5.6 Water drama
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Curriculum Alignment

5, 9, 14, 18, 25

Years K-6: English, Science and Technology,
 HSIE, Creative Arts
Years 7-10: Science, Drama, English, Textiles
 and Design, Visual Arts 
Years 11-12: Drama, Earth and Environmental Science, Society and Culture, Textiles &Design, Visual Arts, Visual Design

Futures, Interdependence, Thinking

Science, Thinking Processes, Geography

SOSE, Science, Geography

Students will write, develop, produce and perform a play based on reading of a text and by placing themselves in the role of one character

1-3 hours 

Materials required
Patience the Water Spider by Dr Stephen Skinner 
>The Isabella Rowing Regatta by Dr Stephen Skinner
>Song of the Water Boatman and Other Poems by Joyce Sidman, 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, NY
Various art supplies

Role drama is a complex form which originated in Britain, in which students take on roles, either of their own creation or suggested by the structure of the activity, and then enter into the drama as thinking participants.  

It can be a little intimidating for teachers (but it is highly enriching) because the outcome is not preordained, and because it frequently involves the teacher being in role also.  
Students in role drama activities must make choices, must react and interact in role - making decisions based not on what they personally would do or what they think would make a funny story, but rather based on the real situation into which their characters are placed.

You can even do water drama at your nearby river, stream or wetland. Photograph: Bill Phillips

Using role drama, students have an opportunity to cement and extend their understanding of species they have discovered, the basic needs of these species, and their behaviours and interactions with the rest of their habitat. 


Lesson plan
1. Before reading the story, tell students that they will be acting out the story afterwards. Focus students to be thinking, while listening to the story, about what some of the problems might be when acting out the story.  

2. Obtain and read one of the above stories (see under Materials required – or visit our web site) to the students, or another story featuring a cast of water creatures.

3. Once the story is finished, discuss the problems to be solved before acting out the most exciting scenes. 

4. List the characters with the students. 

Why not ask the students what
other characters they might like to
add. This allows for every student
to have a role, from clouds of
backswimmers and Daphinia to
possibly larger animals such as
platypus, ducks, plants, frogs or
even water rats.

5. Discuss the concept of role drama and have students outline the behaviour and ‘motivation’ for each of the characters they have listed. 

6. With the students, plan who will play each character, and which parts of the story to act out. 

7. If there’s time and the resources, get the students to make use of the art materials to create costumes for themselves. Remind them that there is a need to coordinate their efforts (for example, all the dragonflies should look roughly the same).

8. For older students, challenge them to break up the story into parts, adding dialogue or extra scenes for new characters. 

9. For younger students, ask for additional notes to be added to the book and read by the teacher/narrator.

10. Perform the play.

11. Afterwards, discuss how things did or didn’t follow the original story, explore why, and how the play might have gone differently.

Break students up into groups of 4-5 and ask them to write and produce their very own play based around an aquatic ecosystem like a nearby river, stream, pond or wetland.

Secondary pathway
1. Read one of the stories listed (see under Materials required), or another appropriate predetermined text. 

2. Having become familiar with the story, brainstorm several lists on the board: 
Who are the CHARACTERS in the story? 
What are the SETTINGS? 
What are the EVENTS in the story. 
The point here is to come up with a brief outline of the plot. This should result in a list of characters, a list of settings and a rough outline of the plot. More importantly, though, it results in a class full of students who have really thought about the mechanics of the story, often in ways they never have before.

3. Begin to deal with just one item from the outline at a time. Start with the first one, but not necessarily. Write on the board. Scene One: and the first event from step 1.

4. Choose the requisite number of students and ask them to act out the scene. Do this several times with different groups, trying to involve as many students as possible.

5. As the groups perform, the whole class brainstorms ways to refine the plot. Coach the group with questions like, “Is she just going to come out with it like that?” “How do you think the characters feel now?” “Do you think they should say anything?” 

When possible, give students who are not currently “performing” the first opportunitiy for asking questions like these. What is aimed for is a model in which the seated students are coaching the performers.

6. It is important to note that while dialogue will result at this point, don’t write it down yet. This step in the process if for cataloguing the fine points of the outline. What ends up on the board will be something like the following.

Scene one
: Mother pig tells the three little pigs they have to move out.
Mother pig has the little pigs sit down. She tells them that they’re all grown up now, and have to move out.
The first and second pigs complain bitterly, but mother pig is firm.
The third pig is confident.
The three pigs leave to make houses for themselves.

7. If possible, have the draft “script” copied for the students. Make this script look exactly like a professional acting script, except that there is no dialogue and the stage directions are overwritten. Where dialogue should go, write DIALOGUE. The stage directions are written by the teacher but try to mirror the language used in the group outline. Part of the script might look like this. 

Mrs Bailey’s Class Play

By Tommy, Mike, Daisy, etc
Cast of characters
Mother pig
First little pig
Second little pig
Third little pig
Big bad wolf

Scene one
(The forest, inside Mother pigs’ house. Mother pig has called her three children together. They sit listening to her. She means to tell them it’s time they set out on their own.)

(Two of the little pigs really don’t want to go.)

(The three little pigs leave home forever.)

Scene two

There is no title yet,
because usually it is best
to make up the title last,
since that way students
know exactly what it is
named. Hand out the scripts
and read them together.

8. Explain what is meant by “DIALOGUE” a process that takes more or less effort depending on the understanding of the students. 

9. Each time students come to DIALOGUE, the class brainstorms who speaks and what, exactly, it is they should say. Coach students as much as necessary and as little as possible. Write all the dialogue on the board and change or adjust it as students fine-tune it. 

10. If students encounter a scene that is hard to write, ask a few students to act it out, and try out different lines, to see which the class likes best.

11. Once “finished” with a scene, have a few students act it out (in the style of a staged reading, with the teacher reading the stage directions out loud) to make sure the lines work in context and “flow” well. 

12. It is really pushing a story to add enough characters for a whole class to play a role. The fact is that even those plays with “roles for everyone” tend to have one or two big roles and a dozen tiny ones. 

One way to solve this problem by creating large numbers of NARRATORS. Also, take every available opportunity in production to give students non-speaking action and to involve them in set-making, etc., but that’s for a discussion of production. The final product should look like this.

One Smart Pig 

By Tommy, Mike, Daisy, etc

Cast of characters
Mother pig
First little pig
Second little pig
Third little pig
Big bad wolf

Scene one
(The forest, inside Mother pigs’ house. 
Mother pig has called her three children together. 
They sit listening to her.)

Narrator 1
One day, Mother pig called her three children together.

Narrator 2
She wanted to tell them it was time they left home.

Mother pig
Now boys, you know you’re grown up now. It’s time you set out on your own. And you’ll have to make your own houses.

Narrator 3
Two of the little pigs really didn’t want to go.

First little pig
We don’t want to go!