I love playbuilding with my students but experience and time restrictions have taught me to have a process and allow creativity to flow through this.
I have done this process with Years 2 – 6 successfully. The goal is to make kids accountable for their part, to have opportunity for each child to speak alone, to allow enough room for their own ideas but stay clear on the thread/theme that runs through the piece.
I find with a large class and limited (one hour contact a week) time, that following this process ensures we have a final product they can perform for another class.
Step One – Choosing the theme/setting
- Students enter and form groups of 3/4. Clipboard, pencil and paper. I give them 4 minutes to fill that page with themes (make sure they understand what that is) or settings. The key is that all ideas are accepted and written down. They brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
- Next each group has 1 minute to choose their two best ideas and circle them. Good for them to have an extra one in case another group has the same idea.
- Now you put all ideas up on the board. Accept all of the group’s choices.
- This next step is really important. The teacher talks positively about each theme/setting giving no indication which ones they like/dislike. Express possibilities, themes, possible target audience, characters. Try to sell the class on each idea.
- Now each group has 1 minute to decide which one of the ideas on the board to eliminate.
- Next step very important!! Each group announces the one they want to eliminate. If anyone else in the class is totally against that choice, they jump up and say “Challenge”. They then have 10 seconds to convince the teacher why it should stay. They need to explain why it would be a good basis for a play. The teacher then accepts or rejects the challenge, therefore keeping or eliminating the idea
- After this process there will probably be 5 or 6 ideas on the board. Now kids close eyes and individually vote for the idea/theme/setting they like best and that’s that.
This process has been great to watch how kids generate ideas, justify choices and finally take into account reasons before voting. I love how at the beginning of the process I have no idea which theme/setting will result. My most recent run with all my classes (Yr 2 – 5) resulted in the following themes/settings:
-The Future – Lollipop Land – Scary Campfire Stories
- Video Games – The First Day of School – The Secret Lab
– Lost and Abandoned – The Secret Portal
In groups students come up with an idea that fits their title. The scenes don’t need to link – they are snapshots around the theme. It gives them more scope for characters and ideas.
It’s good for them to run the idea past you before heading off and rehearsing it to present. This ensures the scenes have structure and aren’t repetitive.
Show scenes and give feedback/ways to improve.
To break up this process, work on an opening. I like to do this poem based with the whole class on stage. Depending on ability, I may ask kids to write a Haiku on various aspects of the theme. Otherwise, I may take ideas and write the poem myself. They then practice a short section (or a haiku) in groups before I position them on stage as a whole class, decide on order and run through how it will look.
Decide on rundown/order of scenes and make sure you have a target audience in mind. Will you invite PP or a Year 3 class?
Run through whole play, maybe add in some music (any talents), or a dance?
Step Six: Perform for another class if possible.