What's My Motivation? Peeling the Layers of the Text Onion

Unit Overview

This unit plan was revised from the Ontario Ministry of Education Course Profiles written in 1999.

Unit Description

This unit introduces students to strategies and techniques designed to interpret text. Students will work to make meaning of scenes and characters in a play and deepen their understanding of the universal themes and issues found at the core of a scene or play. They will be introduced to motivated action and, the stylistic elements, themes, symbols, language and characters of a representative play from the late 19th century. This play exploration will lead to a sequential analysis and interpretation of text that will in turn, serve as an aesthetic and practical springboard for students to create their own scenes exploring a meaningful issue for them in today’s world. 

This unit can be used as an introduction to play interpretation and the use of symbols, for a Grade 11 class or serve as a deeper exploration of text for a Grade 12 class. The strategies explored can be used to unpack, explore and analyze scenes, text and plays from a variety of genres and periods including contemporary works.

Learning Goals

Students will :

  • Develop interpretations of historical/classical texts from the Western tradition
  • Explore and create dramatic works based on universal themes and issues
  • Use the elements of drama to achieve specific purposes in drama works
  • Identify and reflect upon the ways in which drama promotes self and social awareness.
  • Apply and transfer their learning from a 19th cent play to the creation of a modern issues based drama
  • Experiment with different modes of expression to bring meaning to a variety of perspectives on events and issues and to improve presentation skills
  • Reflect on and evaluate their own and others’ work in discussion or through thoughtful journal entries
  • Identify knowledge and skills they have acquired in drama, through discussion or by reflecting in his/her journal
  • Identify and follow safe practices such as collaboration, respect for space and personal safety in the classroom

Notes/Assessment/Modifications/Accommodations

Assessment as Learning

Understanding is checked for through reflection, journal entries, summary, application ( e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, tweets,etc).

Assessment for Learning

Is done throughout each unit through conferences, anecdotal comments, checklists etc.

Assessment 

BLM#1 Group Evaluation Checklist

BLM#2 Exploring Within and Beyond the Text Observation Checklist

BLM#4 Rubric for scene study

BLM#5 Rubric for Journal Writing

BLM#8 Self-Assessment

BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions

Differentiated Instruction

It is helpful to use a variety of strategies to assist all learners e.g. linguistic and non linguistic at the same time e.g. give oral instructions AND write them on the board. Provide students with choice and incorporate a variety of groupings.

Accommodations

Accommodations, and sensitivity to differences of all kinds is essential for an equitable drama classroom environment and are reflected in this unit:

Reading/Visual

Reading accommodations may be necessary for ESL students or students with specific learning disabilities that affect reading. Consult the IEP and use a peer tutor/helper to assist as needed. Using a larger type face/font is helpful for all students. As a balance, encourage a higher level of oral participation.

Students with visual challenges should be given copies of the script which have been expanded on the photocopier.

Writing

Students who have difficulty writing should be paired with another student or a classroom assistant who will scribe. ELL and/or special needs students may be buddied with another student to scribe or given the option to draw their ideas, tape them, or write in their own language

ELL students may need the expectations to be modified for their level of language; all ELL students must be capable of earning a level four with modified expectations.

Physically challenged students can always be accommodated (e.g., participate in Tableau/gesture using upper body movement.  

Modification of special needs students include oral assessment and additional time to complete class work

If contact is a concern, students may stand in a group or reach without touching in tableau, as a religious accommodation. Female students can also be grouped together in same gender groups, as a religious accommodation

Materials

  • Chart paper
  • Mural paper
  • Masking tape
  • Markers
  • Post-it notes
  • Class set of Snippets from Lesson Two.

Other Resources

Symbolism:

http://www.novelguide.com/ADoll%27sHouse/metaphoranalysis.html

BLM#3 - Doll's House Snippets

BLM#6 - The Actor’s Approach

BLM#7 - The Historical Content of Early 20th Plays

Brockett, Oscar G. History of the Theatre. Allyn and Bacon, 1977.

Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays. Airmont Publishing Company Ltd., 1966.

Moore, Sonia. The Stanislavski System. Penguin Books, 1984.

Neelands, Jonothan. Structuring Drama Work. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Shurtleff, Michael. Audition. Bantam Books, 1980.

A Doll’s House – DVD/VHS – Made for TV (1992) – Starring Juliet Stevenson

Lesson 1

Minds On/Warm Up (Approximately 15 min.)

Pairs > The Chair Exercise

  • In pairs, spread around the classroom, one partner sits on a chair and the other partner stands in front of the seated partner.
  • The standing partner’s objective is to use any psychological/physical tactic (i.e.: begging, threatening, bribing, teasing, flirting, blackmailing) to convince the seated partner let them sit on the chair.
  • The seated partner’s objective is to remain seated and under no circumstance allow the standing partner to sit down.
  • After a minute or two call “Freeze” and have one pair continue their exercise while the remaining students observe. Let the pair play their scene for thirty seconds and ask them to “Freeze.”
  • Ask the students to identify the tactic the partner standing was using to convince the seated partner to let them sit down.
  • Instruct the rest of the class to resume the exercise with the standing partner changing their tactic. (i.e.: pick a different one than you were using)
  • Instruct the students to freeze and ask another pair to play their scene for the class. The pair plays the scene for 30 seconds and freezes.
  • Ask the class to identify what tactic the partner standing was using to convince the seated partner to let them sit down.
  • Switch roles. The seated partner now stands and the standing partner now sits.
  • Repeat the activity.

Action/Activities (Approximately 45 min.)

Whole Class Discussion > The Three Questions

  • What do I want? (Objective)
  • Why do I want it? (Action)
  • How am I going to get it? (Tactic – Psychological/Physical)
  • On the chalkboard or on chart paper, write the above questions/information and explain that The Chair Exercise was intended to introduce the students to the three questions and the acting technique of understanding character motivation. Character motivation is what drives/motivates a character to behave as they do in a play. As a simple example, students in a Drama class follow the teacher’s instructions because they enjoy the class and want to succeed in the course.
  • Review The Chair Exercise by asking the students what they wanted, why they wanted it and how they attempted to get it. Explain that actors must know in every play/scene what their characters want, why they want it and how they’re going to get it.

Pairs > What Do I Want? > Scene Improvisation

  • Working with a new partner, instruct the students to select one of the following scenarios and create a two-minute long improvised scene.
    • A student is meeting with a hard-marking teacher to ask to have their final grade raised.
    • A teenager is attempting to persuade a strict parent to extend their curfew to attend a party.
    • Friend A wants to borrow money from Friend B to go out on a date with the most beautiful girl/most handsome guy ever. However, Friend A doesn’t know that Friend B would also like to go out on a date with the beautiful girl/handsome guy.

Note to teacher: Give the students an appropriate amount of time to prepare the scene. As they work on the scene, circulate among the pairs and ask, “What’s at stake? What will happen if you fail to achieve your objective?”

  • Invite four or five pairs to share their scenes with the class.
  • At the conclusion of each scene ask the class/audience to specifically identify the Objectives, Actions and Tactics used in each scene.

Hello Henrik – Brief Introduction To Ibsen and C19th Naturalism

Ibsen
  • Attributed with creating the “Drama of Ideas” – Plays that were not just entertainment but examined serious topics and social issues.
  • Eliminated melodramatic theatrical conventions such as asides and soliloquies.
  • All scenes causally lead to the climax and denouement.
  • Dialogue, settings, costumes reveal character and milieu.
  • Character behavior is attributable to heredity and environment (nature and nurture)
  • Internal psychological motivations drive all characters and the action of a play.
C19th Naturalism
  • A theory developed by French artists and intellectuals.
  • Heredity and environment were the main determinants of one’s fate.
  • As behavior is determined by things beyond one’s control one cannot be held responsible for what one does.
  • If anyone is to blame for society’s problems, it is society who is at fault because it has allowed undesirable heredity and environmental factors to exist.
  • Human progress can be improved by the application of science and scientific methods.
  • Humans were seen as natural objects, not created in the image of god.
  • Darwin’s “The Origin Of The Species” served as a basis/evidence for C19th Naturalism.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Assessment for/as Learning

Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).

