Skit Writing Assignment Format

Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Demonstrate knowledge of story elements by constructing an outline of a group skit using an online drama map

  • Develop a story plot with sequential events using an online plot diagram

  • Develop listening, speaking, and performing skills by working cooperatively to create and perform a group skit

  • Recognize conflict and resolution in a story by analyzing each other's skits

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Session 1

1.Review story elements (character, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution) using the Story Elements Web. Students will fill in the blank sections on the web during the discussion. Refer to the Story Elements Web: Teacher Copy for possible responses.

2.Tell students that they will be working in cooperative groups to create paper-bag skits. Each group will receive a paper bag with five items that group members must use as props in their skit. While they create their skit, they will need to consider the story elements (character, setting, and plot) and will use online tools to guide them. Tell them that you will model the process for them.

3.Display the sample skit bag and remove each of the items from the bag. For demonstration purposes, consider that this teacher sample skit bag contains a magnifying glass, a map of the Washington DC Mall area, and an envelope addressed to Ms. Mary Smith, 123 Winding Way, Anytown, NY.

4.Ask students to think of a story plot that would involve these items, and give them a minute or two to think quietly. Then tell students to turn to a neighbor and share their ideas for story plots.

5.Ask a volunteer to share his or her partner’s idea with the class. Then ask several more volunteers to share ideas. Write these ideas on an overhead transparency or chart paper so you may refer to them during Session 2.

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Session 2

1.Display and discuss the story ideas from Session 1. As you discuss each idea, remind students how it connects to the props that are contained in the sample skit bag.

2.Choose one of the story ideas to use as a model or use the example provided in the Drama Map Example.

3.Using an LCD projector or large monitor, display the interactive Drama Map.

4.Using the story idea chosen in Step 2, complete the Drama Map, having students suggest entries as you fill in each item (see Drama Map Example). Begin with the Setting Map.

5.Remind students that the props must be used in the skit, so planning should include ways to incorporate them.

6.Tell students that they must complete a Character Map for each character in the skit. The Drama Map tool will allow them to map one character at a time. To create multiple Character Maps, they will need to print each one separately. Model how to do this by printing the first set of maps (character, conflict, resolution, and setting) and then clicking on “Edit” to change the information on the Character Map. They will continue editing and printing until they have printed each Character Map.

7.Show students how to use the interactive Plot Diagram (choose the Exposition, Climax, Resolution option) to sequence the events of their skits (see Plot Diagram Example).

8.Tell students that they will begin work on their skits during the next session.

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Session 3

Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school’s computer lab.

1.Review story elements.

2.Discuss the Guidelines for Creating and Performing Skits, Cooperative Group Roles, and the Grading Rubric.

3.Tell students that the skits will not be plays with elaborate scripts, assigned parts, and multiple rehearsals. Instead, they will create a rough outline of the skit (using the interactive Drama Map and Plot Diagram tools) and perform it in a spontaneous manner.

4.Assign students to their cooperative groups (see Preparation, Step 2). Distribute the Cooperative Group Roles handout, and have students follow the directions on the handout to determine their roles.

5.Give each group their prop bag (see Preparation, Step 3). Tell students not to open their bags until you instruct them to do so.

6.Remind students of the process they used in Session 1 to brainstorm ideas for story plots. (They generated ideas using the props in the sample bag.) Ideas can be based on any topic as long as they incorporate all of the props. Point out that the plots should also meet the Guidelines for Creating and Performing Skits.

7.Tell students that once you give the signal, they can open their bags, take out the props, and work in their cooperative groups to brainstorm possible story lines for their skits.

8.Tell them to begin. During this activity and others in the session, circulate around the class monitoring progress and prompting individuals and groups to stay on task as they plan their skits.

9.Have groups use the interactive Drama Map tool to determine the story elements—character, setting, conflict, and resolution—of their skits. Remind them that they will need to print out separate Character Maps for each character in their skit.

