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        5-7, 13+

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        Math + Arts | Stage Props, Blocking, and Graphs

        In this lesson, students will block a scene on a graph and act out the scene.

        Lesson Summary

        There are three options for this lesson, depending on class needs and time available:

        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss): students will view an excerpt from the play Jemima Boone and discuss stage props and blocking.

        2. Short hands-on activity: students will graph a stage, dividing it into areas like “center stage.”

        3. Project: working in small groups, students will block a scene on a graph and act out a scene blocked and graphed by another group.

        Time Allotment

        1. Frame, Focus, and Reflection (view and discuss): 1 class period

        2. Short hands-on activity: 1 class period

        3. Project: 3-4 class periods

        Learning Objectives


        I can relate set design and blocking to graphing in four quadrants.

        I can graph a set design for a theatrical scene.

        I can graph the movements of actors (blocking) in a theatrical scene.

        Arts and Humanities

        I can observe and describe the technical element of set design in a televised play.

        I can observe and describe the performance element of movement (blocking) in a televised play.

        I can apply my understanding of set design and blocking to write and perform a short scene with my peers.

        I can observe performances by my peers with appropriate behavior and discuss opinions with peers in a supportive and constructive way.



        Small blocks, cubes, dried beans, or other objects to represent actors on the graph.

        Media Resources

        Drama Based on Historical Characters: Jemina Boone

        Introductory Activity

        Students should be familiar with graphs in four quadrants and with the concept of the absolute value of the distance of two points on a graph.

        Learning Activities

        Frame, Focus, and Reflection

        Explain that you are going to consider the role of math in both the technical and the performance elements of drama. You will begin by watching a video excerpt from a play called Jemima Boone. Explain that this is a scene from a play about the daughter of famous Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone. This scene opens with Jemima recalling a date in 1773. The scene transports us to that day.

        First, allow students to watch the excerpt and lead a brief discussion about the scene. What happened? Why were James and Jemima frightened by the sudden appearance of the Indian. What did the Indian invite Jemima to do? What caused the misunderstanding?

        Next, distribute the "Set Design and Blocking" handout and read through it with students. Distribute the "Set Design and Blocking Analysis" handout and read through the questions. Show the video again, stopping at the appropriate places to give students time to answer each question. Point out that during much of the televised presentation of the action, only center stage and right stage are visible.

        After viewing, go over the answers, allowing students to discuss and make corrections. If needed, replay the segment of the video in question.

        Remind students that the stage props are part of the technical elements of drama. Was the placement of the stage props effective? Did it provide room for characters to act, give the audience a clear view, and work with the lighting?

        Remind students that acting is one of the performance elements of drama. Ask students to evaluate if the blocking of the characters was effective. Did the actors avoid “covering” each other (except for dramatic effect)? Were the actors’ facial expressions and body movements clearly visible to the audience?

        Short Activity

        Distribute and project the "Drama Graph." Ask students to write in the positive and negative numbers along the axes of the graph.

        Compare the graph to the chart on the "Set Design and Blocking" handout. Explain that 0,0 (the point of origin) is the center of the stage. Because an actor cannot remain in one exact spot, the center stage area is the area around the center. Define the center stage area as having an absolute value of 4 blocks by 4 blocks. Demonstrate how to find, mark, and label this area on the graph and ask students to do the same on theirs.

        Explain that the audience will be sitting below the graph. Demonstrate how to sketch in the audience. To face the audience, the actors will be looking downstage. Ask if downstage is on the positive or negative side of the x-axis? (negative) Remind students that stage directions are given from the perspective of an actor facing the audience. Is stage right on the positive or negative side of the y-axis? (negative)

        Ask students to find, mark, and label the areas that correspond to the nine areas indicated on the stage chart. Ask them to record the corner points of each area and to compute the absolute value of the dimensions of each rectangle.

        You may have them work individually, with partners, or in small groups.


        Depending on the available space in your classroom, you might need to do this project in the library media center.

        Explain that students are going to work in groups of five (four actors and one director—modify to address the size of your class) to write, block, and perform a short scene. Distribute the "Drama Math Scenario" and a clean copy of the "Drama Graph."

        As a large group, determine your set (acting area) and establish the point that will serve as 0,0. Determine what you will use as your stage props and how you will place them in the set. Project the "Drama Graph" and lead students in graphing the placement of the stage props on their graph. Depending on class needs and time, you could measure the stage props and make the graph to exact scale or you could estimate the relative sizes of the stage props. You can also decide if you want the table angled across the stage or straight across.