  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.,

    • How will working with objectives improve your characterization?
    • How might an actor achieve truth and authenticity in a performance? Provide examples.

or

Assessment for Learning

BLM#8 Self-Assessment

Lesson 2

Minds On/Warm Up (Approximately 25 min.)

Individual > Snippets

  • Provide each student with a copy of the single lines from Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in BLM#3 - Doll's House Snippets 
  • Note to teacher:  The lines will be explored in the following four steps to introduce the students to the play, interpret possible meanings and begin to extrapolate themes/issues/ideas from the play.

Individual/Pairs > Exploring Text

Step One
  • Instruct the students to find a place sitting by themselves in the class and read through all the lines silently as though it were a script.
Step Two
  • Once the students have finished reading silently instruct them to stand and walk around the room reading the lines aloud from different parts of the page, for example the middle or the end to avoid reading in unison.
  • Encourage students to read their own lines and not in unison.
  • Instruct the students to walk beside a partner and alternate reading the lines aloud as they walk about the room.
Step Three
  • Instruct the students to stop walking and select a line that intrigues or speaks to them and repeat the line in a variety of ways – quickly, slowly, loudly, softly, pausing between each word, in an angry tone, a happy tone, an excited tone etc.
  • Instruct students to memorize the line.
Step Four
  • Instruct students to walk around the room. As soon as they pass another student they stop and face the other student., make eye contact and without any verbal cues, one says their memorized line to the other. The other students responds with their line.
  • Repeat this activity several times so the students can hear a variety of lines with different partners.
  • Encourage the students to say their lines in different ways, with different emotions as they connect with other students.

Action/Activities (Approximately 40 min.)

Small Groups > Putting the Lines Together

  • Working in groups of four or five, instruct the students to create a scene using their memorized line from the list.
  • They will create a simple set and decide on: an order for the lines, timing, entrances and exits for the characters and a title to convey the essence of the scene
  • Give the students sufficient time to rehearse the scenes.
  • Invite the students to share the scenes with the class.
  • As each group presents, alert the audience to listen for and notice any different interpretations of the same line, including the line they have chosen for themselves.
  • Discuss the scenes with the students asking the following questions:
    •  How was your line interpreted by another group? What was the difference? What similarities and differences in the interpretations of the lines did you notice? Explain.
    • Was there one line used by several groups? If so, which one and why? What was each scene really about? Did you notice any recurring themes?

Small Group > Brainstorming/Discussion

  • Inform the students that the lines are from Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Instruct the students to work in groups of five to re-read all the lines on the sheet.
  • Using chart paper and markers instruct the students to:
  • Brainstorm a list of ideas, based upon specific evidence in the lines, of what the play might be about.
  • List any terms or vocabulary from the lines that they are not familiar with.
  • List any themes or issues in the play that may be apparent based upon the evidence in the lines.
  • Comment upon the style/tone of the language used in the lines.
  • Invite a volunteer from each group to share their list with the class. Discuss each group’s list and post for later reference.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Twitter

  • In 140 characters or less pose a question or make a comment about A Doll’s House so far. This can be written on paper, or if the access to technology exists, do it electronically. Paper copies of these “tweets” will be posted on the wall of the classroom next lesson.

Assessment for/as Learning

  • Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application, observing students brainstorming (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).
  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.
    • How would listening to your line interpreted by another group be useful? Why should A Doll’s House be important to explore and study?

or

Assessment for Learning

Lesson 3

Minds On/Warm Up (Approximately 15 min.)