10.Ask groups to use the interactive Plot Diagram tool to determine the sequence of events in their skit.

11.Tell students that if they finish early, their group can briefly rehearse their skit. Remind students that the scripts will be loosely created; much of the skit will be impromptu.

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Session 4

Note: For this session, consider moving your class to the gymnasium, cafeteria, or outside for skit practice. It would be helpful to provide extra space for each group to practice its skit without interfering with other groups.

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Session 5

Note: Depending on the number of groups and length of skits, this may need to be two or three sessions.

1.Review the Guidelines for Creating and Performing Skits and Grading Rubric.

2.Distribute the Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide handout. The purpose of this handout is to promote active listening; when students are given a purpose they are more likely to listen carefully and politely to each skit as it is performed. Tell students that they should pay close attention to each skit. In particular, they should try to determine the conflict and resolution of each. Tell them that they should not write during the performance, but after each one you will give them time to fill in their Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide handout.

3.Have a group perform its skit for the class.

4.After the group finishes, have students independently record the conflict and resolution on their handouts. Have students write their initial response in pen.

5.Discuss the conflict and resolution of the skit. Using pencil, students may adjust their answers on the handout. By permitting these adjustments in responses, you will promote more active listening. Since students use different media, you can assess initial versus follow-up responses.

6.If time permits, discuss the setting (and its effect on the plot) and character development.

7.Repeat Steps 3 through 6 until each group has performed.

8.Collect the printed Drama Maps, Plot Diagrams, and Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide handouts. Each group will turn in one set of the Drama Maps and Plot Diagrams. Each student will turn in an individual Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide.

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EXTENSIONS

Extensions

  • Groups can trade paper bags and create new skits, altering the setting and conflict from the prior group’s skit.

  • Create new paper-bag skits in different genres. Mystery stories work especially well and students could use the online Mystery Cube to plan their skits.

  • Each student can assume the role of a movie critic and write a review of the skit that he or she liked best.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

A rubric is provided for assessment purposes, and it addresses the skit, written work (Drama Map and Plot Diagram), on-task behaviors (Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide and individual effort), and adherence to Guidelines for Creating and Performing Skits. You will encourage students to stay on task and meet expectations by discussing this rubric before you assign cooperative groups.

To use this assessment tool, consider each trait and your expectations of what would constitute average performance. Students who meet that minimal expectation would earn a score of 2. Students who exceed your expectations would earn a score of 3, and students who do not meet your baseline for average would earn a 1. For example, in “Ability to work together,” an average performance would be earned by group members who work cooperatively without arguments or excessive teacher management. An exceptional rating may be earned by group members who go beyond this minimal expectation.

When scoring the Conflict–Resolution Audience Guide, remember that one of its purposes is to promote active listening. Students who independently identify the correct conflict and resolution in all of the skits may qualify for the exceptional rating. Those who change answers to earn correct responses during the review of each skit’s conflict and resolution would qualify as acceptable. When evaluating students’ responses on this guide, be sure to consider the clarity of each skit; if it is difficult to determine these elements in a particular skit, consider more flexibility when scoring.

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I. Introducing the assignment

A. Reducing student apprehension about creative writing and role-playing

The goal of the ‘General Hospital’ assignment is for students to write and perform a skit based on a pathogenic disease and share their knowledge with classmates in a creative format. When an instructor introduces an assignment that requires the use of creative writing and role-playing to undergraduates, he or she may encounter resistance from students who prefer to be evaluated via traditional methods of testing (e.g., multiple-choice or short answer questions directly from lecture material). The instructor may also receive comments about role-playing and skits being considered too elementary for college-level students, or a ‘dumbing down’ of course information.

