Contributed by Marilyn Crooker and Maureen Johnson, Lake Ridge Academy, North Ridgeville, OH


This unit appeals to multiple intelligences, encourages interdisciplinary learning, reinforces self-confidence, and stimulates creativity, co-operation and critical thinking. Using songs with a strong narrative, students are asked to imagine scenes that might take place immediately before and after the events of the song. Students develop these ideas into a script and then rehearse and perform it. Throughout the process students work in groups and critique each other.


The student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an appreciation for and understanding of the music and values of the period
  2. Write a coherent script based on characterization, theme, conflict and emotional tone as found in the songs’ lyrics
  3. Develop an understanding of the enjoyment that comes through the discipline and hard work leading toward a polished performance


CDs, tapes, records of selected songs; lyrics to selected songs (students can also copy out lyrics); videos of example musicals; sheet music (if available); costume materials (as simple or elaborate as you wish).

Time Frame

8-12 class periods for high school; middle school students may require more time.


Suggested for middle or high school drama and/or music classes. Selection of songs may vary with level of students.


The ideal way to complete this project is through a collaboration of drama and music specialists. The unit can also be done as part of an English writing class using the “lip-synch” method for performing the music. Actual classroom procedures will vary from teacher to teacher.

Lesson 1: View examples of lead-in scenes and blocking from such musicals as “Fiddler on the Roof, “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Grease,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Bye Bye Birdie.” Students take notes and discuss elements to include in their scenes.

Lessons 2-4: Students listen to a variety of songs chosen by the teachers involved. Then they break into groups of 5 or 6 and choose a song. (It is helpful to meet with the music teacher in advance and create groups so that those with strong singing talents can be spread out among the groups.)

Lesson 5-6: Optional scene writing exercises. If students require playwriting experience, teacher can use lesson 5 and 6 to work on these skills, concentrating on dialogue, unity and characterization.

Lesson 7: Brainstorming. Groups compile list of ideas around which to write scenes. By the end of the class each group should have arrived at one unified idea and perhaps a rough draft of scene.

Lesson 8: Listening to songs and analyzing lyrics. Students take their chosen song and listen for clues regarding theme, major conflict, emotions and characterizations. They are encouraged to add their own ideas to the possible types of characters they want to play. At this point, the music specialist begins teaching the songs, rehearsing the blocking and polishing for final performance. If there is no music specialist, the drama or English specialist takes on this responsibility, possibly using lip-sync and tape recorders.

Lesson 9-12: Writing and rehearsing scenes and music.


At the end of the unit of study, the students will perform scenes and chosen songs. Teachers will evaluate both performance elements and the scripts, judging the writing on flow, coherence, etc.

Selected Recordings

Songs from other periods may be used equally successfully.

“Splish, Splash” by Bobby Darin (1958)
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Elvis Presley (1960)
“Mr. Sandman” by Chordettes (1954)
“Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las (1964)
“Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets (1955)
“Yakety Yak” by The Coasts (1958)
“Get a Job” by The Silhouettes (1958)
“Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys (1962)