Lesson Plan

Learning about our the actor’s craft

Students will use TedEd, New York Times- Anatomy of a Scene, and Google Classroom to learn about how actors "get in character" for roles
Mallory M.
Classroom teacher
Cobble Hill School of American Studies
Brooklyn, United States
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts, Arts
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • Watch a film clip on TedEd and answer questions about the clip when prompted
  • Complete some quick research about a chosen actor/actress 
  • Respond to questions based on the research about the chosen actor/actress
  • Generate questions to ask the chosen actor/actress
English Language Arts
Grades 7 – 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook - watch a clip from New York Times "Anatomy of a Scene" and answer questions as you watch

New York Times App
Free, Free to Try, Paid

Since this lesson focuses on aspects of performance (acting), let’s begin with a quick warm-up activity to learn a bit more about how directors work with actors on the set of a film:

  • Tell students they will watch a short clip from the movie Out of the Furnace and answer some questions when prompted (on TedEd)
  • Students should have individual computers or laptops to watch the following clip and answer questions when prompted
  • Link is here: https://ed.ted.com/on/cdoWrJea

(Here are the questions students will be prompted to answer on TedEd after watching the video clip uploaded from New York Times, Anatomy of a Scene: 

1) Open-ended question -

FIRST, Explain why the director doesn't like to “over rehearse” actors. 

NEXT, tell me why some other directors might have the OPPOSITE belief  from this director about "over rehearsing". List some of the possible benefits to rehearsing scenes multiple times.

2)  Multiple choice question - 

Which of the following techniques does this director use with Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck to create tension in the scene?

A) Rehearsing multiple times, without letting them improvise

B) Whispering direction into both of the actor's ears

C) Including all of the crew on set while the scene is filmed

D) Using creepy music

3) Discuss - 

Pretend you are the director of a film....What are some of the challenges you might encounter when working with your actors? Additionally, what are some of the challenges the actors face when working with you (the director) and the other actor(s) in the scene?

2 Learning about how our favorite actors or actresses "got into character" for a particular role

Tell students they will now have about 20 minutes to complete some independent research about an actor of their choice. 

Create a Google Doc to share with students as an assignment on Google Classroom with the following directions and prompts for them to respond to while they research:

  • Directions: Once you locate the information you need for the actor/actress, respond to each question below in the box. **Be sure to include the links to the source(s) you used and put parts taken directly from a site in quotation marks.**


  • Question 1: What did you learn about how the actor played this character and the choices s/he made? what surprised you?

  • Question 2: What kinds of questions and follow-up questions did the interviewer ask?

  • Question 3: Create three questions you would like to ask this actor/actress about the role s/he played?

    Be prepared to present and share your findings by the end of class!

If students want some suggestions for actors/actresses to research, here are a few possible suggestions (famous actors and actors who did a lot to prepare for their roles):

Meryl Streep - The Deer Hunter

Christian Bale - The Machinist

Brie Larson - Room

Charlize Theron - Mad Max

Ryan Gossling- Place Beyond the Pines

Creed - Michael B. Jordan 

Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant (see this clip explaining some of what Leonardo DiCaprio did to prepare for The Revenant: http://www.nytimes.com/video/movies/100000004142315/anatomy-of-a-scene-the-revenant.html)

You might also check out IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/) to search for actors and all the movies they’ve starred in

3 Sharing our findings!

Activity: Conversing

Have students share their findings/ responses with a partner before conducting a whole-class share-out. 

Additionally, the teacher might have students complete a quick exit slip via the Google Classroom "Question" feature.