Weekly Assignments in Theatre and Drama and History of Science

Karen Ryker, Michael Shank
Professor Karen Ryker and Professor Michael Shank use weekly writing assignments to encourage student engagement and to stimulate class discussions. "The Journal" and "The Weekly One Pager" are two examples of these types of assignments.     

The Journal  

Professor Karen Ryker, Theatre and Drama 541         

In your journal, you can set down your daily response to the textbook, to exercises and classwork, and to your rehearsals. It should record specific, thoughtful analysis of information and methods and how they improve your technique. Entries can be in the form of a (well-) written conversation between you and me: it should be a forum for your ideas about performing and a vehicle for my response to your thoughts and questions about performing Shakespeare. It can provide you with a means to assimilate the material and to work up a personal process for acting Shakespeare. (The journal could easily be the groundwork for your final paper.) Number of entries: at least 3 brief entries per week.

For responses to both READING ASSIGNMENTS and LAB WORK, it will be useful to note:

  • What “sparks” you, what stimulates you to connect with the words
  • What exercises/ideas feed you as a performer (register your responses)
  • What works on the page but not when you attempt to perform it (and vice versa)
  • Where something requires further explanation
  • Did anything unexpected come up? Useful? Not useful?

Additionally, your journal should include responses to at least two readings of authors other than Berry, Linklater, or Shakespeare himself. When referring to a text, please cite specific page numbers. I will collect and respond to the journals three times during the semester (dates listed on syllabus).

Considerations in evaluating journals:

  • Individual thoughtful responses to the work, or to the textbook, or to the language of your character/scene, or to class exercises, or to rehearsals, or to outside readings, or to First Text considerations
  • Clarity of thought, recognition of application to your own acting process
  • Does it generate ideas, insights or applications significant enough to elicit a response from others?
  • Clarity in writing style


The Weekly One-Pager    

Professor Michael Shank, History of Science 180                                             

The purposes of this assignment are several:

  • to make writing a more “natural” routine;
  • to help you identify important themes and problems in the readings for that week.

Try to find in the primary source (and also the secondary material) of the day:

  1. at least one major theme of the utopia that relates to the theme of the seminar and deserves discussion;
  2. at least one significant issue that you find problematic in some fashion or other (troubling, puzzling, etc.)—the kind of issue with which the seminar group might help you grapple.

Note that (a) and (b) occasionally may be the same issue(s), or different facets thereof; usually they should not be, as there will be many themes from which to choose. Your forethought on these issues will stimulate our discussions when you bring your issues to the group.

Approximately half the page should be in expository prose (good sentences; some thematic development). The remainder may be in outline form (if you have a lot of insight in any particular week), but it must be sufficiently clear to communicate to another mind (namely mine).

This assignment presupposes that you will be taking notes on your readings, and that you will select from your jottings the most interesting issues. Your task is, therefore, in part an editorial one: to choose a few among many issues that, in your view, warrant attention.

I insist on the written presentation of these thoughts because the act of writing forces us both to clarify them and to organize them. As an extra bonus, new relationships between ideas frequently emerge from the process. I will collect these one-pagers in class, sometimes commenting on them, sometimes not. Good faith participation in the assignment will earn full credit.