Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Stick to the Script!

Screenwriting and other careers in the film industry

James Doyle, Margaret Salesky, Lindsey Link, Sherry Franklin | Published: January 18th, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Performing Arts
  • Course Course American Literature, Drama


In this lesson, students will learn the basic formatting guidelines needed to follow for writing a script. They will also listen to a film professor talk about careers in television and movies. This is also adaptable for ELA using books that are commonly assigned.

Essential Question(s)

How can a screenwriter correctly write a screenplay that can be read by actors, directors, and producers? Why is it important to align your screenplay to the elements of story structure?



Student will compare and contrast a movie scene with the script and discuss with peers.


Students will explore the guidelines for writing a script and take turns performing and observing a script reading.


Students will watch an ICAP video from a film professor about careers in the film industry.


Students will work in groups to write a script and receive feedback.


Students will adjust their script based off feedback, perform the final product, and share what they have learned about the script writing process.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Script Versus Scene Venn Diagram (attached; one per student)

  • Script Formatting Guidelines (attached; one per student)

  • Mad Libs (attached; one card per student)

  • Script (fishbowl) (attached; one per student)

  • Red pens (optional)

  • Sticky Notes (one per student)

  • Notebook paper (one per student)


Introduce the lesson by displaying the title slide 2 from the attached Lesson Slides.

Display slides 3-4 and share the essential questions and learning objectives for the lesson to the extent you feel necessary.

Move to slide 5, distribute the handout Script Versus Screen Venn Diagram and share the instructional strategy Venn Diagram with your students. Explain to them that as they watch the video, they should use their Venn diagram to find moments that are unique to both the script and what they are seeing on the screen, as well as moments that captured the written word perfectly. You can use slide 6 to provide clarity for them. Display slide 7 and share the video From Script to Screen - Inception - Paradoxical Architecture Scene. Show the video a second time. This will provide students the opportunity to find information for their Venn diagram that they might have missed during the first viewing.

Once the video is complete, display slide 8 and provide your students with a few additional minutes to finalize their Venn diagram on their own.

Display slide 9 and introduce the instructional strategy Mingle with your students. Play school appropriate music of your choosing as your students “mingle” with their peers. Once you stop the song, display slide 10 and instruct your students to sort themselves into groups of four. Once in groups, have them compare the information they wrote down in their Venn diagram, adding details that other group members saw. After their lists are complete, instruct the students to share their findings with the class. Write moments of agreement on the whiteboard to highlight a group understanding.


Move to slide 11, pass out the attached Script Formatting Guidelines, and share the video How to Format a Screenplay: Screenplay Formatting 101. Provide your students with time to review the guidelines

Display slide 12 and share the definition of a table read with your students. Move to slide 13 and share the instructional strategy Fishbowl with your students. Pass out the Script and let them know that they are going to do a table read like actors would do when first receiving a script. Explain that each group will get 5-10 minutes to prepare for their table read, use slide 14 or 15 depending on how much time you think your students need to prep.

Display slide 16 and instruct that the first group is to sit around a table in a circle with the rest of the group standing around them, like a fishbowl. Instruct those around the fishbowl, the outer circle, to take notes on their script of how the inner circle interpreted what was written. Once the inner circle has finished their table read, provide the students in the outer circle time to ask clarifying questions about why they made certain decisions.  Repeat this for each group of students having them take turns being the inner circle and the outer circle. Have students keep their notes to use later when writing their own script.


Show slide 17 and play the video, K20 ICAP - Professor of Digital Cinema - Stick to the Script, with a film professor at OCCC talking about careers in the film industry. When it is completed, show slide 18 and pass out a sticky note to each student. Have students record their Point of Most Significance from the video on a sticky note.


Display slide 19. Explain to students that they will be creating a script, with dialogue between three characters, in a group. Ask students to divide themselves into groups of three and decide on who will fill each of the following roles: Scene description, character description and post-production, and dialogue. Inform the students that they will be completing their section without talking to their team members. Just like a Mad Libs they will combine their information to create a full script. Have students create a three-to-four page script with the requirements found on the Mad Libs handout. Encourage students to use their notes from the Fishbowl activity and their Script Formatting Guidelines handout.

After each student has completed their individual ideas, have students synthesize them into one coherent script, typing their information from their drafts into a proper script format. They should use the script formatting guidelines provided to make sure their final script uses correct margins, fonts, etc. This might take the rest of the hour.

Display slide 20. Explain to students the career of “script reader.” Instruct student groups to pass their script to the group on the right for reading.

Allow the student groups to make suggestions on their peers’ script using comments in the margins (or the comment feature in Google Docs). Remind them to be positive and encouraging in this process.

Tell the students that they will get to read the suggestions and revise their scripts in class on the next day.


At the start of the next day, allow students to rejoin their groups and have students write their revisions based upon the feedback they received from the other group. When all students have completed their revisions, allow them to practice performing their script. After a short practice time have each group performance of their script for the class.

After the performance, pass out a sheet of notebook paper to each student. Display slide 21. Allow each student to complete the activity “I Used to Think, But Now I Know,” reflecting on what they thought scriptwriting would be like and how different the process was.