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  • 1.  Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-18-2021 09:17


    I have been teaching Theatre and Advanced Theatre for a few years now and I am working on re-vamping some of my older materials.  I inherited a lot from the previous teacher and I don't love it all.
    I'm curious what "Units" others teach?  I know there are standards and curriculum and all that, but does anyone else base their course on units?  For example, with my Beginning Theatre class, I do a unit on production roles, a unit on pantomime, a unit on the audition process and the monologue.  In Advanced, I do a unit on Shakespeare, a unit on Stage Combat, etc.  But I need fresh ideas!  What units do you all teach??

    Amber Hugus
    Seneca Valley High School

  • 2.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-19-2021 07:29
    In my advanced class I always do Michael Shurtleff's Audition in conjunction with undirected scenes. Last year I added Mask, Radio, and Devising units and expanded my mini unit on commedia. In my first-year class we do units on voice, body, concentration/relaxation, and imagination. This year I added a unit on Musical theatre, and right now we're working on Chamber Theatre -- adapting a literary text into a performance. Last year I included a monologue-writing unit that culminated in the students creating and performing an original monologue based on a historical photo. In the second semester it's all Stanislavski technique which we view through the lens of a study play. Right now I'm using She Kills Monsters, but in the past I have also used Picnic and All My Sons. I usually do the Viewpoints in one or both of these classes as well.

    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Shenandoah Valley Governor's School

  • 3.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-19-2021 08:04
    Here are some additional units you didn't mention that I use for various levels:
    • Readers Theatre
    • Musical Theatre
    • Movement for the Actor
    • Voice & Diction
    • Production (resulting in the performance of a One-Act play)
    • Stage Makeup 
    Definitely a great time to shake things up! 

    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC

  • 4.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-19-2021 08:16
    My beginning class is open to all grades.  It is a semester long "survey" class.  We do a duet scene unit, a monologue unit, a costume design unit, a props unit and an overview of Theatre History.  They get a taste of quite a bit.  The two acting units include things like stage directions, script analysis, tactics/objectives, stage composition, and some stage manager notation for blocking.   Costume in props include script analysis with a focus on each area.  Costuming includes tools of the designer and what the costume expresses.  Both costume and props include the ideas of primary and secondary research sources.  Both of these units culminate in projects--Costume unit includes costume plot, script analysis, costume rendering, explanation of costume design as well as watching a movie (we watch Music Man) to analyze the design and how it shows the progression of the characters.  Props projects include creating a props chart from a script (we use The Matchmaker, Act III), thumbnail drawings of set up before and at scene changes, drawings of props tables.  I also give them a list of items that we have actually used in shows that were hard to find and have them find pictures of each item and two sources (name of store, address, and phone number) of places within a 50 mile radius of our school.  I usually finish the semester with a highly abbreviated version of Theatre History--Ancient Greek to Present Day in about 2 1/2 weeks.  The course is designed to give them a taste and prep them for the work they will do if they go to the advanced class which is wholly a production course, where the skills and knowledge are grown depending on the needs of the plays(which I choose in order to grow those skills and knowledge.)

    Hope that helps.

    Holly Thompson
    Worthington Kilbourne High School

  • 5.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-19-2021 13:03
    I would like to add to this as well, I sorta got 'thrown' into teaching Theater---interviewed for an English position, "but the degree covers Theater, right...and oh yes you've had 15 yrs at camp, a few years working with a drama team at church, oh wait you have a Master's Degree in Media, Design, and Technology, so you could teach the technology class right?"   We had a theater teacher who just left, he also taught the Music classes, so while you won't do those classes, you can just pick up the Theater ones. Great, no problem ---right?

    By the way, I teach at a 6th-12th grade College Prep school that runs on a college schedule, while the Core Subject areas are not mixed, the Electives are where the school decides to mix the grades.  Try planning on doing Juliet and This Guy Romeo and not realizing the girl you've cast as Juliet is 12 and the guy you've cast as Romeo is 17 almost 18. about bringing Romeo and Juliet to real-life...Covid hit and shutdowns did as well before things got too out of hand, but it is truly a mess at times.

    I walked into the Theater 1 class on the 1st day of school into my class of 6th-12th graders, believing that all students were in the class who wanted to be in the class, who wanted to perform, who had a desire to perform.  I couldn't have been farther from the truth--they would have much rather had root canals done.  I had two weeks of pre-planning of not really knowing what was there, finding out that there was absolutely nothing left behind, no curriculum, no textbooks, no plays...oh there's a Drama Club, but it isn't run by the Theater class teacher.   So I created my own path of Theater 1... I have tweaked things, swapped things around and I have also allowed the students to somewhat guide the class---keeping to the Florida Standards.

    I have done a Nine-week study of the Theater History, Pre-Theater--using Lip Syncing Competition, Reading Children's Books, Improv Games, lots and lots of Fairy Tales, the Elements of a Play/Literature, Using song titles to write skits--calling it a slight bit of Improv, throwing in a bit of Theater and Group Building Games, Radio Theater, and for their Mid-Term creating a Character who they then had to create a backstory and the create a "Movie Trailer".  In the 2nd Nine Weeks, we would continue our journey through Theater History getting to Shakespeare and Musicals so I could show Into the Woods.   I think I do things at a decent pace, maybe a little quick at times, but I have learned if I drag things out too long I seem to lose interest pretty quickly

    The problems I have run into, the Middle Schoolers can't keep up with the High Schoolers when I lecture, or switch gears, no matter how slow I go, no matter how short I make the slides of information, or interactive. The High Schoolers get frustrated because they just want to get through the lecture so we can get onto the Hands-On portion of the component. I have learned if I would lecture about a particular Historical component, then we do a Readers Script or some type of Moving activity I got better results.  The students actually enjoyed themselves.

