Writing Assignments for Non-Majors in a Communication-B Course

Shannon Skelton
The following assignments engage students in course content in creative ways that play to students’ interests and strengths.

I am under no illusions about why students enroll in my Comm-B section of Introduction to Theatre and Dramatic Literature. Although they may have an interest in the subject, students’ primary motivation is securing that elusive Comm-B credit. As a result, most of my students are not majoring in theatre and drama, or even in literature or the arts.

Acknowledging that my role as an instructor has nothing to do with converting students to theatre majors, I celebrate students’ varied backgrounds through assignments that play to students’ strengths and interests. The following assignment is based on the play The Faculty Room. To prepare the assignment, I had students tell me about their interests in music, reading material, films, major, etc. This information allowed me to craft the options for the assignment designed to interest the widest range of students. Students found a number of creative and successful ways to respond. For example, a curriculum-and-instruction major created a lesson plan that she then used to teach the play to our class. And a business student put together an advertising plan for the show that helped him ask critical questions about the “selling” of artistic “products” for public consumption.

To gauge my students’ learning with these varied projects, I always require a written narrative. Let’s say, for example, a student puts together a collection of music for a soundtrack reflecting the play. Without a detailed explanation, I simply have a CD with random musical selections. But, if the student justifies and explains the selections, I know how deeply the student has understood the course material. This approach to assessment allows for self-reflection, while also requiring students to articulate what they learned.

I conclude the project with an oral presentation activity that I call a “conversation.” I divide the class into groups of four to five, instructing students within these groups to explain their projects to each other. After 15 minutes, we return to the larger group format, and I call on students to explain other students’ work. This approach thus stresses reception, analysis, and public speaking. Plus, it’s safer small-group format almost always eliminates the anxiety that consumes students when they must explain a project to a crowded class. Finally, it allows students to celebrate their own and their classmates’ creativity.


“Faculty Room” Assignment Options:

For this assignment, you are to creatively respond/react to The Faculty Room. Please select one of the following. If you are interested in proposing another option, please contact me. In writing explanations, I am looking for a basic response to the process and justifications for your selections.

  • Visual Collage: Create a visual collage reflecting The Faculty Room, accompanied by an explanation of the collage.
  • Playwriting: Write an unseen scene from The Faculty Room. This should be 2-3 pages in script format.
  • Game: Create a game (board, card, video, etc.) that is based on the play and its situations. This should be accompanied by a one-page typed, double-spaced explanation of the game. The game could be complex or very basic.
  • Teaching The Faculty Room: Create a basic lesson plan of how you would teach this play to college students. This should be accompanied by proposals for assessments, projects, discussion topics, etc.
  • Philosophy/Socratic Seminar: Develop a Socratic Seminar that explores the issues and content of the play. This would involve developing Socratic questions related to the production, while also building upon how this play could be related to others in the course. This should be 1-2 pages typed and double-spaced.
  • Publicity: Develop a publicity strategy for The Faculty Room with a publicity poster with a 1-page explanation.
  • The Faculty Room Sequel: Create 3-5 pages in script format continuing the events depicted in The Faculty Room.
  • Audio Collage: Burn a minimum of seven (7) audio selections to a CD with a paragraph each justifying your choices. The CD can contain music that can reflect the play, or could possibly even be utilized in a future production.
  • Cinematic Collage: Piece together images/scenes from films to create a moving collage. You should use clips from a minimum of four films. You should also include a one page, typed, double-spaced explanation of your choices.
  • Art Catalogue: Collect a minimum of six images of painting/sculpture/etc. that reflect The Faculty Room.
  • Monologue: Create a monologue for one of the characters. This should be one page (single spaced) in script format.
  • The Faculty Room: The Screenplay: Rewrite a scene from the play as a portion of a screenplay. Please research screenplay format before attempting this project. Dialogue can be altered. It should be 3-5 pages in screenplay format.
  • Graphic Storytelling: Create 2-3 pages of graphic (comic) storytelling that reflects a scene from the play.
  • Website: Develop a website that would be useful for students researching The Faculty Room. It should explain the play, feature general images, contain a bio of the playwright, and include pertinent links to reviews and other productions.