Students analyze two scenes from The Great Gilly Hopkins and write their own scripts based on a short scene from the novel.
- Length: 4 or more days
- Grades: 5-8
- Students analyze and discuss elements of drama and acting in scenes from The Great Gilly Hopkins.
- Students reflect on and discuss character in drama and the change in Gilly’s character in the video excerpt.
- Students create a dialogue script using an incident from the book The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.
The Great Gilly Hopkins
Found On: Performance Excerpts
Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts
character, costumes, lighting, literary elements, movement, performance elements, plot, props, scenery, technical elements, vocal expression
TV/VCR or DVD player, copies of Katherine Paterson’s novel The Great Gilly Hopkins
- Graphic Organizer
- Technical Elements Chart
Instructional Strategies and Activities
Day 1: View and discuss excerpt (60 minutes).
From the teachers guide to Stage Ones Wind in the Willows:
A script follows this format:
CHARACTER NAME: (Stage Direction) Line of Dialogue.
CHARACTER NAME is usually in bold or in full caps.
A STAGE DIRECTION is information for the director and actor. This information describes the actions for certain characters and/or their emotions while stating a line. Each stage direction should be a line of discovery that adds new information to the script.
A LINE OF DIALOGUE is what the character says.
Day 2: View excerpt for the second time, review previous days discussion, add any reflections students may now have, and complete Open Response Assessment (60 minutes).
Days 3-4 (or longer): Write a dialogue script using a passage from the book The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (60 minutes/session). The script may be used as a Writing Portfolio literary piece.
Days 1 and 2: View and Discuss
Ask students: Think of a time in your life when you really wanted to get something, to go somewhere, or to have something happen; imagined how happy you would be; but then were unhappy or disappointed when you got what you wanted. Why did you feel that way? Discuss in pairs the reasons it might have happened.
Katherine Paterson is probably best known for her Newberry Award-winning novel for young audiences, Bridge to Terabithia. Students who enjoy her work may want to visit the Katherine Paterson home page at www.terabithia.com. Several of her books have been dramatized. Check with a local theater company to find out whether they will be producing a play based on a Paterson novel.
Provide students with this background information on the excerpt they are about to watch:
In these two scenes from The Great Gilly Hopkins, we see a change in the character of Gilly, an 11-year-old girl who has lived in a series of foster homes. In the first scene, Gilly has arrived at the home of her new foster mother, Maime Trotter, and a younger foster child, William Ernest, who has learning difficulties. Their next-door neighbor, the blind Mr. Randolph, joins the family for dinner each night. Mr. Randolph is a very literate gentleman who frequently quotes poetry. Another character who is mentioned in this scene but is not on stage is Courtney, Gillys biological mother. Gilly believes that if she could only live with her mother, all would be well in her life.
In the second scene, her wish has come true, and Gilly realizes that her fantasy of the beautiful and perfect mother is only that. The flaws and faults of the aging Courtney become apparent, and Gilly wants to return to the familiar safety and comfort of home with Maime, W.E., and Mr. Randolph.
- In what ways have the playwright, director, and actors used the elements of drama to show change in character from one scene to another in this play?
- How do the elements of drama work together to create this character change in Gilly from the first scene to the second?
Have students use the graphic organizer handout to help them analyze the excerpt. Review elements of drama and vocabulary, if necessary.
View and Discuss
The video encompasses three segments: a brief introduction by J. Daniel Herring of Stage One, who discusses character; an early scene from the play The Great Gilly Hopkins (Scene 1); and a later scene from the play (Scene 2). View the introduction and Scene 1 and have students fill in the appropriate sections of the graphic organizer. Discuss the following questions:
- What is the setting (time and place) of this play?
- Summarize the plot from this short portion of the play.
- What happened in this scene? What clues from the technical and performance elements led you to this conclusion?
- Describe Maime Trotters character and personality, using evidence from the scene to support your description. (What does she say and do to lead you to this conclusion?)
- Describe Gillys character and personality, supporting your description with evidence from the scene.
- How would you describe the relationship between Maime and Gilly?
- Refer to your graphic organizer. How do the technical elements contribute to your (the audiences) understanding of the character of Maime Trotter? of Gilly?