    Last Spring, I only had 1 theater class and 3 tech classes, but that class was the most different class I had had to date. They wanted to act, they wanted to perform--I didn't know what to do. So we did an actual play and I threw out my carefully laid out plans from the 1st semester and started over.

    Then this year came along....I was so excited, I was told I was going to have Theater 1, Theater 2,  and Theater 3, but when I got my schedule it just became a laughing stock of schedules. I have 4 Theater 1 classes, mixed in my 3rd pd class I have 5 Theater 2 students--at one point that class was all Theater 2 students---6th graders who had never taken a drama/theater course before in their lives, guidance was going through something.  Theater 3 was canceled due to a lack of anyone signing up for it, and all of my classes have at least 20-30 students in them. All who started off the year wanting to do anything possible besides acting.  Then my games, my activities, the pure 'silliness' of theater, and our ability to slip past defenses and suddenly they all wanted to perform.

    (Oh, by the way, my Spring Semester---Theater 1 for 3 classes with Theater 2 students mixed in two and a Debate class---like I have a clue about Debate--oh wait I took that in 10th grade....I looked at the numbers, if they would just pull all the Theater 2 students into 1 class it would be a very nice doable class)

    We have performed more this semester than I have with my previous classes, we had a Visual Performing Arts Night where the Chorus teacher organized our Arts Department to showcase our students, giving her chorus students the opportunity to perform and any of my students who may want to try this new thing called performing a chance.   After I picked the 4 groups, all of my classes were upset they weren't picked--ok it lasted about 20 seconds, but I had to shake my head and snicker as I thought back to their 1st conversations in my class, "Oh I ain't performing in front of no one"

    I took my Mid-Term Movie Making Project and broke it further down and made it into both their Midterm and Final Exam Projects, so they are learning technology while in Theater,  and we will end with creating and performing Human Videos using the Mime we learned. 

    Sorry for the long rant, but I guess I too am in the same boat of needing ideas of what I can present to the Administration for 2022-2023 class suggestions. I get so many students who are dumped in my class who have absolutely no desire to be in it, but have to because a Performing Arts credit is required and it is either Chorus or Theatre are the options. We did look up and saw a Film course in the Theater listing so I know I want to present that as an option. 

    But how does one really handle having Middle and High School mixed, do I have a valid argument to have separate sections if I want to pursue competitions? If that is the only reason, will that be enough? The standards have an Intro to Drama course that is Middle School but it is a 1/2 credit so what do I give to the Admin as an option for the other 1/2 of the year?

    Lauri Quick, Theater & Debate (Spring)Teacher
    Somerset College Preparatory Academy
    Port Saint Lucie, FL
    O. 772-343-7028 ext 276
    F. 772-343-7029

  • 6.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 11-26-2021 12:04
    I also base on units.  I start with a unit on Pantomime and non-verbal activities (level one does a variety of activities that also satisfy for Speech credit as well for those that are taking it for Speech I credit); voice work/diction; how to audition (including a headshot and creating a resume); how to read a script (this includes stage directions and terminology) including script analysis, marking for French Scenes, and reading for all of the production aspects i.e props, costumes, etc; and then one we do an actual audition and "casting" all of my level one students learn how to go through a rehearsal process in class for a showcase at the end of the second semester.

    My level three/four students do a unit on Shakespearean Sonnets. We analyze, learn format for presenting Shakespeare, they fully create a character which they must costume (so a short costume unit), and obviously memorize for their final showcase presentation.

    This is a quick condensed version for you.  :)

    Natalie (Saunders) Dommer
    Pasadena Memorial High School
    Pasadena, Texas

  • 7.  RE: Theatre Class Units of Study

    Posted 02-08-2022 13:24
    Hi Amber! (and everyone else!)

    I have a unique way of teaching my classes. I essentially have a "choose your own adventure" way of teaching theatre. I have several pre-made 3-week units that the students choose what they want to learn. All of them are under the realm of theatre. I have 1 unit that is required of all students which is monologues and I typically start the year with it. If I have students pop in during the year, I always start with them on monologues. The reason being that no matter if you are on-stage or backstage, you need to know how to understand a script. After this the student have the option of taking the following units:

    Advanced Acting Techniques
    Script Reading
    Introduction to Acting
    Scenes (with a partner)
    Voice for the Stage (singing and non-singing track)
    Introduction to Tech (this is beyond basic)
    Script writing 1
    Script Writing 2
    Dance + Movement 1
    Dance + Movement 2
    Performance Analysis 1
    Performance Analysis 2

    I start the year with roughly 2-2.5 weeks of Improvisation games to introduce them to each other, to me, and to how class runs and we do 10-15 minutes of improv every day. For an end of semester project, I give the kids one of the plays from the "Playing With Plays" series by: Khara C Barnhart and Brendan P. Kelso. I use one of the Shakespeare ones as we do look at Shakespeare during the monologues unit. The best part is that all of these units have been created to be used in virtual learning, freeing up the teacher to be a facilitator. There are activities, videos, etc. that the kids use to help guide them. The aboce units I use in my intro to Theatre course (or Theatre 1). I have units for a Theatre 2, but I haven't finished them up yet. I also have a Theatre 3 that I am working on for the Middle School level. I do have a rough draft of a high school Theatre 1 class, but it was made out necessity lol. But it is one of my summer projects!

    Let me know if you are interested in any of them (I know it's a little late!). My email is

    Joshua Watters
    Theatre Arts Teacher
    LaPorte TX