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Instructional Unit Samples - Drama and Theatre Arts
Below are the teacher-authored instructional unit samples for Drama and Theatre Arts. Each of these units represents the work of a team of Colorado educators to translate one curriculum overview sample into a full instructional unit with learning experiences, teacher and student resources, assessment ideas, and differentiation options. To learn more about the unit development process and the unique aspects of the arts units, please consider watching one or more of the instructional unit webinars.
Each of the units posted here was authored by a team of Colorado educators. As examples, they are intended to provide support (or conversation/creation starting points) for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students.
You can also view the complete list of Drama and Theatre Arts curriculum overview samples and use the instructional unit templates to begin constructing your own Colorado Academic Standards-based units.
Unit Title: Ensemble Building - Extended Pathway Focus (Westminster 50 School District and Cherry Creek School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Extended strand of the ensemble building overview. The Extended strand focuses on the development of an ensemble in theatre by using student written scripts as a vehicle. Students will experience group bonding and ensemble development activities that also focus on collaboration, character development, relationship development, environment development, script analysis, and script creation.
Unit Title: Exploring Acting Styles, Techniques, and Methods (Douglas County School District and Jefferson County School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will examine the Fundamental strand of the styles, techniques and methods of various theatrical practitioners. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students’ exploration of different approaches to character creation and development established by individual teachers/theorists/practitioners and the application of that approach to scripted work. Students will be asked to research, investigate, practice and demonstrate techniques specific to the chosen acting style. The unit will culminate in a duet scene performance in which students apply the acting technique to a self-selected scene.
Unit Title: Expressions of Filmmaking-Fundamental Pathway Focus (Adams 12 Five Star School District, University of Northern Colorado)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Fundamental strand through designing a storyboard for a film. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students’ exploring the aspects of creating a storyboard. Students will be asked to analyze and refine their design through the lens of the director’s vision. The unit will culminate in a final storyboard in which students will describe and justify their choices and decisions.
Unit Title: Film and Cinematography - Fundamental Pathway Focus (Denver School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Fundamental strand through creating a critical response to a film. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students’ exploring personal emotional connections to a filmed screenplay. Students will be asked to analyze and refine filmmaking techniques through the lens of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors. The unit will culminate in a written film critique in which students identify the numerous styles of filmmaking while considering the context of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors that are addressed in the work.
Unit Title: Foundations of Technical Theatre - Extended Pathway Focus (Denver School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Extended strand of the technical theatre unit overview. The Extended strand focuses on individual and collaborative student learning, individually and in groups, in order to work through the design and production process. Students can complete the performance in order to take a hands-on approach to this process, or take a more theoretical approach without performance. Students will demonstrate understanding of learning through a culminating portfolio presentation and interview.
Unit Title: Foundations of Technical Theatre - Fundamental Pathway Focus (Cherry Creek School District, Douglas County School District, and St. Vrain Valley School District)
Unit Description: This survey unit is designed as a hands-on application of Fundamental understandings in topics of technical theatre: parts of a theatre, safety, scenery, lighting, sound, costumes, and design.
Unit Title: Friday Afternoon Live: Improvisation and Sketch Comedy (Adams 12 Five Star School District and Douglas County School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will investigate, discover and critique improvisation and original sketch comedy to bolster knowledge of human expression and emotion. The unit will culminate in a two-part performance including an improvised scene and a sketched scene. The focus of the unit will be exploration and play of human expression and emotion.
Unit Title: Scripted Works (Adams 12 Five Star School District, Colorado Springs School District, and Woodland Park School District)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Fundamental strand of the scripted work overview. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students’ exploring personal emotional connections to a scripted work through the creation of a play. Students will be asked to analyze and refine performances through the lens of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors. The unit will culminate in a scene performance in which students portray a character with a range of emotions while considering the context of social, political, historical, and/or environmental factors that faces the character.
Unit Title: Theatre History (University of Northern Colorado)
Unit Description: In this unit, students will develop the Fundamental strand of the Theatre History overview. The Fundamental strand focuses on the students exploring real world connections between historical and contemporary theatre.
Unit Title: Using Improvisation to Devise a Scripted Scene (Academy 20 School District, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Cherry Creek School District, and Cheyenne Mountain School District)
Unit Description: In this unit students will explore their own cultural and life experiences through improvisational techniques and exercises to collaboratively develop a scripted work. Across the unit students will apply a variety of improvisational techniques to explore and analyze the cultural influence and personal experiences that influence the creation of a dramatic performance. The unit will culminate in a final scene performance for an audience following a planning/development, rehearsal and revision process that includes reflection on a student’s personal creative process in the improvisation to script development.
