Scriptwriting in Google Docs

 AIM: To write a collaborative play script using Google Docs

WHY: Writing using Google Docs should allow the teachers and children to work on the script in their own time without having to be together.

Using the Forms should allow all the children to contribute their ideas to the script.

The children should have a greater ownership of the script if they have contributed to it in a meaningful way.

 

Teaching the final year of primary / elementary school is a stressful job at the best of times.   There’s the pressure of SAT’s, the emotional strain of the children leaving and then there’s the dreaded ‘Leaver’s Production.’   As time has gone on in my own school this has become a grander and grander affair that consumes the final three weeks of the year.   The results on stage are always outstanding, however the toll on my body / sanity usually less favourable.   This year I decided that I would do something different and try to engage the children a little more in the whole writing aspect.   That’s where Google Docs came in.

The first thing that I decided to do was to get the children’s ideas together and distill the best elements into a script.   I did this by setting up a form that was sent out to all the children to fill in.   I asked them the types of songs they would like to sing, the teachers they would like to embarrass, the theme we should use etc.    

The principle of this was great, the ideas all flooded back into my spreadsheet .   Unfortunately the ideas themselves were to be frank pretty useless.   This, I hasten to add, was due to my own lack of discussion prior to sending the form and not due to the form itself.   In fact I think that this could be a great way of gathering ideas in the future as long as the children get the right input beforehand.   So I was forced to carry on with only my year group partner to help.

What has subsequently occured has been a bit of a revalation.   After our initial meeting to sort out the overall structure of the script we went our seperate ways and worked on individual aspects of the script.

This worked brilliantly, we were able to work on the script in our own time and see the changes that we had each produced.   As a result the script was written more quickly and efficiently than we could have imagined.  

It was extremely helpful to decide beforehand the areas that we would each work on.   This gave us a much clearer focus and stopped any unnecessary ‘creative differences’.   We also used the document as a shared ‘To Do’ list which helped us keep a track of where we were up to organising props etc.   The fact that we didn’t have to be in the same room at the same time was fantastic and made the whole writing of the script a lots less stressful.

One unexpected yet welcome development happened when we published the page to show the children where we were up to.   Once the children have the web address they read the script at home and we were daily inundated with e-mails suggesting plot changes, huge action set pieces etc.   The script became the talk of the playground and generated a huge amount of constructive conversation between the children.   It was with great regret that we had to sideline many of the larger more extravagant ideas, however in terms of the children’s contribution to the script and gaining ownership of the production, it was a fantastic to see. 

  From a starting position of no ideas the children now were debating the relative merits of different ideas.

Further advantages to using Google docs for this script were that the children didn’t all have to have a full copy of the script.   We were able to print them the relevant part, saving a great deal of money on photocopying for the school.   This doesen’t sound like a lot, but in my school every penny counts.  If children wanted to see the whole script they just went online.  Once more using Google Docs ment that if they lost their script they could simply go online and print it off.   No more hassling me a lunchtime for extra scripts!   This fact alone massively reduced my stress levels as the cry of ‘I’ve lost my script’ is one that every teacher dreads.

The curtain has yet to open on the production, but already expectations and excitement levels are high.   One thing is absolutely clear in my mind, allowing children to be part of the organic development of the script has already made it a far better prioduction than it would have been.   The ownership the children have over the script has brought us all closer together as a class.   Now they just have to remember their lines!

LESSONS LEARNT

  • Writing the script using Google Docs did make the whole task more managable.
  • The use of Forms to gather ideas would have been sucessful if I had put more time into explaining to the children exactly what I had wanted from them.
  • Publishing the document even in it’s initial stages allowed the children to watch the script develop and gave them the opportunity to suggest additional ideas. (I don’t think in this case giving editing rights to the children would have maintained the unified ‘feel’ of the script – I could be wrong though.)
  • Publishing also allowed the sharing of the script in a simple way that saved resources and money.

This is one that I’ll be doing again.

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