Teaching Scriptwriting using Real Life Experiences

You want your students to be excited about the writing process. Where do you start? In their little corner of the world, of course. The following plan will have your students excited and buzzing about character, conflict and climax! I find this lesson works so well that they are actually begging to perform their scenes after they've written them!

To Begin

The day before I plan to start with scripts, I assign the following homework: Students must write down and bring to class 5 lines of dialogue from the "real world". It could be something they caught in the cafeteria over lunch, or something they overheard on the bus on the way home. They write each line on a separate piece of paper and submit them anonymously.

I put all lines of dialogue into a jar and each student picks out 2 or 3. After looking the lines over, they decide on the one they want to use. I ask them to close their eyes and imagine who might have said the line and what the motivation for the line might be. After they have brainstormed a few ideas, it's time to narrow the scope and decide on a character.

Question Time

Before I have students write a monologue, I ask them 10 to 20 questions and have them jot down the answers in their notebooks. By answering the questions, students are able to develop their characters into multi-faceted human beings. Here are two questions I usually include: When was the last time your character laughed/cried and why? And, What is your character's most treasured possession and where do they keep it?

In addition to the questions, students give their characters a first and last name and an age. At this point, they go home and write a monologue for homework. The monologue must either begin or end with the initial line of dialogue.

Bring on the Fun!

Now for the fun part! When students arrive back to class the following day, they are asked to sit with a partner and to take turns sharing their monologues. At this point, based on what they have discovered about their characters, they must decide on a conflict that might arise should these characters meet. They create a scenario including a setting, a conflict and a resolution.

At this point, I ask the partners to randomly decide who will be A and who will be B. A's are asked to stand up and to move to another B. They then engage in the process of reading their monologues and creating a scenario with this new partner. This is a fabulous way to get students to collaborate with a number of different students in class instead of their usual crew! After repeating the process, each student will have a number of interesting scenarios. But here's the thing! They can only write one! So…

Each student is given a post-it note on which they write their first, second and third choice of scenario. As I collect the post-its, I assure the students that I will do everything I can to give them their first or second choice.

The next day in class, students find out who their partner will be and, using their monologues and their scenario, they write a fabulous 2 character scene that they have work-shopped from the ground up!