- Refer to your graphic organizer. How do the performance elements contribute to your (the audiences) understanding of the character of Maime Trotter? of Gilly?
View Scene 2 and have students complete the graphic organizer. If there are no differences between the first and the second scene in a certain element of drama, tell students to place a dash or an NC (no change) in the Scene 2 area. Discuss the following questions:
- Summarize the plot from this excerpt.
- Identify changes in the character of Maime Trotter from Scene 1 to Scene 2.
- Identify changes in the character of Gilly from Scene 1 to Scene 2.
- Refer to your graphic organizer. How do the technical elements contribute to this change?
- How do the performance elements contribute to this change?
- Does the mood change from Scene 1 to Scene 2? How do the elements of drama support this change?
- How would you describe the relationship between Maime and Gilly in this excerpt? Compare this relationship to that in Scene 1.
- How would you describe Gillys emotions in Scene 1? in Scene 2? How do voice quality, expression, and tone contribute to how the actress conveys Gillys emotions in the scenes?
- How do movement and the energy of movement of the actresses contribute to this understanding?
Complete the Open Response Assessment.
Days 3 and Following: Create Your Own Script
Introduce the Lesson
Explain to students that they will use what theyve learned about literary, technical, and performance elements of drama to create a simple script of their own, using a one- or two-page passage from the novel The Great Gilly Hopkins. See the Performance Assessment for instructions.
If you coordinate this lesson with the reading of the novel The Great Gilly Hopkins, you can suggest to students at the outset that they look for scenes they might like to dramatize. Otherwise, use these suggestions as possible scenes to dramatize:
- Chapter 2: Gilly meets Mr. Randolph.
- Chapter 3: Gilly enrolls in school and meets her teacher, Miss Harris.
- Chapter 3: the baseball fight and Mr. Evans
- Chapter 4: Agnes Stokes and Gilly
- Chapter 4: Mr. Randolph introduces Gilly to poetry.
- Chapter 5: Gilly teaches W.E. to make and fly paper airplanes.
- Chapter 6: Miss Harris confronts Gilly about a note.
- Chapter 7: Gilly and W.E. dust Mr. Randolphs bookshelves and discover money.
- Chapter 8: Gilly buys a ticket to California.
- Chapter 9: Gilly teaches W.E. to fight.
- Chapter 10: Gilly cares for the sick.
- Chapter 11: Gilly prepares and serves dinner.
- Chapter 12: Mr. Randolph gives Gilly a book of poetry.
- Chapter 13: Mrs. Hopkins and the ride to Virginia
- Chapter 14: Nonnie and Gilly
Review script format with students before they begin.
Technical Elements Chart
Have students complete the Technical Elements Chart handout.
Extensions for Diverse Learners
- Assure students that their responses on the graphic organizer need not be in complete sentences. The organizer is intended to help them analyze and remember what they saw in the excerpts. Circulate through the room to help students who may have difficulty in writing or completing the organizer.
- As an alternative, students could discuss and complete the graphic organizer in small groups.
Writing To Communicate
- The script may be used as a literary piece.
Applications Across the Curriculum
- Have students read their scripts in small groups and accept suggestions from their peers. Then have them revise their scripts.
- The Great Gilly Hopkins is an example of the dramatization of a work of literature. The Drama Toolkit contains other examples, notably scenes from plays based on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Assign readings from these works and ask students to compare them to the dramatized versions. Discuss how successful the playwright was in transforming a work of literature into a play. Or use these scenes as writing models and have students create short scripts based on scenes from other literary works they will read during the school year. This is an excellent way to assess their understanding of the reading assignment.
- Invite a playwright to come to your class and answer students’ questions. Have students brainstorm a list of good questions in advance to ensure they’re prepared to find out such things as where playwrights get their ideas, how they create characters and dialogue, how they select/indicate the technical elements for their scripts, and how they feel when they see their plays produced.
- Drama is a cross-disciplinary art form, requiring a wide variety of people with a wide variety of skills to make a dramatic production successful. The artistic staff will include visual artists (for set and costume design and construction), composers and musicians, playwrights, actors, directors, and other theater professionals. Lighting and sound designers must have a good understanding of the science behind their art form. A theater company also requires people with marketing, mathematical, writing, and people skills if it’s going to survive. The production of a play for the school or for parents can be organized to demonstrate the cross-disciplinary nature of the art form, with students assigned such tasks as marketing the production and determining a budget with projected expenses and income from tickets or grants, as well as producing, directing, and/or acting in the play.
