Explore the History of Theater!

Teacher Page


Topic: Theater History
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Time: Approximately 2 weeks

GLCE's and Standards

Theater Standards
ART.III.T.M.I Explain the functions and interrelated nature of scenery, properties, lighting, sound, costumes, and makeup in creating an environment appropriate for drama.

ART.IV.T.M.I Describe and compare universal characters and situations in dramas from and about various cultures and historical periods, illustrate in improvised and scripted scenes, and discuss how theatre reflects a culture.

Language Arts

W.GN.07.01 Write a cohesive narrative piece such as a memoir, drama, legend, mystery, poetry, or myth that includes appropriate conventions to the genre employing literary and plot devices.

Technology Standard:
METS 6-8 RI.1  By the end of grade 9 students will use a variety of digital resources to locate information.

Grouping Suggestions:
This WebQuest is meant to be explored in groups.  Each group could have 4-6 people and would study only one of the three historical eras (Greek, Renaissance, or Kabuki) after step one.  After step one, groups should only focus on those websites related to their particular era.

Because each time period emphasizes different aspects of theater and has different sources, some groups may take longer on some steps than others.  For example, the Renaissance group may take longer researching the performance space and the intricacies of the Globe Theater, while the Greek group may focus longer on masks, and the Kabuki group may focus longer on make-up.

When it is time to synthesize researched information by making the puppet stage, puppets, presentation, and play, it may be wise to assign different group members to each task to help with time.

Source Choice:
 This WebQuest was inspired by the information found on this webpage: http://library.thinkquest.org/5291/history.html I had been using the information on this page for quick lessons on theater history, but then I thought that it would be fun if students re-created familiar plays in each of the historical styles.  To do this, students would have to dig deeper into each historical period.  In this WebQuest, I have given supplementary sources for three of the given time periods on this webpage, but you could explore other eras as well.
I chose several you-tube videos to use as sources. Although it is difficult to find theatrical performances from times without video cameras, I was able to find some authentic re-enactments of performances from theses eras.  I felt it was necessary to see theater being performed in theses styles to truly understand it. My favorite clip is the Romeo and Juliet scene from Shakespeare in Love (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ii5PLxnNpk).  This is a great clip to show the Elizabethan costumes and language, authentic Shakespearian performances, the backstage areas of the Globe Theater, and realistic audience seating and reactions. The clip I have chosen is appropriate for children, but the entire movie is rated R.  As with any You-Tube viewing, it is necessary to carefully monitor students' exploration on  You-Tube after they have viewed the selected clips.

I chose the following websites because they were rich in vocabulary and technical terminology of the performance spaces and costumes of each period. 

The websites on designing puppet boxes are to serve as inspiration only.  Students may disregard these websites if they choose to work creatively on their own.

Inquiry Process

Immerse: There are several images given on the WebQuest to help build background knowledge and invite curiosity.  Step three contains several images and videos of performance spaces to help students visualize the performances they may read about in other sources.  Step five has very interesting images of masks and costumes throughout the ages that will peak students' interest and curiosity. 

Investigate: There are a variety of resources for students to explore as they investigate their time period.  Also, many of the text sources have links to other sources within the page if students would like to continue to investigate a particular topic.  The three downloadable worksheets are tools to help students with their investigation of sources.  The I-chart, performance space graphic organizer, and the collaborative listening-viewing guide encourage students to pull out the most important information in their investigation.

Coalesce: The collaborative listening-viewing guide allows for small group collaboration and synthesizing of information.  Also, when students begin constructing their puppet boxes and writing their presentations, they must collectively decide what features and characteristics of their era are the most important to demonstrate.  They then have to further synthesize that information by applying those features to the costumes and the creative performance of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Go Public: Students will demonstrate their knowledge as they teach the class about their historical era through their presentations and performances.  This will require written preparation, collaborative work, and public speaking for informational, persuasive, and entertainment purposes.

Conclusions Presented

Students will at minimum share their creative projects, presentations, and plays with their classmates. They can choose whether to give the informative pitch before the creative play, or vice versa.  You could also have every group perform their play first and then do all of the informative presentations, or vice versa.  It would be fun to invite parents to the classroom or show these projects at a special after school showcase.  It might also be meaningful for secondary students to take their performances to the elementary school and share with younger students.

Audience's Role

I would suggest that the audience focus on three questions throughout the other presentations.
1.) What have I leraned?
2.) What did the group do really well?
3.) What questions do I have about the presentation?

Students could write their responses on post-it notes and organize them on a white board or in a comments book for the group presenting.  Or teachers could print a three column response sheet (see resource #1 below) to give to the group.


This project is differentiated in many ways.  One way is in how you can group students.  You can form groups by interest (students can choose their historical era) or by ability.  The Renaissance and Greek periods of theater history have more visual and video resources than Kabuki theater, which may make the Kabuki theater harder to research.

This WebQuest is also differentiated in content.  There are several ways students can find information.  There are images, diagrams, timelines, informational videos, entertaining videos, slideshows, charts, and text-rich webpages. 

The final product offers many opportunities for differentiation.  Students may synthesize their knowledge by creatively designing or constructing the performance space, costumes, or masks.  They can show their knowledge by writing the informational presentation or the creative reader's theater script.  The extroverted students could share their knowledge through persuasive speaking in the presentation or entertaining acting in the play.  Students could add music to enhance their performance as well.  There are many ways for students to shine in the final product!


Formative: There are several checkpoints throughout the WebQuest process page.  Most of these involve turning in one of the downloaded worksheets or the costume book.  With these checkpoints, teachers can establish if the students are gathering enough information and highlighting the most important features of their time period.

Summative: The rubric on the evaluation page shows the criteria for the summative assessment.  Students will be graded on the authenticity and creativity of their puppet stage and costumes, the accuracy and quality of their presentation, and their efforts in the reader's theater play. 

Assessment of Benchmarks
Students learn about the interrelated qualities of  of scenery, properties, sound, costumes, and makeup in creating an appropriate environment as they watch videos of performances in action and read texts regarding these topics in the WebQuest.  They demonstrate their knowledge when they apply these same elements to their own puppet box performances during their final presentation.

Students compare and contrast the three different historical periods during STEP 1 when they fill out their i-chart with information about those eras.  In other steps,  they will identify the particular cultural influences of their specific time period.  During the presentation they will discuss the cultural distinctions of their era and show us these distinctions through the scripted play.
Students will demonstrate their knowledge of drama writing with their reader's theater script and play presentation.

METS 6-8 RI.1
Students use a variety of digital resources (webpages, images, you-tube videos) throughout the WebQuest. The teacher checkpoints throughout the process page can be used as formative assessments to see if students are effectively locating the appropriate information for their time period.


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    Description: Audience Response Form

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