Individual/Pairs > Weed Da Tweets (Read The Tweets)

  • Post the tweets on the wall around the classroom.
  • Instruct the students to circulate and read all the tweets.
  • Invite the students to take their own tweet off the wall and join one of two groups:
  • Group One will be the question group
  • Group Two will be the comment group.
  • Working in two separate parts of the classroom, each group will share (read aloud) their questions and comments to their fellow group members.
  • Through discussion and negotiation each group will select the three most important questions and comments and turn each one into a single image (tableaux) that will be shared with the rest other group. Prior to the sharing of each image, the question or comment will be read aloud by the group.

Action/Activities (Approximately 50 min.)

Whole Class > Circle Read of Act I of A Doll’s House

  • Sitting on chairs in a circle, the class will read Act I of A Doll’s House.

Note to teacher: In a Circle Read, students sit in a circle and read the play aloud, character line by character line. No one student reads a specific part; instead all students participate and read the play line by line, going around the circle. For example, the beginning of A Doll’s House would be read as follows:

Student 1 – Nora: Hide the Christmas Tree carefully, Helen.  Be sure the children do not see it till this evening when it is dressed. (To the Porter, taking her purse.) How much?

Student 2 – Porter: Sixpence.

Student 3 – Nora: There is a shilling. No, keep the change.

Be sure to read aloud to the students, all the italicized stage directions and descriptions of settings as Ibsen wrote them specifically both for the reader and interpreters of his plays. Facilitate and help with any vocabulary or terminology throughout the Circle Read. If there are any struggling or non-readers in the class, they may choose to pass but should stay in the circle to listen, discuss and ask questions.

Small Group > Mural Response

  • Prepare four large pieces of mural paper with one of the following questions written at the top of the paper:
    • What did you like about Act 1 of A Doll’s House?
    • Which character do you find the most interesting and why?
    • What questions do you have about the physical world of the play?
    • What questions do you have about the emotional world of the play – the relationships and the choices the characters make.
  • Place the mural paper on the floor in four separate areas of the classroom with several markers beside each.
  • Instruct the students to circulate around the classroom and write or draw their responses to each of the four questions on the murals. Their responses can be in the form of a conventional written answer, a simple sketch, doodle or symbolic image.
  • Attach the murals to an appropriate wall in the classroom.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Assessment for/as Learning

  • Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).
  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.
    • How will the physical world of the play affect your interpretation?
    • Why should thinking about the emotional world of the play be useful to your work in drama?
    • What questions do you have that would help you in your learning about Ibsen’s work?

or

Assessment for Learning

Lesson 4

Minds On/Warm Up (Approximately 15 min.)

Four groups > Interpret The Mural

  • Divide the class into four groups, one for each mural.
  • Instruct each group to read/review/interpret/summarize all the information on their mural.
  • Each group selects a spokesperson. The spokesperson will stand in front of the mural and give a one-minute long summary of the mural to the rest of the class.

Action/Activities (Approximately 50 min.)

Pairs > Interpreting The Text

  • Instruct the students to select a partner and select a two to three minute long excerpt from one of the following three scenes from Act 1 of A Doll’s House:
    • The opening scene between Nora and Torvald
    • The scene between Nora and Christine Linde
    • The scene between Nora and Krogstad
  • Instruct the students to reflect on “The Three Questions” from Lesson One (What do I want? Why do I want it? How am I going to get it?) as they read the scene aloud to each other.
  • Select one or two pairs from each of the three scenes to share their answers to “The Three Questions” with the class.
  • Discuss how the interpretation of character, and by implication the text, is based upon the understanding of character motivation by the actor.
  • Assign to each pair one of the following eight script interpretation techniques that they will apply to their scene.
  • Allow sufficient time for each pair to practice their scene with the assigned technique.
  • Showcase all eight techniques by instructing each group to select one of the techniques to apply to their scene and share with the class.

Repetition

  • Instruct students to stand perfectly still, face to face, make eye contact and not move. (Be strict about the movement.) Actor A says his/her line. Actor B repeats Actor A’s line exactly as Actor A said it. Actor B says his/her line. Actor A repeats Actor B’s line exactly as Actor A said it.

Teacher Note: This technique challenges students to listen to each other.

