Creating A New Approach to Bell Ringers and Redirection Strategies

Beyond Bell Ringer Ensemble Building Activities: Exploring a Monologue

Activity #6: Group Monologue Work

Fostering "Buy In" and A Classroom that "Connects"

Opportunity for Reflection


Chapter 4: The Play’s the Thing: To Read or Not To Read Dramatic Literature

Why Read a Play?

Act One: Start by Addressing Accessible Literary Themes

Act Two: Build Critical Thinking Around Social Issues

Act Three: Create and Recreate Historical Perspective

Opportunity for Reflection


Chapter 5: Acting It Out: Applying Active Approaches to Scene Study

Introducing the Play

Selecting Scenes and Monologues

Starting the Rehearsal Process

More Body and Character Connections

Casting the Scenes, Creating Rehearsal Groups

Starting with a "Table Read"

The Reader-Feeder Approach

Moving with a Purpose: Blocking the Scene

Showing Scenes

Assessment: What Are My Students Learning? How Do They Want to


Building Confidence, Fostering Success

Opportunity for Reflection

Handout: Self-Assessment: My Personal Goals

Handout: Formative Assessment: Checklist for Meeting Rehearsal Objectives

Rubric: Summative Assessment of Scene Showing

Chapter 6: Discovering the World of the Play: Researching Complementary Nonfiction, Primary Sources, and Visual Texts

What is a Dramaturg?

Teacher as Dramaturg: Providing Students with Complementary Non-fiction Texts

Students as Dramaturgs: Researching the World of the Play

Seeing the World of the Play Through Visual Media Research

The Play’s "Backstory": Creating a Dramaturgical Packet

Step into the Play’s World: Creating a "Lobby Display" for the Classroom

Opportunity for Reflection

Handout: Brainstorming to Set a Research Agenda

Chapter 7: It’s All Connected: Making Interdisciplinary Connections through Dramatic Texts

Why Interdisciplinary Connections through Dramatic Texts?

Excerpting a Play, Capturing a Crucial Moment in History

Use History Plays Like Time Machines

More Specifically: Unpack Social Issues

Use Plays to Establish a Different Viewpoint on Segregation

Use Plays to Gain a Different Viewpoint on Prejudice

Use Plays to Study the Role of Harassment in Culture

Use Plays to Expose the Stories of Internment and Genocide

Opportunity for Reflection


Chapter 8: Measuring Growth: Activities for Exploration, Reflection, and Assessment 

Setting the Stage for Exploration: Previewing the Play, Its Issues, and Themes

Character Development Activities for Deeper Exploration and as Formative

Assessment Tools

Capstone Writing Activities

Bringing It All Together

Opportunity for Reflection

Handout: Character Dossier

Handout: Coat of Arms Template


Appendix A: Lesson Plans

Appendix B: Recommended Plays

Appendix C: Recommended Resources


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Juliet Hart is the Director of Education at TimeLine Theatre Company. She has presented workshops on active approaches to drama in the classroom for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Mark Onuscheck is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. He also serves as an adjunct professor at DePaul University.

Mary T. Christel is a former teacher of world literature, media and film studies, and theater. Currently, she contributes teaching resources to TimeLine Theatre’s Living History Program and also reviews prospective lesson plans for the ReadWriteThink website.


"I highly recommend this book. The most appealing features are, hands down, the teaching ideas, examples, and activity suggestions. I am always looking for new activities and lesson plans. This book would be great for first year as well as veteran teachers." – Denise Golubski, English Teacher and Department Chairperson, Holy Name High School, OH