What is devising? It’s a process of playwriting as a group. Plays are created through improvisation, process dramas, and a lot of teamwork. The Devising Unit includes an overview to get you started, and 12 lessons jam-packed with activities.

This unit includes doing some basic Forum Theatre, which is a technique coined by Augusto Boal. It covers Process Drama in a variety of ways such as Hot Seating, Role on the Wall, and a fun exercise called “Character Bag”. There are also some great bonding games for your students to enjoy.

This unit is designed to show students (and teachers) that playwriting doesn’t have to be a solitary, lonely exercise. It can be a fun, sometimes chaotic, and very energetic experience.

Unit Overview

The overview includes information on the unit, a list of the 12 lesson plans, materials needed, and unit goals, objectives, and assessment tools.

1: Characterization

Students explore what makes a character interesting through the examination of physical objects. What do objects say about us? What can you infer about a person by the objects they carry with them? Students will role-play in process drama activities to explore characters and to create their own.

2: Physicalization / Stage Movement

Students explore how body language can show a story (i.e. how someone is feeling, character traits, relationships between characters, etc.). The lesson culminates in students using a physical elliptical scene (a scene with just stage directions) and adding movements, gestures, and body language.

3: Contentless Scenes / Building Scenes

In this lesson, students will start their scene work first with a contentless scene, a one-minute scene, and then (for homework) write a one-page scene based on a real life experience.

4: Choosing a Topic

In this lesson, students discuss and choose a topic for their devised piece.

5: Beginning to Write

In this lesson, students begin putting the pieces together for their devised work. Students brainstorm on their topic, then participate in a movement piece and a forum theatre activity to explore their topic.

6: Building the Play

In this lesson, students continue to build the play by writing and revising scenes, reading each other’s work, and providing feedback.

7: The Ren Run

In this lesson, students will work in groups to create transitions in improvised tableaux and movement pieces. They will also participate in a “ren run” to practice improv blocking.

8: Revision

In this lesson students watch the Ren Run then discuss the topic of revision. What is the message of the play? How do the scenes communicate the message? Note: Depending on the amount of revisions your students feel the play needs, revising might take longer than one lesson. Feel free to add time, if need be.

9: Rehearsal

In this lesson, students finalize casting, then start rehearsing. Focus the rehearsals on blocking. What is the necessary movement to communicate the content of the scene?

10: Rehearsal / Character Development

Students continue to rehearse. In this lesson, character development exercises deepen the students’ experiences and final products.

11: Rehearsal / Designing the play

Students continue to rehearse. They also move on to the design phase of the project. The group will decide upon costuming and props for the performance. NOTE: Keep costumes and props simple. Black works well for costumes with colourful accents.

12: Final Rehearsal & Post Show Discussion

Students run the show before their performance. Pre- and post-show discussion questions are included as well as a post show reflection.

Standards Addressed

National Core Arts Standards


Organize and develop artistic ideas and work - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Cr2.1.HSII.b - Cooperate as a creative team to make interpretive choices for a drama/theatre work.

Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Pr5.1.HSII.a - Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance.

Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding - Grade HS Proficient

TH:Cn11.2.HSI.a - Research how other theatre artists apply creative processes to tell stories in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work, using theatre research methods.

Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Pr6.1.HSII.a - Present a drama/theatre work using creative processes that shape the production for a specific audience.

Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding - Grade HS Accomplished

TH:Cn11.2.HSII.a - Formulate creative choices for a devised or scripted drama/theatre work based on theatre research about the selected topic.

California VAPA Standards (2019)


Acc.TH:Pr5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

Acc.TH:Pr5.a - Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance.

Prof.TH:Cn11.2 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Prof.TH:Cn11.2.a - Research how other theatre artists apply creative processes to tell stories in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work, using research methods.

Acc.TH:Cn11.2 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Acc.TH:Cn11.2.a - Formulate creative choices for a devised or scripted drama/theatre work based on research about the selected topic.

Florida Sunshine State Standards


Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Theatre Arts


MS 117.212 LII - Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

B.1.E - demonstrate knowledge of theatrical vocabulary and terminology.

MS 117.213 LIII - Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

B.1.E - apply knowledge of theatrical vocabulary and terminology.

HS 117.318 LIV - Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

C.1.B - devise and model stage movement.

Alberta, Canada


Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Costume

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of costume

Technical Theatre/Design 10-20-30 - Management - Properties

1 - demonstrate understanding of the purpose of stage properties

Technical Theatre - Levels I, II, III - Readiness

6 - demonstrate understanding of the importance of planning and organization

British Columbia (2018)


GRADE 11 - DRAMA - Connect and expand

Demonstrate awareness of self, others, and audience

GRADE 12 - DRAMA - Communicate and document

Experience and express emotions through dramatic conventions

GRADE 12 - DRAMA - Connect and expand

Demonstrate respect for self, others, and audience

Ontario, Canada


Grade 11 - Creating and Presenting - Presentation Techniques & Technologies

A.3.2 - use a range of techniques and acting approaches to refine performance during rehearsal

Grade 11 - Creating and Presenting - The Creative Process

A.1.3 - create and interpret a range of characters using a variety of acting approaches

Grade 12 - Reflecting, Responding and Analyzing - The Critical Analysis Process

B.1.1 - use the critical analysis process to reflect on and justify or revise decisions in creating drama works