        Once the stage props are marked on the graphs, students can begin writing the dialogue sections of their scripts. Tell them to consider these literary elements:

        + Theme or mood: will their scenario be humorous or dramatic or will it teach a lesson?

        + Storyline: will there be suspense? What will be the climax of the scene?

        + Characters: what will be the personalities of the characters? What will be their motivation in the scenario?

        Tell them that they can give names to the students and teacher in the scenario but to avoid using the names of classmates or actual teachers to avoid the possibility of hurt feelings.

        When they have their script finished, they should have you review it before they move on to blocking the scene.

        To block the scene, have them use dry beans or other small objects to figure out where characters should enter, cross, sit, stand, and exit. Have them draw the movements of the characters on the graph and record the movements as ordered pairs (e.g., Tommy enters at 5,5 and crosses to 3,-1).

        Finally, they should add stage directions (such as “Enter stage right and cross to downstage left”) to their scripts.

        Allow one class period for the groups to rehearse and one class period for them to perform for one another.

        If you want to add a real challenge, after the scripts and graphs are completed, have groups exchange and perform one another’s scenarios.

        Explain that two of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Drama are:

        1. AH-6-PA-U-3

        Students will understand that openness, respect for work, and an understanding of how artists apply elements and principles of design in creating and performing are personal attitudes and skills that enhance enjoyment of the observer.

        2. AH-6-PA-S-DT5

        Students will demonstrate behavior appropriate for observing the particular context and style of dramatic works being performed; discuss opinions with peers in a supportive and constructive way.

        Explain that you will be assessing their behavior as audience members as well as their ability to follow the stage directions.

        Formative Assessment

        What are the indicators of student progress toward or achievement of each learning target?

        Math Assessment Problems

        Teacher review of "Drama Graph" used in short activity and in project.

        Arts and Humanities

        Teacher observation of accurate use of theater terminology during discussions.

        Teacher review of "Set Design and Blocking Analysis."

        Teacher review of graph of stage areas.

        Teacher review of graph of stage props and blocking for original scenario.

        Teacher review of stage directions (written and performed).

        If desired, you can have students do peer review of one another’s blocking (in writing or orally) using the same questions you used in discussing the excerpt from Jemima Boone.

        Ask students to evaluate if the blocking of the characters was effective. Did the actors avoid “covering” each other (except for dramatic effect)? Were the actors’ facial expressions and body movements clearly visible to the audience?

        Program Review

        Where does this fit in? How should you document it?

        This activity contributes to your school’s overall efforts in art programming in several areas, depending on whether you implement just the Frame, Focus, and Reflection portion or you implement the entire project.

        Curriculum and Instruction: Aligned and Rigorous Curriculum

        a) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum encompasses creating, performing, and responding and is fully aligned with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards?

        b) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum provides for the development of arts literacy in all four arts discipline and also utilizes the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts?

        c) To what extent does the school ensure that the school’s curriculum provides opportunities for integration as natural cross-curricular connections are made between the arts and other content areas?

        d) To what extent does the school ensure that the arts curriculum includes the study of representative and exemplary works of dance, music, theater, and visual arts from a variety of artists, cultural traditions and historical periods?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Instructional Strategies

        a) To what extent do teachers systematically incorporate all three components of arts study: creating, performing, and responding into the arts?

        b) To what extent do teachers provide models of exemplary artistic performances and products to enhance students’ understanding of an arts discipline and to develop their performance/production skills?

        c) To what extent do arts teachers provide for the development of artistic theory, skills, and techniques through the development of student performances or products that are relevant and developmentally appropriate for students?

        Curriculum and Instruction: Student Performance

        a) To what extent are students actively engaged in creating, performing and responding to the arts?

        b) To what extent do students identify a purpose and generate original and varied art works or performances that are highly expressive with teacher guidance?

        c) To what extent do students, with teacher guidance, routinely use creative, evaluative, analytical, and problem solving skills in developing, and/or reflecting in their artistic performances and products?

        d) To what extent do students use written and verbal communication to objectively reflect on exemplary exhibits and live or technologically provided performances as classroom assignments?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Assessments

        To what extent do teachers guide students to use developmentally or grade level appropriate peer review and critique to evaluate each other’s work?

        Formative and Summative Assessment: Expectations for Student Learning

        To what extent do teachers utilize exemplar/models to encourage students to demonstrate characteristics of rigorous work in the appropriate art form in most instructional lessons/units.


        Lesson Creators: Judy Sizemore, Sarah Evans, and Emily Jackson


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