Performance Skills and Techniques
In this lesson, students analyze how a character's personality traits, actions and motives influence the plot of a story. Students also learn how storytellers use their face, body, and voice, as well as the five senses, to enhance the telling of a story. Videos and scenarios are used for demonstration and practice.
Analyze and articulate how personality traits, actions, and motives influence the plot of a story
Recognize what emotions are being portrayed by characters
Apply storytelling techniques to add depth to a character
Respond to how different character traits influence the outcome of a problem in a plot line
Tell their own stories that relate to the stories of the characters
Use journal writing to record and reflect on their senses
Combine storytelling techniques-such as using facial expressions, voice, and gestures-when they tell stories
What You'll Need
1 Computer per Classroom
This lesson requires the intructor to act-out given scenarios. Student response will be affected by the instructor's level of enthusiasm.
Character: A shy, young boy or girl Setting: A school bus Problem: The boy has a puppy in his backpack that wants to bark.
Outcome: The boy feeds the puppy his lunch to keep him quiet.
Character: A shy young boy or girl
Setting: The scenario takes place outside of an alien spacecraft that is waiting for clearance from the mother planet to take off into space.
Problem: Imagine that during an outdoor nature class in nearby woods, aliens have borrowed your teacher. They want to take her back to their planet to teach their children about the earth’s flora and fauna. Prior Student Knowledge
Elements of a story
Small Group Instruction
Open area in room for acting space Screen or tv for videos Accessibility Notes
Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. Tell students they will learn how storytellers use their faces, bodies, and voices to express emotion and enhance the telling of a story. Model expressing different emotions with your face and body and ask students to guess which emotion you are expressing.
2. Share video clips with students that express how storytellers use their faces, bodies, and voices to portray a character. Discuss how the woman in the video uses her face, her body, and her voice to express the character of a cat. Show the video clip of a woman escaping on a boat. Point out how Kuniko Yamamoto uses her body to show setting.
3. Ask students to select an animal or a character (real or fictional) and use their face, body, and voice to portray that subject. Have other students guess who or what the student is trying to portray. After the students have guessed correctly, ask them to share how they were able to guess the correct answer from body, face and /or voice clues.
4. Involve students in a discussion about how using the senses can help bring a character to life. Write these words on the board: smell, sound, touch and sight. Go through the senses one at a time and ask students to quickly jot down short descriptions of the person who comes to mind when they hear each phrase.
Sample student response
"my younger brother smelling of sweat and sandbox dirt at the end of the day"
"my father falling asleep in front of the television and snoring so loudly that he wakes himself up"
"the school nurse putting that stuff that stings on my scraped knee"
"the old man with the cane who is so bent over that his upper body is parallel to the ground"
5. After going through all the senses, ask students to use their faces, bodies, and voices to dramatize the content.
1. Act out the following scenario for your students:
A shy, young boy or girl
A school bus
The boy has a puppy in his backpack that wants to bark.
The boy feeds the puppy his lunch to keep him quiet.
2. Invite students to tell the story from the point of view of one of the other characters listed below, and create a different outcome based on the new character. Possible characters include a mean bully, a conscientious bus driver, and a student who is terrified of dogs.
3. After a few students finish different versions of the scenario, discuss the following:
How did each character's qualities, actions, and motivations change the outcome of the story?
How did the storyteller's movements, gestures, voice, and expressions help develop the character?
4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the following fictional scenario:
A shy young boy or girl
The scenario takes place outside of an alien spacecraft that is waiting for clearance from the mother planet to take off into space.
Imagine that during an outdoor nature class in nearby woods, aliens have borrowed your teacher. They want to take her back to their planet to teach their children about the earth’s flora and fauna.
Possible characters include a habitual liar, a clever, resourceful student, a student who is afraid of everything, and a classroom troublemaker
5. Select some of the stories from A Long Way from Chicago and share them with your students. A Long Way from Chicago is an enjoyable, sometimes outrageous book about what happens when two kids make their annual trek from Chicago to spend time with their eccentric grandmother in rural Illinois. Each chapter tells the story of a different summer spent with their Grandma Dowdel who is as "old as the hills," and "tough as an old boot."
6. Have students create a character sketch of Grandma Dowdel by responding to the Grandma Dowdel Character Sketch handout located within the Resource Carousel.
1. After the students have completed the character sketch, have students choose one of the stories and retell it from Grandma Dowdel's perspective. Remind students that they are the tellers of the story, and that while they are telling the story from Grandma Dowdel's perspective, they may include their own reactions to the story. To illustrate this point, share the video clip in which storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto tells the story of her grandmother. Point out how she switches between herself and her grandmother.
1. Following the discussion of senses, ask students to keep a journal recording examples of daily encounters with people as they relate to these four senses: sight, sound, smell, and touch. Provide time for students to share one of their favorite entries each day. At the end of the three days, ask students to select one of the people from their entries and describe that person to the class.
2. After the student retellings of Grandma Dowdel’s stories, pair students and have them take turns telling personal stories to their partners that they were reminded of while listening to Grandma Dowdel’s stories. After each student has finished telling his/her story, the listener will answer the questions on the Listener's Response handout located within the Resource Carousel and discuss the answers with the student storyteller. After students have practiced telling their stories, have them share their stories with the class.
Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.
The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the
National Core Arts Standards ( http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.
Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.
Common Core/State Standards
Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.
National Standards For Arts Education
Grade K-4 Theater Standard 1:
Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history
Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2:
Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations
National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts Standard 6:
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts
Language Arts Standard 8:
Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes