Introducing Criticism and Critique in Drama

Criticism is a process for gathering information to analyze, classify, interpret, evaluate or judge a work of art to better understand or improve it.  Skills involved with critique (analysis, interpretation, evaluation) rank high on Bloom’s taxonomy.  As such, developing these skills can deepen students’ thinking about works and topics across the curriculum.

It is essential that criticism be constructive and not personal or highly negative.  The Debrief and Learn reflections (included in every lesson downloaded) in our Introductory Lessons for getting started with drama or our Kindergarten to 3rd Curriculum Guides lay the foundation for critique by teaching students to observe and praise each other’s work with specificity and detail.  By the 4th grade, students explore three essential skills of criticism – observation, analysis, and interpretation. These skills are first applied to their own work for the purpose of improving it (see Lessons #1-3 in the 4th grade curriculum).  Later, students critique outside works of art and build a drama from the information generated (see Lesson #20 Piasa Bird Lesson).

In our 4th grade curriculum, students continue to comment on the strengths of their peers’ work.  Through the Debrief and Learn reflections, it is important that students continue to praise each other’s work supported by specific reasons.  Setting protocols and practicing positive feedback are essential to constructively criticizing each other’s work in the future.  It is also important for receiving compliments and suggestions for improvement as the years progress.

Below is a brief step-by-step process illustrating the way in which criticism and critique in drama is introduced in our 4th grade lessons:

  1. Observation:  this stage requires objective data collection. Students examine a work based on its elements.  Students consider the following:
    • - What do they see (or hear)?
    • - What happened in the drama – what were the actions or events?

  2. Analysis:  in this stage, students make inferences and draw conclusions from their observations. They consider the following:
    • - How are the elements combined or how were they used?
    • - What feelings or moods were created and how were they created?
    • - What ideas are found in the work and how are they communicated?

  3. Interpretation:  next, students consider historical or contextual elements that would add to their thinking. For example, they consider the artist’s life or intent, the social context, or historical information. Then students answer the following:
    • - What role does this story/drama play in history? In the society in which it was created?
    • - What message or themes were being communicated? How do you know? What clues are evident?
    • - Based on what we know from stages 1 and 2, how is the background of the author, the message, or the historical context communicated?

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