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Click to Teach/Click to Learn: Become a Theatre Advocate

For this unit of instruction, students will have the opportunity to create and record their own persuasive argument for theatre education.  Borrowing from skills of a theatre journalist, they will explore advocacy, write a speech and deliver it to their classmates.   This unit of instruction is inspired by "What is Advocacy" at learningtogive.org.  View the Learning to Give lesson plan here.   This unit may be accomplished in  3-5 class periods.

Learning Goals:

- the student will learn basic advocacy skills
- the student will create and deliver an advocacy speech

Step 1: Get Inspired.

Greta Thunberg advocates for the environment in this speech to the United Nations.  An inspirational example of sharing your perspective on an issue of importance to you.  As you watch Greta, think about how she uses her voice, body and the power of her words to communicate her story and message.  

Step 2. Learn About Advocacy

What is Advocacy?  The website "Learning to Give" offers this definition:

Advocacy(n) the act or process of writing or speaking in favor of, or supporting, a cause

FOR CLASS DISCUSSION: 

What is the role of advocacy in a community or society?   
How does advocacy effect change?
How does advocacy raise awareness?

Step 3: Advocacy Role Play

"Learning about issues and using our voice is a right and a civic responsibility and vital to a healthy democracy."
- Using Advocacy for Change 
- Learningtogive.org 

Advocacy is an important part of a democratic society.  Advocates are passionate about their beliefs and willing to speak about them in order to create change.  You may decide to advocate because you seek a change, or you want to respond to an injustice, or to raise awareness for an important cause. 

Try your hand at being an advocate using this scenario inspired by The Advocacy Game created by Jim Palmarini.  You will need to download the game or  have it open in another browser window to play. 

How to Play

Find a learning buddy and create an improvised scene as follows:  

Scenario: You are a junior in high school and you've just learned from your Theatre teacher that the spring musical will be cancelled due to budget cuts. You have requested a chance to meet with your principal to try to convince them not to cut the musical.  One of you plays the principal, while the other plays the student advocate.  The principal is known for making decisions based on facts and research, so if the advocate is well prepared, they may be able to change the decision.  

Student advocate:  Use the facts and research from "The Advocacy Game" to make your case.  Be sure to follow the "Do's and Don'ts" of advocacy.

Principal:  Be honest about changing your mind if the student convinces you.  Keep an eye out for any "Don'ts" committed by the student advocate which may make you end the interview. 

Step 4: Identify the Characteristics of an Advocate

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On the Learning to Give website, we learn more about the qualities of a good advocate.  Learning to Give tells us that advocates are good listeners passionate about a cause.  Click on the image above or follow this link to the Learning to Give resources to download or view the "Characteristics of Advocates".   

DISCUSSION:  Find a learning buddy or elbow partner and discuss the sheet together.  Which of the characteristics did each of you feel was the most important to become a successful advocate? 

Step 5: Watch and Learn

Each year, the Educational Theatre Association helps train theatre advocates with an essay contest entitled Democracyworks. Students are challenged to defend the importance of theatre education by responding to a specific prompt and writing a persuasive speech.  The winner of the contest receives a cash prize, additional training in advocacy and has their essay published on Dramatics.org.   

In this video, the 2019 winner of Democracyworks, Brannon Evans, speaks at the National Arts Action Summit in Washington, DC on March 3, 2019 as an advocate for theatre education. 

Reflect on the ways in which Brannon used persuasive essay techniques to advocate:
1.  How did Brannon capture the audience's interest?  Why was this so effective?
2.  What was Brannon's goal in writing this speech? What did she hope the audience would do?
3.  How did she build her argument or make her case?

Step 6: Find Focus and Prepare to Share

Why is theatre education important to you?    Asking yourself this question will help you focus in on the topic.  Your goal may be to convince the audience to invest in theatre education, to save a program that has been threatened to be cut, or to convince others to sign up for theatre classes.  

Next you will need to choose a specific angle for your speech.  EdTA's Democracyworks helps students learn to advocate for theatre education.  Follow the steps below to choose your theatre education advocacy topic and focus.

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1. Read the "Share Your Story" by Leah Ball on Dramatics.org to learn how students have made a difference by participating in Democracyworks.  Each year Democracyworks suggests an angle by offering a prompt which can be used to create a persuasive essay  advocating for theatre education. 

2. You will need to create a 500-700 word essay.  Choose one of the following prompts for your angle:

"How does theatre support your social and emotional well-being and foster a welcoming school environment?"
"How does theatre help bring diverse communities together?"
"How has theatre given you more confidence and skills?"
"Why should school districts support and fund theatre classes and/or theatre productions?"

3. Or you may wish to advocate for more access for all, with the following prompt:  
"Why should theatre arts be available to all students in all schools?"
(TIP:  Check out the Arts Education Data Toolkit site for statistics, especially the "Sample Message Map"for some key persuasive points.) 

 Interested Thespians working on this unit in beginning of the year may participate in the Democracyworks essay contest to be eligible for cash prizes and more.  Go to the Democracyworks page on the EdTA website and learn more about the guidelines for writing and applying.   If submitting to the contest, you will need to use the current prompt on the site. 

Step 7: Write Your First Draft

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Speaking out for a cause requires the ability to build a persuasive speech.  This can be broken down into some simple steps:

1- Select a topic and choose a specific angle to speak about.
2- Decide on a goal for your speech- do you want your audience to change their opinion?  take action?  
3- Build an argument. (here is where you need to have your facts in order)
4- Make it passionate. Believe in what you are advocating for and share a personal story that connects you to your cause. 

Learn more about writing to persuade here: "6 Steps for Writing a Persuasive Speech".  This will help you shape your essay.

Step 8: Refine and Build Your Argument

A big part of creating a persuasive speech is building an argument to convince your listeners of the validity of your opinion.  Read "10 Skills Every Theatre Student Learns" from the Educational Theatre Association's Advocacy Toolkbox to find inspiration to help you make your case. 
Which of these skills have you learned?  What would you add to the list?  These are great convincing points to add to your speech.   Remember to write your speech as a persuasive essay of between 500 and 700 words..

Interested Thespians working on this unit in beginning of the year may participate in the Democracyworks essay contest to be eligible for cash prizes and more.

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Homework:  Explore the Advocacy Toolbox and choose one other resource which will help you make your speech.  

Step 9: Finish and Record

In this last step, you will finish your essay, then record yourself giving your speech.  Be sure your essay is between 500-700 words long, and that it follows the 6 steps of persuasive speeches. You may want to share it with a learning buddy for feedback before you record.  Once you have polished your speech, practice it several times in the mirror, then record yourself giving the speech either using a cell phone camera or recording your speech in a Zoom room or other video conferencing software.  


Need some tips for recording?  Read "Mastering Digital Auditions" on Dramatics.org

Diving Deeper

Want to do more?  With the help of a video app or other media creation tool, create a short video commercial advocating for theatre education.  Ask your teacher to host it on your drama club or troupe social media channels to coincide with any state or local arts advocacy events in your area.  If you would like to be even more elaborate, you might want to create a short documentary. 

Measuring Learning

Democracyworks Essay Contest Rubric

VIEW or DOWNLOAD

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Classroom Connections

High School Standards

TH: Re9.1.I.c. Formulate a deeper understanding and appreciation of drama/theatre work by considering it's specific purpose or audience.
TH:Re8.1.II.b.  Apply concepts from drama/theatre work for personal realization about cultural perspectives and understanding.
TH:Re9.1.III.c Compare and debate the connection between a drama/theatre work and contemporary issues that may impact audiences. 

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