Maximum Gesture/Minimum Gesture

Instruct students to play the scene on their feet exaggerating all the physical actions to the maximum or minimum extremes. Encourage them to really, really exaggerate.

Teacher Note: This technique forces students to play the scene with an increased level of energy and concentration. It may also clarify to the student the character’s intentions.

Sing It

Instruct students to imagine that they are opera singers and sing the entire scene with all the grand melodrama of opera.

Teacher Note: This technique of exaggerated emotions and actions frees the students to play with the character and discover new possibilities for interpretation. It is also easier to bring a student back from over-exaggeration than from not enough exaggeration.

Play With Extremes

  • Instruct students to play the entire scene with one of these five extreme emotions:
    • You are madly in love with each other.
    • You are vengefully angry at each other.
    • You are in lust with each other.
    • You both laugh without stopping throughout the scene.
    • You both cry without stopping throughout the scene.

Truth Versus Lie

  • Play the scene with the belief that everything the characters say is the honest truth. Then play the scene again where everything they say is a bold-faced lie.

Laughter

  • Instruct students to laugh through the lines of the scene if their character has the upper hand or higher status. Switch the laughter if the status changes.

Subtext

  • Say the character’s line aloud and then immediately before the reply of the other character, speak the thoughts and feelings of what’s going on in the character’s head.
  • Play the entire scene this way.

One Word Sentences

  • Select the most important word in each sentence your character speaks in the scene.
  • Play the entire scene using that one word only and speak/shade/interpret the word with the understanding and emotion of the whole sentence.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Assessment for/as Learning

  • Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).
  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.,
    • How will exploring the different methods for interpretation change your characterization? Why should observing another’s work change your own?

or

Assessment for Learning

BLM#8 Self-Assessment

Lesson 5

Minds On/Warm Up (Approximately 15 min.)

Whole Class > Magic Stapler

  • Sitting in a circle, introduce to the class the magic stapler and explain that the stapler has the magic power to change/transform into another object.
  • Demonstrate how the stapler is normally used. Then without telling the class what object the stapler has been transformed into, demonstrate what the stapler has become by showing how it’s used. (ie: a flip phone, a light sabre, a chainsaw, a shovel, a hairbrush, a bicycle pump, a curling iron etc.)
  • Invite the students to guess what object the stapler has been transformed into.
  • Pass the stapler around the circle one student at a time. Each student transforms the stapler into another object and demonstrates how it’s used.
  • Encourage the students not to repeat objects.

Teacher Note: The goal of this exercise is to imaginatively turn a concrete object into something else.You could use a scarf or pencil, or other objects.

Action/Activities (Approximately 45 min.)

Whole Class > Play Summary And Circle Read

  • Summarize Act II and beginning of Act III for the students.
  • Circle read with the class Act III from Mrs. Linde’s line, “Nora, you must tell your husband all about it” to the end of the play.

Note to teacher:  Be sure to read all the italicized stage directions and descriptions of settings to students, as Ibsen wrote them specifically both for the reader and interpreters of his plays. Facilitate and help with any vocabulary or terminology throughout the Circle Read. If there are any struggling or non-readers in the class, they may choose to pass but should stay in the circle to listen, discuss and ask questions.

Show The Scene

  • Complying with copyright regulations, show the same scene from Act III on video or DVD starting from the same place.

Note to teacher: The 1992 TV version of A Doll’s House staring Juliet Stevenson as Nora is recommend if available.

Whole Class > Discussion

  • At the conclusion of the screening discuss the following with the students:
    • What is the play trying to say?
    • Was it well said?
    • Was it worth saying?
    • Comment on the production values: the costuming, set, colours, textures.
    • What did you notice about the use of the camera to tell the story or set the mood, the camera angles, close-ups?
    • Were the characters believable, authentic performances?
    • Which performance did you think was strongest and most believable? How did the actor accomplish this?
    • Which themes were prevalent? Strongest?
    • What real life issue did you feel was communicated in the piece?
    • How do you feel about this issue?
  • Discuss each question and encourage the students to support their opinions with specific examples from the play.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Symbols, Symbolism and Stickies