Open Response Assessment
In dramatic presentations, characters are created through the interaction of the playwright, director, and actors as they work with the elements of production and performance.
After viewing excerpts from The Great Gilly Hopkins, use appropriate drama vocabulary and an understanding of the technical and performance elements to describe how the character of Gilly changes from Scene 1 to Scene 2. Use examples and details to support your answer.
Open Response Scoring Guide
|The response is complete and demonstrates an extensive knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary of the technical and performance elements in drama. The response demonstrates consistent, effective application of the elements of drama in contrasting these elements and in analyzing character changes in Scenes 1 and 2 of The Great Gilly Hopkins. The response demonstrates effective communication skills, with insightful use of supporting examples and relevant details from the drama excerpts.||The response demonstrates a broad knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary of the technical and performance elements in drama. The response demonstrates effective application of some of the elements of drama in contrasting these elements and in analyzing character changes in Scenes 1 and 2 of The Great Gilly Hopkins. The response demonstrates effective communication skills, with use of supporting examples and relevant details from the drama excerpts.||The response demonstrates a basic knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary of the technical and performance elements in drama. The response demonstrates some correct application of at least three of the elements of drama in contrasting these elements and in analyzing character changes in Scenes 1 and 2 of The Great Gilly Hopkins. The response may include errors or misconceptions. The response communicates on a basic level, with limited use of supporting examples and relevant details from the drama excerpts.||The response demonstrates minimal or incorrect knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary of the technical and performance elements in drama. The response demonstrates inappropriate or no application of the elements of drama in contrasting these elements and in analyzing character changes in Scenes 1 and 2 of The Great Gilly Hopkins. The response includes errors or misconceptions. The response demonstrates ineffective communication skills, with little or no use of supporting examples and relevant details from the drama excerpts.||Student offers blank or irrelevant response.|
We have viewed scenes from a play based on The Great Gilly Hopkins, a novel written by Katherine Paterson. We have discussed ways in which characters may change during the course of a play and how the elements of drama contribute to our understanding of change. We have also analyzed and written about changes in the character of Gilly in the two scenes we viewed from the play.
- Create a simple script for a short scene using a one- or two-page passage from the novel The Great Gilly Hopkins. The passage should include an interaction between two or more characters. As the playwright, you will write dialogue for the script. Use correct script format.
- Complete the Technical Elements Chart handout to explain what you have in mind for the elements of production.
Performance Scoring Guide
|The students drama script and Technical Elements Chart demonstrate extensive understanding and application of the concepts and elements of drama. The script demonstrates effective communication skills and correct use of the script form. The meaning of the passage in literature is insightfully communicated through the scripts dialogue and production elements.||The students drama script and Technical Elements Chart demonstrate understanding and application of the concepts and elements of drama. The script demonstrates effective communication skills and correct use of the script form. The meaning of the passage in literature is communicated through the scripts dialogue and production elements.||The students drama script and Technical Elements Chart demonstrate partial understanding and application of the concepts and elements of drama. The script demonstrates basic communication skills and possibly incorrect use of the script form. The meaning of the passage in literature is partially communicated through the scripts dialogue and production elements.||The students drama script and Technical Elements Chart demonstrate underdeveloped understanding and little application of the concepts and elements of drama. The script demonstrates ineffective communication skills and incorrect use of the script form. The meaning of the passage in literature is not communicated through the scripts dialogue and production elements.||The student does not attempt to write a script or complete the Technical Elements Chart.|
Support - Connections - Resources - Author
- Evans, Cheryl and Lucy Smith. Acting and Theatre. London: Usborne Publishing, 1992.
- Lee, Robert. Everything About Theatre: The Guidebook of Theatre Fundamentals. Colorado Springs: Meriwether Publishing, 1996.
- Paterson, Katherine. The Great Gilly Hopkins. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.
- Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2000.
- The World of Theater: The History of Actors, Singers, Costumes, Audiences, and Scenery. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1995.
Mary Ann Chamberlain, Ph.D.