Students explore plot development and rising action, turning point, and falling action by viewing a short play written and performed by high school students.
- Length: Two class periods: one for introduction, one for application.
- Grades 6-8
- Students will explore, analyze, and use the literary elements of drama.
Found On: Performance Excerpts
Vocabulary, Resources, and Handouts
discovery, empathy, falling action, language, literary elements, motivation, plot development, rising action, suspense, theme, turning point
TV/VCR or DVD player
Optional: graphic organizers
- Multiple-Choice Questions
- Answer Key
Instructional Strategies and Activities
Before viewing the video excerpt
Introduce the topic by reminding students that dramatic situations are all around us. Tell them to picture an argument between a basketball coach and a referee in a championship game. Imagine a situation in which two students are competing for the lead in the class play. Ask what they would do if a friend were falsely accused of cheating. Any one of these situations could be the basis for a short play, but first we have to understand what must happen to transfer personal experiences or feelings to the stage.
No matter what the subject matter, plays are constructed around three important literary elements: rising action, turning point, and falling action.
Write on the board or an overhead:
- Rising Action: Main problems are introduced (characters, issues, the exposition).
- Turning Point: The problem or conflict occurs.
- Falling Action: Repercussions occur (a result of the conflict or a resolution to it).
Give each student a graphic organizer divided into three columns, or ask them to divide a piece of paper into three columns. Label the columns Rising Action, Turning Point, and Falling Action.
Students can note the information being written on the board and discussed. They can also note the elements on the sheet as they watch the video. For LEP students, you can add a visual clue before each label to facilitate understanding. And if you have students for whom note taking is difficult, consider providing a completed page for them to check as they hear or see the information noted.
Watch Basics. Ask students to consider and note when and where each of the three elements occurs.
Student responses may vary, but here are some possibilities:
Rising Action: Jade and Taylor both ask, Do you ever get really confused? They explain their feelings and the situation: Both have dated others, but nothing deep. Theyre both unsure of some things, but sure of others. Both Jade and Taylor believe the other has purity of heart. Both are alone and need someone. Both are scared by how they feel. These thoughts set up the main problem: They think they may be falling in love, but are not sure how to deal with it. Should they tell the other person? The action peaks as both Taylor and Jade say, Im going to call … definitely.
Turning point: Jade and Taylor simultaneously phone each other and get busy signals.
Falling action: Each says, Maybe we should just be friends. The play ends as it began, with both asking, Do you ever get confused?
Remind students that this short but effective play was developed around a simple framework of rising action, turning point, and falling action. Elaborate dramas by Shakespeare or Broadway plays, as well as short stories and novels, often use the same key elements to capture and maintain the audiences attention.
Depending upon the needs of your classroom, consider these options for extending or applying the lesson:
Further discussion: Divide the students who have viewed Basics into groups. Let them discuss the following questions and summarize their findings to share with the class:
- What specific techniques keep us in suspense and make us want to keep watching Basics?
- Empathy allows us to identify with the characters. It happens when the playwright and actors create characters that mirror our own concerns. What moment could you identify with as most empathetic?
- How does the language used by Taylor and Jade help us identify with their feelings?
- What motivates or propels the characters to action? Do you think characters of another generation or even another culture could be motivated by the same needs?
- Do the characters make any discoveries about each other or themselves?
- It seems as if the characters begin with confusion and end with confusion. If so, what was the point, the theme, or the dominant idea of this dramatic work?
- Was this a successful work? Why or why not?
- What suggestions would you make to improve this short drama based on the elements?
A group project: In a second class period, divide the class into three groups to draft 3- to 5-minute dramas modeled after Basics. Heres a process they might use:
- Each group brainstorms ideas, personal experiences, or feelings that might have dramatic potential in a short two-character drama.
- Each group develops the rising action for a short two-character drama.
- Students exchange papers with another group who will construct a turning point.
- Students exchange papers again with a third group to create the falling action and possibly a resolution for the drama.
- Papers are returned to the original groups. Each group selects two people to perform the short drama that has been written in this three-step process.
- Students note and discuss the rising action, turning point, and falling action of each play.
Writing To Communicate
- The Performance Assessment can also be a portfolio writing activity.
- Write a review of Basics, discussing the elements of drama.
Open Response Assessment
Basics lasts just a few minutes, yet it incorporates central dramatic elements of a full-length play: rising action, turning point, and falling action.
- Identify and describe how each of these elements occurs in Basics.
- Using appropriate vocabulary, explain why you think Basics is or is not an effective drama.
Open Response Scoring Guide
|Student correctly identifies and describes the three elements, demonstrating extensive knowledge and understanding and using insightful examples and relevant details. Student uses appropriate vocabulary.||Student correctly identifies and describes the three elements, demonstrating broad knowledge and understanding and using examples and details. Student uses generally appropriate vocabulary.||Student correctly identifies and describes two of the elements, demonstrating basic knowledge and understanding and using a few examples and relevant details. Student uses some appropriate vocabulary.||Student attempts to identify and describe at least one of the three elements, but demonstrates minimal knowledge and understanding and uses few or no examples and details. Student uses little appropriate vocabulary.||No answer or irrelevant answer.|
Personal experiences and everyday feelings can be the subject matter for short dramas.
Write a 3- to 5-minute drama modeled after Basics. Include rising action, turning point, falling action, and at least one more of the elements of drama (suspense, theme, language, empathy, motivation, discovery). Rely on your personal experiences to create dialogue and to shape your point of view. If you need help with an idea, here are three suggestions:
- Two athletes discuss the game they just played.
- A boy and a girl debate who should pay the check for lunch.
- Two strangers in a cab argue a political point.
Performance Scoring Guide
|Student chooses one of the three ideas or uses an original idea and writes a short drama, demonstrating extensive knowledge and understanding of the elements of drama. Students drama includes rising action, turning point, falling action, and at least one other element of drama. Student completes assignment in a creative and insightful way.||Student chooses one of the three ideas or uses an original idea and writes a short drama, demonstrating broad knowledge and understanding of the elements of drama. Students drama includes rising action, turning point, falling action, and at least one other element of drama. Student shows some creativity in completing the assignment.||Student chooses one of the three ideas or uses an original idea and writes a short drama, demonstrating basic knowledge and understanding of the elements of drama. Students drama includes most of the elements required and shows an effort at creativity.||Student works on assignment but exhibits minimal understanding of elements of drama and shows little or no effort at creativity in the work.||No answer or irrelevant answer.|
Support - Connections - Resources - Author
- Robbins, Bruce. “Creative Dramatics in the Language Arts Classroom.” ERIC Digest No. 7, www.vtaide.com/png/ERIC/Creative-Dramatics.htm.
- Schanker, Harry H. and Ommanney, Katharine. The Stage and the School. 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.
- Sporre, Dennis. Reality Through the Arts. 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997.
- “Theatrical Production.” Encyclopedia Brittanica Online, www.britannica.com.
Elizabeth Jewell, KET