What is a play script?

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Children learn to read, write and perform play scripts as part of the English and drama curriculum in primary school. Find out about the features of this genre, as well as ways to support your child's learning at home.

What is a play script?

A play script is a piece of writing written for the stage. Your child will learn the following facts about the play scripts they read, write and perform:

  • A play script will include a list of characters (at the very beginning).
  • It may be divided into acts which are then divided into scenes.
  • Each scene will have a description of the setting at the start and then the characters' dialogue.
  • Dialogue is set out with the character's name on the left, then a colon then the dialogue (without speech marks).
  • Stage directions for the actors are written every now and again in italics and brackets.

For example:

How play scripts are used in primary school

Children start using drama in the Foundation Stage, where they may be asked to imagine roles and experiences and act these out.

In Key Stage 1 drama they will act out stories they know, taking on different characters and experimenting with voices, props and costumes.

In Key Stage 2 drama children are asked to act out play scripts in pairs or groups. They may then be asked to improvise scenes related to texts they have read. They then start to develop their own scripts based on these improvisations. They are taught how to set out a play script using the features shown above.

A teacher will often start by giving the children a scenario. For example: if the class were reading Cinderella, the teacher may show them a picture of the ugly sisters on the way to the ball. Children might be asked to imagine that the ugly sisters are having a conversation. What might they say to each other? Who might they be talking about? What might their hopes be for the evening? What might they say about Cinderella? Children would be encouraged to get into partners and act out this scene between the two sisters.

In Key Stage 2, this activity would most likely be followed by a lesson where children would start drafting the conversation between the two sisters. After this, they would have to write their play script up in neat, in a similar way to how the one above is set out. Teachers often give children writing frames to help them with this. The writing frame might include lines for the characters' names, followed by colons and then space for the speech. Once children have written up their play script, they may be encouraged to improve it, by adding stage directions in brackets.

Reading and writing play scripts is a great way to bring stories alive for children. Reading play scripts out loud helps them to think about using expression to convey a character's feelings. Writing play scripts encourages them to infer and deduce information about what characters are thinking and feeling from what they have already read in a story.