Grade 4 Classes Collaborate to Write Original Play

Grade 4 students improvised, wrote their own theatrical retelling of the Jamestown settlers’ journey.

As part of this year’s grade 4 play, students acted out the journey of the Jamestown colonists as they made their way from England to the New World. But the students didn’t just read from a script—they brainstormed and wrote the entire play themselves!

Earlier in the year, the fourth-grade teachers approached Lower and Upper School theatre teacher Craig Smith about focusing the play on the Jamestown story. This would connect to their study of Jamestown for which they read the novel Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone. In addition, Mr. Smith wanted to try something new with students—he wanted them to learn about the concept of playwriting, which connects to Steward’s cross-curricular theme of storytelling for the 2017-18 school year.

To inspire students, Mr. Smith instructed each of the three fourth-grade classes to improvise theatrical scenes based on certain topics. One class focused on the reasons why the settlers wanted to leave England, another focused on what the journey across the Atlantic was like, and the last class focused on the Native Americans’ response to the arrival of the settlers.

As each group improvised, Mr. Smith recorded the lines they came up with. Next, he printed out the lines and gave them to the students to refine and add onto as they saw fit. The groups worked together to conceptualize and think critically about the best way to tell an accurate story, which resulted in a final script written entirely by the three classes.

“The only guidelines I gave them were that each character had to have a name and each student had to speak at least five lines,” he said. “They went to town and came up with an entire script on their own. I was so impressed with the way the groups collaborated to tell a story in their own words.”

The three classes came together to perform their self-written play to an audience of their teachers and families on Friday, October 6, which was met with rousing applause. Click here to read the playbill with a complete list of the performers, and click here to see photos from the play. 

“By introducing the idea of playwriting, it stirs up students’ creativity and shows them that there are so many ways to contribute to a project, even if you don’t want to be in the spotlight,” Mr. Smith said. “Being part of the writing process gave them the power to create their own story.”





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