Before introducing assignment details, the instructor is encouraged to engage students in a discussion about how information related to topics in pathogenesis is presented in their everyday lives. The dialog will stimulate students to reflect on how they acquire information about various pathogens and their associated diseases outside of the classroom. Prompts for discussion can include asking students to reflect on illnesses that are of personal interest. For example: (1) a student may have a grandparent who was diagnosed with shingles and be curious to learn more about the disease and its treatment, or (2) media reports about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti inspire a student to search for more information about the disease. A light-hearted way of introducing the project is to show a clip from the television show Seinfeld, called “The Burning,” where the character Kramer has his first acting gig – playing a man who contracts gonorrhea – for an audience of medical residents at a teaching hospital. This clip demonstrates how medical residents participate in mock sessions with ‘patients’ during their training, and is a light-hearted portrayal of circumstances and symptoms that help them diagnose the patient.

B. Structure of ’General Hospital’ skit

Presentation Time Limit: 10–15 minutes

Characters: The students write and present the information about the infectious disease through different roles — in any given presentation group, there are students who play the medical staff to diagnose the patient and provide treatment. However, there are also the patient(s), their family and/or friends.

Scenes: There must be a connection between the series of events leading to the patient(s) visiting medical staff at ‘General Hospital’.

Students must include information about the following questions in the skit, which are presented in a natural and logical fashion. Therefore, the questions aren’t necessarily presented in the order listed below.

Questions to address in ‘General Hospital’ skit:

  1. How did the patient contract the illness?

  2. Can the patient infect others?

  3. What microbe(s) are responsible for this illness?

  4. What are the symptoms? When did the patient first notice the symptoms? How will the symptoms progress if the patient is not treated in a timely manner?

  5. What body system(s) are compromised in the illness (skin, nervous, cardiovascular, etc)?

  6. What medical treatments are available (antibiotics, antivirals, rest, etc)? How do they work (i.e., treating symptoms or targeting the pathogen(s))? Are there side effects to the treatments?

  7. What tests are needed to properly diagnose the patient?

  8. When will the patient recover? Will the patient fully recover?

  9. What precautions or preventive measures could the patient have taken to avoid becoming infected?

  10. What interesting news or research published within the last 12 months is related to this illness (from an instructor-approved news article)? How is it related to relevant information written in the skit?

While introducing the assignment, the instructor can incorporate a review of previous skits and presentations from students, discussing how they met assignment guidelines (see Supplemental Materials, Appendices 1 and 2).

C. Selection of groups and pathogenic disease for skit/brainstorming

Once the assignment is introduced, students will be placed into groups of three to four students. It is recommended to have a maximum group number of four students. More than four students may lead to issues with group dynamics (e.g., disagreement among group members about character selection, storyline and disease selected, etc.). If needed, smaller groups that require additional characters can recruit students from other groups or outside of the class for the presentation portion of the assignment. To build team spirit among the group and infuse fun into the process, the instructor can ask the groups to create a team name related to their upcoming skit, such as ‘Team Botoxx’ or ‘Trick, No Treat’; for botulism and trichomoniasis, respectively.

Approximately 15–20 minutes will be needed in class for groups to brainstorm which pathogenic disease they will select and consult the instructor for initial ideas on how to develop the skit. After the brainstorming period, students must present the instructor with the disease selected. This assignment was designed to allow groups to select the disease for the skit, which was then accepted by the instructor on a first-come, first-serve basis. If there are multiple groups addressing the same disease, it is advised that the instructor notify groups as to which diseases have been selected. Groups may opt to change their selection. However, the instructor should keep in mind that students will still have different approaches to writing a skit about the same disease.

II. Assessment of student drafts and presentation

A. Providing feedback on student drafts

Writing, receiving comments, and rewriting is an effective way for students to revisit information in their skit and review information learned about their selected pathogenic disease. While writing the first, second, and final drafts, students receive feedback on their progress through the instructor’s comments. By reviewing the content and how it is delivered in the skits, the instructor will be able to gage how well the students can address information related to pathogenesis in a creative, relaxed, yet accurate manner.

