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10 Minute Plays

How can performing arts be integrated with history?

Creating 10 Minute Plays to develop understanding and knowledge of the humanities.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

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September 2017
When the students demonstrated through their plays that they knew not only who the important characters of the American Revolution were, but also why the revolution is worth remembering today as the founding of our democracy, I was convinced the project had been a success.

About the innovation

What are 10 Minute Plays?

Knowledge of a country’s history contributes to understanding the country’s present. However, for some students it can be hard to connect to something that feels so far removed from their daily lives. Students may experience history education as merely the memorization of key dates and facts.

Learning history in this manner obscures the important elements of critical thinking, use of evidence and international comparison of various themes such as revolutions.

Two years ago, a Hawaii based teacher came up with 10 Minute Plays as a way to engage her students and make them really care about the characters of the past. When learning about the American revolution, she asked her students to collaborate to create short plays about key revolutionary figures.

The project starts with the students exploring examples of other students’ plays and considering what makes a quality performance. Following this, the students learn general information about the topic before selecting a historical character to write about. Focusing on one character in depth and viewing the other plays.

While 10 Minute Plays presents the research in an exciting format, the students still concentrate on key historical writing skills such as writing a research paper. Students research and write these papers independently before drafting their first scripts. They are then put into groups to read and combine their scripts by creating a considered context for their characters to interact.

Scripts are worked on and refined before rehearsals begin. The students were mentored by those studying advanced acting to bring their performances to life. The plays are finally performed to younger students who were learning about a similar period in history.

This provides the authentic audience that can make learning meaningful and engaging and also gave the students a real deadline to work towards. Additionally, watching the plays inspireand motivatethe younger students in their own history classes. They even had their own revolution when they decided that they didn’t want to be recess monitors anymore to ensure they had their own playtime too.

Performing their own plays and watching the other plays provided students with both an in-depth knowledge of certain characters and a broader knowledge of characters across the period. Student feedback about the project was positive and their work was of a higher quality because they were so invested in the project.

As well as developing historical understanding of the period, some students even researched how people spoke in the 1700s so their scripts sounded as authentic as possible.

While these plays were based on the American Revolution, it could easily be adapted to other time periods or even used in other subjects. For example, to explore the role and contributions of scientists.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


There is much more critical thinking involved when the students are creating their own plays rather than being given a scene to read. A lot more aspects are involved in the process, allowing students to own their work and allowing a wider scope of students to shine in the traditional humanities classroom.


The standard of the work produced is much higher because it is a part of a larger project with time for revisions and improvement to writing.


While the history curriculum may differ from country to country, the role of key figures can still be explored through the writing and performance of 10 Minute Plays.

Implementation steps

Check out examples
Explore examples of other students' work and start looking at the broader history topic.

How do you get students hooked and excited for your vision of the final product? Showing examples of other students' work builds the concept of what they're aiming for and sets a standard for quality. You couldstartby having students watch videos fromNational History Day Student Project Examplesand writing down what makes a quality performance.

Students can take notes on a PowerPoint presentation about their class topic.Doodle Revolutionis a really helpful tool for this, as itshows students about the power of doodling pictures onto theirnotes to retain information. At this point, the teacher could lecture and give a quiz to test how well the students areretaining the basic information. However,the Q and A section after the performances showsthe depth of their knowledge better than any test.

Select a topic and research, research, research
Students choose a historical character and start their research.

Make a list of all the key players in the historical time period you are studying,and let students choose whom they wantto research. This way it is possible toguarantee that they know one historical personality in great depth and get the broad knowledge of the other key personalities by watching each other's plays (over and over) during rehearsals.

Students needabout four days of research time in the library to compile three primary and four secondary sources. They can accounts to compile their sources in MLA format.

This research leads to writing the research paper. Although some students may finda two-page argumentative research paper boring, skipping this step would be a disservice to students who will need to writea lotof thesis statements in college.

Write the draft and combine the characters
Students write individual drafts before making groups and combining scripts.

Assign the students a ten-page draft of their plays. Encourage students to really throw themselves into the project; could they use language from the time period, or historically relevant props.

Once the individual drafts have been checked, it is time to put the students into groups so that they can combine their scripts into just ten pages (preferably a Google Doc. that they can all edit.) This process forces the students to read one another's original plays, further enhancing their knowledge and actively getting them to work towards an end product as a group. Groups should also use this time to aquire any props or costumes they might need for the performance.

Rehearsal and performance
As well as deepening their historical knowledge, learners develop their performance skills.

During rehersals, it would be great to get anadvanced acting class or teacher to come in, so that they can watch the student's performances and provide feedback. The students will gain a plethora of skills from this opportunity, such as basic acting techniques and stage presence.

Having the students perform to an authentic audience encourages them to memorize their lines. It would also be a great idea to get some of the students to create a program for the performances, and others to film.

Managing several plays can be a large time commitment for the teacher, and it may not be necessary to make it into a large performance for everyone to attend. Results will be just as good if the students perform to a younger year group.

Reflection is important for both learners and educators.

Here's an example of a reflection from a student:

Making our play couldn't have happened without conducting in-depth research on [the American] Revolution. I used primary and secondary sources to find great information about Paul Revere. During my research, I emailed a place called the Paul Revere House. They sent me a small package in the mail that had articles about Paul Revere's life and how he was so important to America. When first coming to America, not only was he the best blacksmith, he did many other things that people don't know about. He was also a great dentist that made fake teeth or dentures for people like George Washington. Doing this project taught me how to do effective research on something using different types of sources, then backing up what you are trying to say in a persuasive essay with your research.

Here's a reflection made by the teacher who coordinated the project:

Although meeting with the advanced acting class focused on engaging an audience, a stellar performance was not this project's objective. When the students demonstrated through their plays that they knew not only who the important characters of the American Revolution were, but also why the revolution is worth remembering today as the founding of our democracy, I was convinced the project had been a success.

Reflection can improve future projects for both the students and teacher.

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