Teaching Students with Special Needs – Part 4

Substitute taught in a Playwriting class today and it got me thinking about ways I might adapt Playwriting (or Story Writing) for students with dyslexia or simply struggle with reading/writing for one reason or another. Some thoughts:

1. Try having student record their ideas on a microcassette recorder (or a computer if the technology is available). Sometimes writing is easier for a student with dyslexia if they can separate the “writing” part from the “coming up with ideas” part. This would also help with young children who say they “hate writing” when what they really mean is that they hate their wrists getting tired holding a pencil for a long time, not that they hate making up stories.

2. Try breaking down scene writing assignments into smaller chunks. Today I was asked to prompt my group of students to write a scene that followed a particular 8-part structure: A wants something from B, B won’t give in, A tries a new tactic to get it, etc. One student was clearly overwhelmed by the notion of writing a “whole scene” with all of these elements. So I told him instead of trying to write a “whole scene” that he should just focus on the “mini scenes” within each step. I took 8 sheets of paper and wrote each step in the assignment at the top and told him to just focus on writing the part of the scene that was described there, whether it was a line or two or a stage direction, and then move to the next page for the next part and see how far he’d get. I told him later after he finished all the “mini scenes” he could string them together into one big scene but this way he could better just focus on each step.

Question for the World: If you do writing activities with your students, do you adapt your instruction for those with reading/writing challenges? If so, how?

Teaching Directing

I’m very happy so far with the Introduction to Theatre class I’m teaching. It’s truly in my zone of proximal development as a teacher, in that I’m always confident I know what I’m doing to a point, and yet also always taking a step outside my comfort zone as well. It’s exciting because the class asks that of the students as well, so we’re truly on a journey together. The students seem to be having a good time!

This month we will be focusing a portion of our class time on Directing. These are community college students, and while some of them have had acting experiences in high school and elsewhere I don’t think any of the group has ever directed before. One of the ways I’m going to introduce Directing is by putting the students in groups and having each take turns directing an Open Scene. These are most often (in my experience) used as Acting exercises but I have always felt that they were even more useful as a source of Directing practice. I did this when I was at the LaMaMa Umbria International Director’s Symposium in 2000 and it worked well as a jumping off point for a range of discussions about directing with a diverse group of experienced directors, so it should be interesting to see how it works here.

Question for the World: How would you teach Directing? Share your favorite activities!