Script Analysis using Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama by Carlie Parkinson Objective



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Script Analysis using Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama by Carlie Parkinson
Objective: Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the Six Elements of Drama by analyzing a film.

** This unit was originally written to culminate in a film analysis, but can be used with a theatre production analysis just as easily**


Class Level: Beginning (no prior experience needed)
Main Concepts: Play analysis, plot structure, identifying themes
1994 National Standards:

CONTENT STANDARD 7: Analyzing, critiquing, and constructing meanings from informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions.;

CONTENT STANDARD 6: Comparing and integrating art forms by analyzing traditional theatre, dance, music, and visual arts, and new art forms.; CONTENT

CONTENT STANDARD 4: Directing by interpreting dramatic texts and organizing and conducting rehearsals for informal or formal productions.


Lesson Plans

Lesson 1: Plot Structure

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of plot by participating in a group presentation of plot structure.
Lesson 2: Theme

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of theme by identifying a theme for film presented in class.


Lesson 3: Diction

The students will demonstrate their understanding of diction by performing a short Shakespearean puppet show.


Lesson 4: Character

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of characters by completing a “Myspace” profile for a character in a play read in class.


Lesson 5: Music

Students will demonstrate their understanding of music by performing a thirty-second melodrama.


Lesson 6: Spectacle

Students will demonstrate their understanding of spectacle by designing scenery for “Spectacular, Spectacular”.


Lesson 7: Final Analysis

Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the Six Elements of Drama by analyzing a film.



Lesson 1: Plot Structure
Objective

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of plot by participating in a group presentation of plot structure.


Materials Needed

  • Selection from Poetics by Aristotle (available on-line at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.2.2.html)

  • Lecture notes for Aristotle and Poetics

  • Hand out of Six Elements

  • Copies of well-known children stories: (ex. Little Red Riding Hood, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella)


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

As students enter the classroom, pass out the copies of the Poetics. Begin class by asking for volunteers to read the first couple of paragraphs. Question the class for comprehension—most likely the question will go unanswered or a brave student or two will venture a guess. Pose another question: What would he [Aristotle] know anyway, he lived like two thousand years ago? The Greek’s couldn’t possibly have contributed to our society, or have they? Discuss Greek contributions—ex. Architecture, democracy, art, etc. Pose a final question: So is it possible that the Poetics might be relevant today?


Instruction

STEP 1: Instruction: Short lecture on Aristotle and the Poetics. See attached notes. Avoid simply telling the information as much as possible. Ask “who is Aristotle?” or “can anyone guess what Aristotle’s six elements might be?” Pass out the Six-element hand out. Invite the students to read Aristotle’s Poetics but assure them all the information is simplified and summarized on the hand-out.


STEP 2: Transition/instruction/discussion: “Let’s just focus on one aspect of the Poetics today.” Have a student volunteer read aloud the section on plot. Then, through a process of asking and lecturing, draw, label, and define the plot structure. Identify the plot points of a popular story or a popular movie.
STEP 3: Guided Practice: Play the plot structure game. Invite the students to leave their desk, circle-up, and assume a crouched position. Invite them to then repeat what you say and how you say it. Say “exposition” with normal inflection and at a normal speaking level. Next say, “inciting incident” with a greater intensity. Next say, “rising action” with a rising volume and an upward inflection. Also slowly begin rising to a standing position. Once you and your students are standing up, lift up your arms and yell “climax.” Slowly, lower your hands as you say “falling action” with decreasing intensity. Then, still standing say “resolution.” Repeat this until, your students can do it on their own. Then let them play for a few minutes.
STEP 4: Group Practice: The students will then split up into groups and each group will select a story from a short list of classic children’s tales: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Tortoise and the Hare, the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. The stories can only be used once. Have copies available of each story if the groups want to review their stories by using reading them. As a group have them pick out the plot points in the story. They will need to summarize these points into short sentences or words.
Assessment

The students will, as a group, present the plot structure saying the summaries with the appropriate vocal inflection. Students will be graded as based on the attached rubric.



Lesson 2: Theme
Objective

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of theme by identifying a theme for film presented in class.