One way for the instructor to encourage groups to use lay terms in their skits is to pose the question: “How would you convey this information to your future patients or family members who have a minimal scientific background?” This question challenges the student to relay information in a language that demonstrates an understanding beyond simple memorization. Based on scheduling, it is highly suggested that time be set aside during lecture — at least 30 minutes per week — for students to work on drafts with their group members and ask the instructor questions related to the assignment.

The first draft is submitted approximately two weeks after the introduction and brainstorming session, and is reviewed to ensure that all assignment guidelines have been properly addressed. After students receive comments on how to increase the quality of their first draft, a second draft will be required approximately one week later. The final draft is due one week after students receive comments from their second draft. To reduce the amount of time needed for reviewing drafts, instructors may reduce the number of drafts required. To grade groups on their effort to revise the skit throughout the entire process, the instructors can use a rubric for the ‘General Hospital’ assignment (first draft, second draft, and final submission; see Appendix 1).

B. Student presentations

The assignment was designed to have students limited to a ten-minute presentation during the lecture period. However, the presentation time limit may be adjusted based on the time constraints and number of students in the course. Larger classes may consider having groups film their skits outside of class, and posting their videos online via BlackBoard, Angel, Moodle, or other online resources for sharing with all students.

Submission of final drafts and supporting PowerPoint visuals for presentation should occur at least 24 hours before the presentation of skits. This will give the instructor time to review skits in advance and post visuals in a manner that can be readily accessible during the presentations — decreasing the amount of time needed for groups to transition between presentations.

During their performance, students can use a variety of materials to produce an entertaining skit. Examples include:

  1. PowerPoint slides to show the background of each scene, such as the ‘General Hospital’ waiting room or the patient’s home.

  2. Props, such as bedsheets and pillows over tables in the classroom to create the ‘patient bed’ and scrubs, stethoscopes, surgical masks, and a clipboard for the ‘medical staff’.

Examples of dialog from student skits

Chlamydia

Girlfriend: Nurse, Can I talk to you for a minute? (Leaves to talk to nurse) So, I was wondering what exactly would be affected because the doctor was concerned about me being pregnant.

Nurse: Well he was concerned because the bacteria can spread to the fallopian tubes and to your cervix… this could infect your baby’s eyesight and respiratory system.

Rabies

Woman: Ok, doctor, go ahead and give me the shots. How long is the treatment going to take? Will I infect my daughter?

Doctor: Rabies post-exposure vaccinations consist of a dose of human rabies immunoglobulin and four doses of rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure, and then again on days 3, 7, and 14 and it’s given via injection in the arm. If you don’t get the vaccine and you are infected with rabies, you can only infect your daughter in the late stages of the disease and only through your saliva. So, Mrs. M., no biting anyone!

Tips

  • ♦ Student may also present a skit where they (1) compare two different types of diseases, or (2) discuss the consequences associated with inadequate vaccination (e.g., bacterial vs. fungal meningitis, consequences from not having the Measles–Mumps–Rubella vaccination).

  • ♦ The instructor can host a peer-review session for students to comment on drafts using an instructor- or student-generated rubric.

  • ♦ It is highly suggested that students start to rehearse their skit during the revision of their second draft.

  • ♦ Video recordings of student performances provide additional review for the instructor to assess student work and collect examples of presentations.

  • ♦ Using an award system — a form of a mock ‘Oscars’ presentation — for ‘Best Skit’ allows for quality student work to be recognized and is a fun way to wrap up the assignment after presentations are complete.

Student feedback

“I never considered myself to be really creative. It was fun to do something different.”

“At first, I thought this was an easy assignment … it was much harder to write about a disease through a story than I expected!”

“The presentation of the assignment made us learn and understand the subject that we had better than other types of presentations because it was not like we were reading from cards. We really had to know what we presenting and rehearsing it so this made us really understand what we were talking about. It was also an easier way to understand the other presentations.”

“I showed the (video) presentation to my family … They couldn’t believe we had so much fun in Micro.”

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