Baltimore City Public Schools (and almost everything else except Hopkins) were closed last Monday because of snow, so my class was canceled. This Monday we were back though and Playwriting Class was a great success! I had my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders read another play aloud, but this time I chose a children's play called "The Jade Stone." After we finished reading it, I asked the kids to raise their hands if they liked the last play we read or this play better. Initially some raised their hands for the second play, some raised their hands for both, but most decided they liked the play from the first class better. Then they thought about it a little longer and all of them said they liked the last play more. This was the response I had hoped for. I purposefully chose a play with a lot of narrators, which interrupted the action of the play, without any setting description at the beginning and without a lot of action or interaction between the characters. During our discussion I asked a few questions, but they pretty much picked up on why this was a bad example of a play and what pitfalls I wanted them to avoid once they started writing.
For the second half of the class, I gave them their first exercise in playwriting. I asked for several volunteers to come up with a setting and two characters. It turned out that the setting was a muddy backyard and the characters were a fluffy dog and an orange striped cat. Then I told them to get into pairs and to start writing a play with that setting and those characters. I made them a "Brainstorming for Playwriting" worksheet (with a cartoon thunder cloud with a face, arms and legs) to help them organize their ideas. I haven't looked over the plays yet, but it was amazing how fast they started. One of the groups was arguing a little bit and a couple other groups forgot to start with the setting description, meaning what the audience was seeing on the stage. By the time class was over, some groups had finished and some had barely started. Five of my students wanted to take their folders home because they were so excited about what they had started and they wanted to write some more. I absolutely love teaching them! It's a shame (kind of) that Spring Break is next week.