When students came into class, they were expecting to write a book journal or literature response. After all, whenever we do a novel study as a class, I give the students a page goal and then I assess their progress by giving them a prompt to discuss. I change the prompt every week to keep it interesting (and also to prevent students from "googling" instead of reading.)
So, when I explained the activity to the students, they were pretty excited to do something other than a "regular" writing assignment.
When I talked them through the activity, the students seemed most focused on the performance requirement, rather than the written product. While I look forward to seeing what they do with the performances, I am measuring their ability to work with the conventions of drama and to make smart choices about how to translate the author's intent when changing the genre.
In order to provide an example for the kids, I had them refer to the stage directions in the play version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" that we have in our text. Those stage directions are extensive, but they capture everything from set information to mood. I leave an open textbook under the document camera so the kids are reminded to refer to the example.
Because it is middle school, the students were primarily concerned with WHOM they will be working. After giving my initial introduction to the assignment, I allowed two minutes to form groups with the rule that "no one may be left out." If a student is left alone, I reassign the groups alphabetically. [Full disclosure (and, yes, this is a generalization): This tends to work better with boys than girls. Even with the threat of random assignment, some girls can't bring themselves to extend a kindness to someone "weird" for the good of the cause. Boys really don't mind adding an extra person to their group. After all, less work for everyone, right?]
Once the groups were formed, the students chose their scenes and get to work. Each of the sections that I chose highlights a conflict in the story. The added bonus (or secret purpose :)) of doing an activity like this is that it allows everyone to fully understand what is going on in the story. All of my students read on or above grade level, but they still miss things and misunderstandings get them off course. By the time all of the scenes are enacted, everyone will be up to date as of page 107 and we can all move on with our lives.
The writing workshop part of this assignment went really smoothly. The kids were happy with their self selected groups, and everyone seemed to be on task. There were a few complaints about the volume of writing (I do make everyone write to make sure that everyone is engaged), but the assignment can be completed in 40 minutes, no question.
I look forward to seeing their "productions."