  • Share with the class, on a large piece of chart paper the following two terms:
    • Symbol– A symbol is a concrete object that represents a concept.
    • Symbolism – An artistic/poetic style of creating art using symbols and indirect suggestion to express ideas.
  • Briefly define and discuss the two terms.
  • Give each student a large yellow sticky, (Post It Note) and instruct them to write on the sticky two or three examples of symbols they have recognized in A Doll’s House.
  • Post all the stickies on the large piece of chart paper and attach the piece of chart paper to an appropriate wall in the classroom.

Assessment for/as Learning

  • Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).
  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.,
    • How will exploring these symbols impact on the way you play your character?
    • Why should a playwright use symbols in their play? Give an example of one symbol from the play and it’s meaning.

or

Assessment for Learning

Note to teacher: http://www.novelguide.com/ADoll%27sHouse/metaphoranalysis.html

See example of symbols and their meaning found on this web site. Some obvious symbols in the play:, a doll’s house, a doll, a song bird, macaroons, the Tarantella, a business card, an unopened letter, the door slamming etc.

Lesson 6

Minds On/Warm Up (15 min.)

Small Groups > Symbols Into Tableaux

  • Working in groups of three or four, instruct the students to select one of the symbols listed on the yellow stickies and turn that symbol into either a literal or metaphorical tableau with a title.
  • Invite the students to share their tableau with the class and state the title of their image before it is presented.
  • Discuss the literal or metaphorical implications of each tableaux as it pertains to A Doll’s House .

Action/Activities (Approximately 2 sessions)

Teacher Note: G.B. Shaw noted in a review of A Doll’s House that when Nora slammed the door at the end of the play, it resonated across Europe. Such was the symbolic importance of a simple dramatic action. Nora’s journey in the play and subsequent departure ultimately questioned the inviolability of marriage as a social institution.

Jonathan Neelands also noted that, “The importance of symbols lies in their capacity to go on generating further and deeper meanings as the drama develops and also in their capacity to serve as reference points or motifs which bind the various stages of the development of the drama.” (Neelands, p. 68)

With these two points in mind, the final Action/Activity in this unit is an opportunity for students to use a symbolic action to create a drama/scene that explores a universal them/issue as seen in today’s world.

Small Group > Interpreting the Symbol

  • In groups of three or four, instruct the students to create a five to seven-minute-long rehearsed improvised scene that begins with the action of a door slamming. The scene must include:
    • A universal theme or issue as seen in today’s world that is central to the play.
    • A clear beginning, middle and ending.
    • Conflict between characters.
    • A simple yet clear stage setting.
    • Motivated action on the part of all characters.
    • A use of the conventions of Drama ie: Dialogue, monologue, tableaux, entrances and exits, costumes, props, lights, transition music, set.
    • The use of a concrete object that symbolizes a concept/theme/issue in the scene.
  • Instruct the students to develop the scene, rehearse it, select appropriate/available props, set, costume and add available stage technology (lights and sound) to polished the scene.
  • When the groups are ready, the students will share the scenes with the class.

Note to teacher: During the rehearsal process, conference with each group, question the students to justify their choices, give direction, suggestions and feedback.

  • Invite the students to discuss the work after the presentations.
  • Identify the themes/issues and symbols used.
  • Discuss the authenticity of the motivated action in the characters and use of the conventions of Drama.

Consolidation (Approximately 10 min.)

Assessment for/as Learning

  • Check for understanding through reflection, summary, application (e.g. student journals, discussion, exit cards, etc).
  • Observe and side coach students as they create and rehearse scenes.
  • Use BLM#9 Q-Chart - Forming Questions to create higher-level 3 and 4 questions for students to respond to in their journals or writing folders e.g.,
    • How might you describe the meaning of the scene you created?
    • Why should we create, or go to see a play that explores universal themes and issues?
    • How would this kind of learning be better than any other kind of learning?

Or

Assessment for Learning

Assessment of Learning