Use Drama to Teach Writing

Acting and pretend play can be a wonderful teaching tool, even in middle school. Get started with these four great ideas for using monologues.

Found Object Monologue
What kids practice: Writing monologues, descriptive word choice, delivering peer critiques
What to do: Display a wide assortment of random objects on a table: a baseball cap, an iPod, a cell phone, an old book, a ring, etc. Have the class walk past them or hold them up so they can get a good look at them. Invite the students to choose one object and write ten descriptive words or phrases about it. Have the students read their lists out loud and challenge the class to guess which object they are describing. Next, ask students to imagine they have lost this object. Invite them to write a one-page monologue telling the story about how they lost it and what they will do to find it. Have the students deliver the monologues in class and peer-critique them.

Sock Puppet Monologue
What kids practice: Storytelling, character creation, conflict, vocal variability, projection and enunciation
What to do: Hand out one white sock to every student. Have students put the socks on their hands. Tell the class that you will play two pieces of contrasting music, such as a rock song and a movement from a symphony, and they are to move the socks to the rhythm of the music, showing the emotion of the piece. (You might want to have them work in contained spaces so they don't knock into one another.) After each piece of music is played, brainstorm a list of words that describe the emotions students showed when they were moving the sock puppet. How did they show these emotions using the puppet? Perhaps ask one or two students to demonstrate an emotion to the class using their puppet.
Ask students to write a monologue in which their sock puppet expresses emotion about something that has happened in its life (a problem, a celebration, etc.). Challenge the students to create a character out of their puppet just by using the emotions expressed through the movement of their hands. After the monologues are written, each student delivers the monologue in front of the class with the puppet telling the story.

Name Game Monologue
What kids practice: Naming traditions, the meaning of a name, voice
What to do: Ask the students to divide a sheet of notebook paper into two columns. In the first column, have them brainstorm a list of words (15-20 minimum) that describe themselves. Ask the students to find out the meaning of their name, using the Internet, baby name books, or their own families as a resource. Have them write down what they find in the second column. Pose the question "Is there anything that is connected in both columns?" (for example, Maggie is a member of the social justice club, and the name Maggie means "righteous one"). Write these connecting traits or qualities at the bottom of the page. Next, challenge students to compose a short monologue, speaking as themselves, to be delivered in front of the class, telling a story about a time when they were challenged to show one of the overlapping traits. In other words, each student should dramatize an event where they really became the true meaning of their name.

Mask Monologue
What kids practice: Narrative poetry, use of masks through the ages, "masks" we may wear every day, projection and enunciation
What to do: Give students a list of questions about themselves: What is their greatest fear? First memory? Favorite possession, animal, color, plant, tree, book, sport, school subject, vacation, pastime? Using the list of answers, ask students to create a short, narrative poem entitled "All About Me." Hand out 12-by-8-inch ovals you have previously cut out of cardboard. Eyeholes should be cut out of the cardboard ovals. Ask students to decorate their masks with drawings about themselves and the things they like. When the masks are completed, each student stands up before the class, holds the mask over his or her face, and delivers the poem.

-Maureen Brady Johnson, author of Namely Me and Middle Mania!

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