K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • be introduced to Stanislavski, his life, and theories.
  • learn the ten basic steps of the Stanislavski Method.
  • learn examples of exercises involving concentration that will help them think creatively and develop new acting techniques that they can apply to their development as actors.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

90 minutes


The following are suggestions only. I have found that they have helped me in teaching acting:

  • Acting; Thought into Action by Kurt Daw (published by Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH)
  • Hi Concept-Lo Tech: Theatre For Everyone in Any Place by Barbara Carlisle and Don Drapeau (published by Heineman, Portsmouth, NH) This book has some very effective exercises for this unit.
  • Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin (published by Northwestern University Press)

Any other resource that gives good improvisational exercises that you can apply to the concepts presented in this plan.


Relaxation exercises (10 min)


Read the attachment An Outline of the Stanislavski System (taken from Ken Daw’s book, Acting: Thought into Action) and introduce them to the students. (10 min)

Discuss Stanislavski’s life and work. (15 min)

Exercises should begin with a short period of relaxation followed by the following concentration exercises.

  1. The three dominant senses are sight, sound, and touch. Have students select an object that appeals to the senses or you may supply one. Have them concentrate on that object by examining the object millimeter by millimeter. Ask them which of the senses is the most dominant. Have them touch the object to their face and feel its temperature, feel the sensation. Repeat and note what is physically memorable about this experience. Discuss as a group when finished. (10 min)
  2. Get comfortable in a sitting position. Focus your attention on one stimulus only (example: search the room for anything that is colored red; tune into every sound you can hear no matter how faint, etc.) Discuss afterward. (5 min)
  3. Get comfortable in a sitting position. In your mind reconstruct every detail of your day so far. Think of what you ate, every word you spoke, every movement you made. Discuss afterward. (5 min)
  4. Divide class into groups of 7 (can vary). Assign them letters of the alphabet. Each student will be responsible for 3 or 4 letters. Create a rhythm, such as slap leg, clap hands, snap fingers, snap fingers. After establishing a rhythm have the group spell words, then expand to sentences. (Movie or play titles are fun to do with this.) The students must say the letters they are responsible for when they come up in the spelling. Have them say the letters on a certain part of the rhythm, such as on the clap. Concentration is a must for this exercise. (15-20 min)
  5. You may need to take another 10-15 minutes to discuss what they have learned during the class period and how they can apply it to acting.


Student participation in the exercises.

A written test could be developed that would assess the students’ knowledge of the ten basic steps of Stanislavski’s Method. Here are some examples:

  • Question: What are the benefits of learning to relax while performing? Answer: Your work will be enhanced by starting from a point of relaxation. It helps you to concentrate when you can lay your life aside temporarily.
  • Question: Why is it important not to rush when working through sensory exercises? Answer: It takes time to concentrate on the smallest details rather then rushing to a big conclusion. Take the time to “experience” the sensations.
  • Question: Why must a playwright create given circumstances in a play? Answer: Given circumstances are all the details that make up a situation. They are placed on an actor by the playwright to create conditions that are convincing to the audience. The actor must identify them in order to create them with the senses.

Supplemental information

See the attached Exercises and Suggestions for related activities.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Theatre Arts Education (2010)
      • Beginning Theatre Arts

        • B.C.1 Use movement, voice, and writing to communicate ideas and feelings. B.C.1.1 Use non-verbal expression to illustrate how human emotion affects the body and is conveyed through the body. B.C.1.2 Apply vocal elements of volume, pitch, rate, tone, articulation,...
      • Intermediate Theatre Arts

        • I.C.1 Use movement, voice, and writing to communicate ideas and feelings. I.C.1.1 Use non-verbal expression to illustrate how human motivations are prompted by physical and emotional needs. I.C.1.2 Apply vocal elements of volume, pitch, rate, tone, articulation,...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Theatre Arts Education (2001)

Grade 9–12 — Thatre Arts I

  • Goal 2: The learner will act by interacting in improvisations and assuming roles.
    • Objective 2.01: Develop and manifest an awareness of the self as a thinking, creative, performing whole.
    • Objective 2.02: Understand and demonstrate the inherent individual's ability to intuit and create.
    • Objective 2.04: Employ creative action and thinking skills.
    • Objective 2.05: Expand and exhibit the use of problem solving skills.
    • Objective 2.11: Understand and participate in physical warm-ups to develop focus and creativity.