Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Search of...

the perfect syllabus, and some good assignments to go with it.

I'm teaching our intro drama course for the first time since about 2000; 8 years is a long time between iterations.

I'm thinking about a couple assignments; my requirements for assignments include 1) ideally, they shouldn't only measure what a student has learned, but should also be a learning experience, 2) they should differ enough that students with different learning strengths should have chances to bring their strengths to bear, 3) they should develop skills for the class, for the major, and for our whole liberal arts education thing, and 4) they should not be overly onerous to grade.

I try to start off with a performance exercise, and then a written analysis of the performance exercise. It takes a good bit of time, but it works really well to get students thinking about performance.

I try to do an explication exercise, because I think analytic and close reading skills are important in all sorts of ways.

I try to get students to see a play and write about the experience. It's not rare to have students who've never seen a play, and just doing that is cool. I have other students who've been in many plays, and they really like the assignment, too.

So, that's three short writing assignments. I THINK that's probably enough within the context of the class. But it's only, say, 10-12 pages of writing. Is that reasonable for a lower level class serving GE and majors? (There will also be quizzes and exams.)

Any ideas of great assignments for drama classes that you'd like to share?


  1. I think 10-12 pages of writing (beyond exams or in-class stuff or whatever) is about on target for a lower level class. O

    ne assignment I've been known to give, though, that students have a lot of fun with is an "adaptation" assignment, in which they read a play and see the film (or, when the stars align, read the play, see the play live, and then see the film) and write about the differences between those experiences. It's a lot of "viewing" time for them, but they typically do have a lot of fun and learn a lot from the assignment.

  2. When I teach Shakespeare I have two extra credit readings. You could do one (or two) for credit (or extra credit). We get together outside of class and do a "table reading" or "actor's read through" of an entire Shakespeare play. Everyone is assigned parts to read (all the way through, so you want your strong readers on the major parts), and we read the entire play with one "intermission," and then we have a discussion about the play afterward. The students enjoy it a lot, and I always get requests for more readings on their evaluations at the end of the semester -- and not just because they're extra credit. I'm not sure how you could make this an assignment that you grade, but you can adapt it however you'd like. I usually just give them 5 extra credit points (per reading) to add to their lowest graded assignment for the semester. (This works out to be about half a letter grade boost on those assignments.)

    Alternately, you could also teach a unit on dramaturgy. You could ask the students to write a proposal on how they would direct a particular production based on their dramaturgical research. (Is dramaturgical a word?)