Materials Needed

  • Audio visual equipment capable of playing a DVD and movies from the internet

  • Old comic commercials—for ex. Superbowl commericals (http://sports.aol.com/nfl/superbowlads)

  • 30 minute television or film clip (ex. House, ER, The West Wing, etc.)

  • Theme—Lecture Notes


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Play a series of popular commercials (ex. Old Superbowl commercials ). After each commercial discuss the message or the “point” of the commercial. What ideas are expressed by the commercial? Watch four or five commercials and begin introducing the concept of theme.


Instruction

STEP 1: Instruction: Define and discuss theme. See attached lecture notes. Questions to consider: What were the themes of the commercials we watched? What are common themes found in literature? Discuss themes of popular movies? Give tools to identifying theme: what’s the moral of the piece? Consider the action of the characters or main plot points, what happened and what were the consequences? How do these pieces relate to society at large? What aspects of the piece support the theme? (These students are beginning students, so if their themes are basic, simple, and even trite (like love conquers all, good is triumphant over evil, etc.) these are a start. Identifying and supporting the theme takes practice. )


STEP 2: Activity: Play an extended clip of a serious film, documentary, or television episode. Choose a piece that is contemporary and dramatic, for example, an episode of House about euthanasia or an episode of The West Wing about chemical warfare. Encourage the students to take notes and begin picking out themes.
STEP 3: Discussion: As the clip completes, divide the class into small discussion groups. Pose specific discussion questions and write them on the board: what was this episode saying about euthanasia, or chemical warfare, etc.? How can you state that in a theme? What other themes did you find?
STEP 4: Assignment/Assessment: After the group discussions, students will write a theme that they or their group thought of. Each student will be required to turn in his or her own statement of theme.
STEP 5: Closure: With the time remaining, ask for volunteers to state their theme. Students might be hesitant for fear of being wrong, but encourage a feel that there are no “wrong” answers (though, there are certainly better ones). Question each volunteer briefly and allow them to defend their theme with evidence from the piece.
Assessment

Theme Statements



Lesson 3: Diction
Objective

The students will demonstrate their understanding of diction by performing a short Shakespearean puppet show.


Materials Needed

  • Classroom set of short scene from a tragedy (ex. Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet Act III, Scene II, or murder scene from Julius Caesar Act III, Scene II)

  • 3 or 4 short scenes from other Shakespearean Tragedies (Ex. Selections from Romeo and Juliet Act V Scene III; MacBeth Act IV, Scene I, Act V, Scene I; or Hamlet Act I, Scene V)

  • Assignment sheet for Shakespeare Puppet Assignment

  • Paper bags

  • Markers, colored paper, ribbons, glue, etc.

  • Peer Evaluation Sheets

  • Dictionaries, Shakespearean Reference books, Shakespeare’s complete works with footnotes (reference material)

  • Shakespeare Scene Rubric


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Pass out copies of a short Shakespearean scene as if you were the director of a group of actors in Shakespeare’s time. This can be accomplished by incorporating simple words like “thee” and “thou” into the instructions. For example, “I prithee players be seated. We will begin our rehearsal by assigning part…” Assign parts, encourage others to follow along in the script, and begin reading the scene.


Instruction

STEP 1: Transition: When finished reading, check for comprehension. (End the Elizabethan speech where appropriate). What happened during the scene? Who were the major characters? What did they want? Did you understand the language? What separates the language of Shakespeare from our speech? Did you like the language? What phrases did you think were particularly beautiful or poetic? How did the characters use language to get what they wanted? Introduce the concept of diction.


STEP 2: Instruction: Define and discuss diction in terms of the six elements. “The word choices made by the playwright and the enunciation of the actors of the language. Language and dialog delivered by the characters moves the plot and action along, provides exposition, defines the distinct characters. Each playwright can create their own specific style in relationship to language choices they use in establishing character and dialogue.” (6 Elements Handout). Introduce the idea of a predominant element. Discuss other plays or films that have diction as the predominant element.
STEP 3: Activity/ Assignment: Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a short Shakespearean scene. The students must read the script and gain a basic understanding of the characters, the plot, and the diction of the script. Provide dictionaries, Shakespearean reference books, and scripts with footnotes for reference. The students will then need to create, rehearse, and perform a paper sack puppet show with their scripts for the class. Provide paper bags, markers, color paper, ribbon, etc. They need to perform the script in a way that will help their fellow students understand the language. It will be beneficial to brainstorm ideas on how the performers can help their audience understand their words: using proper vocal inflections for questions or statements, picking a word in a sentence that is the most important and emphasizing that word (operative word), know what the lines mean so proper emotion can be used with the lines, etc. The students will have 45 to 50 minutes for this assignment.
Assessment

