This lesson plan introduces very young students to the unique format for playwriting while encouraging meditation on the relationship between siblings—excellent fodder for interesting narratives—as well as diversity tolerance.
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In celebration of National Sibling Day, you may like to explore with your young students the interplay between siblings by teaching them to write a play about siblings.
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1) PREPARING: Identify and bring to class numerous images of suggested siblings—or close friends— from magazines, newspapers and/or art/photography books. As an exercise in diversification, you might include pairs of siblings that don’t look especially similar to one another. Prior to students’ arrival, place a clipping or photocopied picture face down on each of their chairs or desks, one per person, along with a piece of lined paper. When they come in, alert them of the clipping but tell them not to turn it over until you collectively, as a class, engage in a free association exercise about siblings.
2) BRAINSTORMING: Writing the words Sibling, Brother and Sister in all caps on the board, hold an open forum for brainstorming notions, true or false, about siblings, how they interact, and what they mean to one another. Write students’ contributions on the board, clustering the feedback.
3) STRUCTURING: Explain that even with twins, one sibling is always older than another, or was born first. Jumping off from that, in a classic introduction to playwriting, have the students write, in the center of the page at the top, the number 1. Instruct them to skip a couple of lines and then underneath the 1 write a 2. Direct them to repeat so that from top to bottom on the page there will be a 1 followed by a 2 followed by a 1 and then a 2 and so on.
4) WRITING: Instruct students to turn over their clipping and think of the siblings depicted in the picture as characters in the play they are about to write. They should think of one character as 1 and the other character as 2, then fill in dialogue for the characters accordingly, considering some of the ideas about siblings shared previously. At the end, they will have a one-page play. Make sure they remember to give the plays titles!
5) CASTING: After 10 minutes, collect the plays and (if there is access to a copier) xerox each. Assist students in casting their plays using classmates, remembering to encourage them not to necessarily cast people who may look similar to one another (to embrace diversity and reflect the mystery of genetics).
6) PERFORMING: Have as many young playwrights as possible take turns coming up to the front of the class, taping their clipping on the board (which will serve as a mock marquee), introducing their play, and having it performed.
7) REFLECTING: After the performances, discuss what was learned from each play. Explore the differences between some relationships and others, what made them unique and what made them interesting.
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After exploring the sibling relationship, consider this lesson plan celebrating the many facets of mothers.