ALEX Learning Activity


Silent Film

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Amy Patel
System:Madison City
School:James Clemens High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1794
Silent Film
Digital Tool/Resource:
Silent Film Assignment Description
Web Address – URL:

Students apply their knowledge of physical acting by creating a short silent film, in the style of Charlie Chaplin.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 9-12
Theatre: Accomplished
5) Collaborate as a creative team to make interpretive choices for a drama/theatre work.

Unpacked Content
Artistic Process: Creating
Anchor Standards:
Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Process Components: Develop
Essential Questions:
EU: Theatre artists work to discover different ways of communicating meaning.
EQ: How, when, and why do theatre artists' choices change?
Concepts & Vocabulary:
  • Author research
  • previous productions of the specific play
  • Text breakdown
  • Expositions
  • Public Solitude
  • Biomechanic
  • Lessac
  • Laban
  • Accents
  • Method of Physical Action
  • Warm ups
  • Laban
  • emotional memory
  • sense memory
  • substitution
  • affective memory
  • given circumstances
  • ensemble work
  • lighting
  • innovation/evolution of technical theatre
  • technical crews and their jobs
Theatrical production
  • World of the play
  • Production concept
  • Copyrights and the right of the playwright
Skill Examples:
  • Students will pick one of 10 plays that represent plays from across multiple genres. They will begin the design process using research about prior productions of our play. They will work together to present their design for the play. Their research will be a large part of their grade.
  • Students will study lighting in class. They will have lecture and discussion about the evolution of lighting in theatre. They will also discuss how lighting has allowed them to accomplish more with less instruments. Additionally, the students will "invent" their own lighting instrument that will fix the issues that they are currently experiencing as designers and technicians.
  • The students will begin studying the acting technique of Stanislavski and The Method. They will demonstrate their new knowledge in their monologues for class.
  • Students will work together to create a performance of Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology. They will work together to find pieces for every student in the class that work within the intent of the assignment. Students will create strong characters based off the short monologues in the play. Students will pair and critique each other during the process. Students can perform for other classes or film themselves for a final review after the performance.
  • Students will create costumes, lighting, sound and a set design for their performance of Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology.
Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 9-12
Theatre: Advanced
9) Apply reliable research of directors' styles to form unique choices for a directorial concept in a drama/theatre work.

Unpacked Content
Artistic Process: Performing
Anchor Standards:
Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
Process Components: Select
Essential Questions:
EU: Theatre artists make strong choices to effectively convey meaning.
EQ: Why are strong choices essential to interpreting a drama or theatre piece?
Concepts & Vocabulary:
  • using information from research and the text to guide the production
  • Picturization
  • Dramaturgical analysis for directing
  • comedic timing
  • realistic vocal work
  • Using Viewpoints to use movement to create character
  • Using technique to create specific movement motivated by text, and character
  • By learning multiple acting techniques
  • How does the audience, theatre space and or style of the play influence design
Theatrical production
  • Theatrical genres have a profound impact on the entire production and the success of the production
Skill Examples:
  • Students will learn directing technique through lecture and classroom exercises. Students will identify the spectrum of an evolutionary director versus a director that is totally planned.
  • Students will study Viewpoints in class. Use exercises in class to show different benefits of the process. Students will use these techniques for scene work. They will have a class performance and will have oral critique and written critique.
  • Students will, after studying Viewpoints, Strasburg, Stanislavski, Uta Hagen, use these techniques for a class play. They will audition, rehearse and perform their play.
  • Students will create a children's play. They will write, rehearse and perform this show for the students in grades 3-5 in other schools.
Learning Objectives:

Students will apply body language and physical acting principles to create characters.

Students will collaborate with peers to devise a story that relies on physical action, rather than spoken word.

Students will apply physical acting styles from early silent movies to create their own silent film.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

Briefly explain the history of film making. Show the first film, Eadweard Muybridge's "moving pictures" of the horse from 1878. Explain to students that while directors could capture motion through pictures, technology was not available to capture the voice and action together until 1927 (The Jazz Singer).

Students will watch "The Kid," directed by Charlie Chaplin, directed in 1921. Afterward, discuss physical principles that are displayed. 

Students will be put into groups to create their own short silent film, depicting a story they write together. Students will plan using the Silent Movie Planning Sheet.

Students will create a storyboard to plan the movements and film shots.

Students will film segments of their silent movie. 

Students will edit their film using technology or apps available at the school. 

On the final day, watch the films together and discuss the physical expressions and artistic choices in each film. 

Assessment Strategies:

Students will be assessed on mastery of creating a story that relies on physical action, rather than spoken word.

Allow students to assess their film and their group member contributions using the following assessment sheet.

Advanced Preparation:

Review and demonstrate Physical Principles with students.

Print copies for each group:  Assignment Description, Planning Sheet, Story Board, and Assessment

Variation Tips (optional):

Teachers may show scenes from The Kid rather than showing the entire film. 

Students may edit their short film using a variety of software or apps available on their phones or computers. (Check with your school's technology coordinator for more specific guidelines.)

If technology is not available, students can present their silent "film" live onstage instead. 

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
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