Students perform their scenes and grade according to rubric below. Each student will need to participate in a performance, and each student will need to fill out an evaluation of at least two other groups.



Lesson 4: Character
Objective

The students will demonstrate their knowledge of characters by completing a “Myspace” profile for a character in a play read in class.

**Obviously another social media site could be substituted for the MySpace profile**
Materials Needed


  • Classroom set of full-length contemporary comedic script (ex. Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park)

  • “Myspace” profile worksheets


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

As the students enter the classroom the following journal writing assignment is on the board: “Welcome to Your Life: A Play in Three Acts. The person who has been cast as you wants to come interview you before he or she goes on stage. Write a half page journal entry about what you would want to tell the person playing you.” Give the students five minutes. Then have a group discussion and create a strong working list of what someone needs to know to play a character: hobbies, job, age, hopes, willpower, worries, socio-economic status, wants, etc.


Instruction

STEP 1: Transition: What does Aristotle say about characters in play? Have a volunteer read the definition of “character” from the “6 Elements” Handout. “These are the people presented in the play that are involved in the pursuing plot. Each character should have their own distinct personality, age, appearance, beliefs, socio economic background, and language.” Connect the definition to the working list.


STEP 2: Assignment/Activity: Present the assignment. The students will need to read the assigned full-length comedic play. As they read the play, they need to find clues in the text that show the character’s traits. Then, they’ll need to pick a character, and fill out mock-Myspace page for that character.
The students will be given the remainder of class to read the script (give students the option of reading it together, reading it in small groups, reading it as individuals, etc.) Pass out the Myspace worksheet (Have the students look over the sheet and answer any questions.)
The analysis will be due at the beginning of the next period. (Encourage the students to also keep in mind the plot and theme of the script).
STEP 3: Closure: Five minutes before class ends, bring the class back together and discuss any character insights that have been found.
Assessment

MySpace Worksheet



Lesson 5: Music
Objective

Students will demonstrate their understanding of music by performing a thirty-second melodrama.


Materials Needed

  • Instruction Signs Clip from a movie that relies heavily on music (ex. Psycho, Henry V, Jaws).

  • 4 short, evocative classical music clips (ex. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”)

  • Melodrama Handout

  • Melodrama Assessment Sheet

  • Hook Statements

  • Peer Evaluation Sheets


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

As class begins, do not speak. Hold up Instruction Signs to explain the activity: “Welcome to class. I’m going to put on a clip from a film. Notice what music does to the scene.” Then play a clip from a familiar movie that relies heavily on music (ex. The shower scene from Psycho or the battlefield from Henry V) without sound.


Instruction

STEP 1: Transition: After the clip is finished, hold up final instruction sign: “Let’s try that again.” Rewind the clip and watch it with sound. After the second viewing, discuss with the class the difference between the two experiences. How did music change the scene? How does music help create mood? Can the students think of other scenes that depend heavily on music?