Unit Title: Improvisation and Scene Creation (Denver County School District and Adams 12 Five Star Schools)
Unit Description: This unit uses improvisation in the creation of a scripted piece adapted from other source material. Across the unit, students will explore various literary plots (e.g. fairy tales) through improvisation activities to inform story and character development. Group collaboration will lead to the culmination of the unit in which students create a scripted scene derived from a story told from a perspective different from the original narrative (the point of view of a different character or an inanimate object in the story).
Unit Title: Using Improvisation to Create Who, What, When, Where, Why (Adams 12 Five Star School District and Brighton School District)
Unit Description: This unit is an exploration in the use of the 5 W’s of improvisation (who, what, when, where, and why) through expression and group collaboration. Across the unit students will use prompts demanding personal reflection and group problem solving inspired by the influence of character, relationships, setting, and conflict. Students will discover how the 5 W’s are revealed through the practice of improvisation. The unit culminates in asking the students to perform a short improvisational scene.
Unit Title: Point-of-View Stew (Adams 12 Five Star School District)
Unit Description: This unit will explore the relationship between perspective, environment, and culture when depicting a character. Throughout the duration of this unit, students will consider different perspectives and how that influences characterization, individual and ensemble work, scene/monologue writing and production choices. The unit will culminate with a final collaborative theatrical performance demonstrating character perspective in relation to cultural and environmental influences.
Unit Title: Back in the Day… Primary Sources Come Alive
Unit Description: This unit focuses on using primary (and secondary) historical sources to develop dramatic performances that can help us better understand the perspectives of people in history and the conflicts that illuminated/reflected these perspectives. Across the duration of the unit, the students will engage in improvisation, write short monologues based on (primary and secondary) sources, and reflect on the ways in which a historical event can connect with people today. The unit culminates with a performance of the student-created monologues enhanced by tableaux and/or visuals. The unit utilizes the Colorado gold rush as a focus (see Considerations) but any historical event /conflict with multiple perspectives /points of view could be used in this unit.
Unit Title: Page to Stage Story Adaptation (Academy 20 School District and Frontier Academy)
Unit Description: This unit explores the ways that theatre can be used to share folk tales. Across the unit, students will explore the ways plays can be used to tell a story in a meaningful way and express the story’s essential elements including plot and character traits. Students will explore the rehearsal process used to prepare the ensemble for performance. Students are coached to collaborate to develop a quality artistic product, think critically about their artistic choices, and perform a variety of fables while exploring basic technical elements of a production. This unit culminates in a dramatic folktale performance for their peers.
Unit Title: Neighborhood Communities: “Who Are the People in Our Neighborhood”
Unit Description: This unit focuses on how collaboration within a community context affects individual responses, relationships and interrelationships. Using a central/anchor text throughout (e.g., Stone Soup), students will explore character-based decisions that help create scenes based upon a literary work with a specific focus on community interaction and interdependence. The learning experiences intentionally spiral; using the text to examine the importance of character (traits), setting, conflict and resolution in creating and performing a dramatic piece. The learning experiences build to a performance assessment that asks students to work collaboratively to perform a dramatic presentation of the anchor text to help their peers better understand the importance of community and the benefits of working together.
Unit Title: Create and Perform an Environment
Unit Description: This unit explores the ways that human and animal characters reflect and construct their environments. As students work through the unit, they will explore the ways in which actors use movement, body language, and verbal communication within unique contexts to convey particular characters’ perspectives and relationships with other characters. The unit asks students to use what they know about animals and their environments to explore further the ways in which actors use context and physical structure (i.e., body types, sizes, etc.) in creating characters. The unit builds to a culminating performance assessment that asks students to create and perform an-animal based folktale, in this case a Tibetan folktale entitled, The Elephant Pit, for an audience of their peers.
Unit Title: The People You See - Creating Character
Unit Description: This unit explores the ways in which non-verbal and verbal communication can convey characters’ emotions. Students will consider characters within popular stories/picture books, utilizing the stories’ conflicts and relationships to work as actors might, bringing these characters to life by using facial expressions, body language/movements, and vocal variations. The unit also asks students to use real-life observations (of family members and practices) to explore further the ways in which actors use verbal and non-verbal communication in creating characters. The unit builds to a performance assessment that asks students to use the knowledge gained to “instantly” create characters and scenes from a picture book using combinations of forms of expression.
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