STEP 2: Discussion: Expand the discussion of music by reading the definition from the “6 Elements Worksheet.” “Music can encompass the rhythm of dialogue and speeches in a play or can also mean the aspects of the melody and music compositions as with musical theatre. Each theatrical presentation delivers music, rhythm and melody in its own distinctive manner. Music is not a part of every play. But, music can be included to mean all sounds in a production. Music can expand to all sound effects, the actor’s voices, songs, and instrumental music played as underscore in a play. Music creates patterns and establishes tempo in theatre. In the aspects of the musical the songs are used to push the plot forward and move the story to a higher level of intensity. Composers and lyricist work together with playwrights to strengthen the themes and ideas of the play. Character’s wants and desires can be strengthened for the audience through lyrics and music.”
Help students understand the first portion of the definition about rhythm and dialogue with examples from the Shakespeare scenes used in the “Diction” lesson. Discuss genres of films or plays that rely heavily on music: Opera, musical theater, melodrama, etc.
STEP 3: Assignment: Define melodrama: “Historically, a distinct form of drama popular throughout the nineteenth century which emphasized action, suspense, and spectacular effects; generally melodrama used music to heighten the dramatic mood. Melodrama had stock characters and clearly defined villains and heroes, and it presented unambiguous confrontations between good and evil.” (Goldfard, Alvin. Wilson, Edwin. Living Theater: A History ed. 4. USA: MCGraw-Hill Companies, 2004. G6). Important points: emphasis on action, stock characters, exaggerated or heightened action, and use of music to heighten mood. Play the four music clips. In groups, the students will select one of four clips played in class. The students must create a thirty-second melodrama. The stories should be very simple, but they must include an inciting incident, rising action, climax, and a resolution. The music should heighten the mood of the scene, and will be played in conjunction with the scene. The scenes will not have spoken dialogue, but cue cards may be incorporated. The scene should also have a title. The students have 30 minutes to create their scene.
Assessment

The students will perform their melodramas. They will be graded on the following rubric. Students will need to fill out an evaluation sheet for two other groups.


DUE: Myspace Character Analysis

Lesson 6: Spectacle
Objective

Students will demonstrate their understanding of spectacle by designing scenery for “Spectacular, Spectacular”.


Materials Needed

  • Moulin Rouge DVD (“Spectacular, Spectacular” scene)

  • ½ hour clip of spectacular show (ex. Vareka by Circus de Soleil.)

  • Paper, markers, watercolors, etc.


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Play the “Spectacular, Spectacular” scene from Moulin Rouge.


Instruction

STEP 1: Transition: Define and discuss spectacle from the observations of “Spectacular, Spectacular” and the “6 Elements Handout”. “The spectacle in the theatre can involve all of the aspects of scenery, costumes, and special effects in a production. The visual elements of the play created for theatrical event. The qualities determined by the playwright that create the world and atmosphere of the play for the audience’s eye.”


STEP 2: Activity: Watch extended clip of a highly spectacular film. A clip from Circus De Soleil would be especially effective because the performances have a loose plot structure, themes, and characters, but they are chiefly spectacle. After the clip, discuss the spectacular elements in the scenery, costumes, and special effects. Also, discuss the emerging plot structure and themes.
STEP 3: Assignment: The students are now set/costume designers for a new staging of “Spectacular, Spectacular.” Money, laws of physics, geography, etc. do not matter (if the student wants to put the Sphinx in the Grand Canyon and have their actors fly that’s just fine). The design needs a spectacular backdrop, two or three special effects, and at least one idea for a costume. The students will need to create a labeled, colored sketch of the scenery, and a short paragraph describing the different elements and when they’ll be used in the scene. The design will be due at the beginning of the next class.
STEP 4: Review: Review each of the 6 Elements. Answer any questions about the elements. Tell the students exactly what will be on the test. They will be required to watch a film, pick out the main plot points of the film, state a dominant theme in the film, and give specific examples of another element used. Any remaining time in class may be used to work on the design assignment.

Lesson 7: Final Analysis
Objective

Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the Six Elements of Drama by analyzing a film.


Materials Needed

  • Assessment Film (linear story-line with strong themes, with good examples of the other elements. Ex. What’s Up Doc!)

  • Assessment worksheet


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

At the beginning of class, play the plot structure game (see STEP 3 from “Plot Lesson Plan”). Quickly review the names and dominant points of each element.


Instruction

STEP 1: Pass out the assessment worksheet. Answer any questions.


STEP 2: Play the assessment film. Encourage the students to take notes and begin filling out the assessment worksheet during class. The worksheet will be due at the beginning of the next class period. Students, on their honor, must complete the work on their own. Watching the film will take the remainder of time in class.
Assessment
DUE: Spectacular Scenic Design
Author's Notes

This analysis worksheet can be attached to any kind of production: film or filmed play or a live theatre production.


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