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Drama as a Way of Learning

A successful education stems from engaged and self-motivated learners.

The knowledge children gain in school is worthwhile if they also know how to apply that learning, making sense of their studies through experience. Students need to wrestle with ideas, experiment with theories, and work with partner students to come to their own conclusions and present their findings and opinions. Children need the opportunity to become responsible for their own learning, developing skills as leaders, collaborators, risk-takers, creators of their own experiences and expressive communicators.

Involving your students in classroom drama will not only create excitement, but challenge them to take risks that will enhance their learning experiences.  The strategies and activities introduced here encourage students to creatively explore the knowledge they gain in school, intensifying their learning experiences and giving them greater ownership of their successes.

Classroom Management

Drama promotes productive classroom management that helps encourage, maintain and regain students’ focus.   For best results, practice the techniques every day.   You will help them build and refine skills in listening, cooperation, concentration, working together, communication, observation, and self-control.

Echo (and variations)
Clap and echo, for focus

Whole Group Circle
Bringing students together into a circle​​

Forming Cooperative Groups
Guiding students to efficiently make groups​

Walk to Sit
Guiding students to sit, with focus

Preparation & Exploration 

Students need time to develop skill with and understanding of how to: effectively express ideas through their body and voice, work successfully with others, take risks, reflect and improve on their choices and demonstrate confidence in their creative work. These activities prepare students for larger creative and more detailed investigation of themes, ideas, text and curriculum. Start each session with these activities to help students focus tightly on developing greater skill before moving on to applying those creative skills. Five to ten minutes at the beginning of every session will help them focus, get excited and be ready to face the coming creative challenges.

Circle Clap
Developing group cohesion

Cross the Room
Creative way to get to know each other

Guess the Leader
Developing focus and collaboration

Walking
Guiding students to be aware of surroundings

Walking
Variations

Grouping (demonstration)
Showing students the guidelines

Grouping
Guiding students to be inclusive and efficient

Organizing into Groups
Helping students to be efficient and focused

Mirror (demonstration)
Establishing guidelines

Mirror
Developing observation and collaboration

Group Shapes
Developing a collaborative spirit

I Move You Move (introduction)
Guidelines for the activity

I Move You Move
Character action

I Move You Move
Character action with dialogue

Body: Physical Expression 

By learning to express and communicate ideas physically, students develop the ability to succinctly and engagingly share their interpretations of ideas, actions, situations, text and concepts.  By shaping ideas through the body with their peers, they learn to be effective and supportive collaborators that share ideas and incorporate those of their partners.

Still Images 

Still images are simple, frozen physical shapes that capture a single idea, character, moment, action or interpretation.  Starting with still images helps students become comfortable and confident using their bodies and learn to be succinct and purposeful in their creative work.  Still images offer students a lot of autonomy which encourages them to become more courageous and greater risk-takers.

Statues (demonstration)
Shaping partners into images

Statues
Shaping partners into images

Sculpted Snapshot
Sculpting partners into characters

Snapshot
Individual still images

Pair Snapshot
Partner still images

Snapshot to Action
Creating movement from still images

Tableau
Small group statues

Tableau Exemplar
Sharing student examples

Tableau
Creating and revising group statues

Tableau (Variation)
Alternate approaches to group statues

Directed Tableau
Individuals create statues using their group

Action 

Action builds directly from still images, extending physical shapes and ideas into sustained movement.  Action allows for the expression of more complex and multi-layered ideas and encourages students to explore ideas with more depth and personal interpretation.  In addition, when working with partners, students learn to be more attentive and responsive to the work and ideas of their peers.

Pantomime-Single Action
Experimenting with movement

Pantomime
Exploring Character Action

Pantomime Sequence
Demonstration

Pantomime Sequence
Application

Pantomime Assessment
Assessing student work

Voice: Vocal Expression 

By learning to express and communicate words, sounds and ideas vocally, students develop the ability to succinctly and engagingly share their interpretations of characters, text, and concepts.  By collaboratively ‘coloring’ text and concepts with their voices, students learn to be effective and supportive collaborators that share ideas and incorporate those of their partners.

Circle of Expression – Voice
Exploring possibilities for vocal expression

Circle Pass
Listening and passing vocal ideas

Playful Expression Game
Challenging groups to take vocal risks

Expressing Sound
Exploring ways to express sound vocally

Dramatization 

Students work together to create their own dramatic interpretations of ideas, concepts and texts.  The work demonstrated here is primarily devising, in which the students improvisationally develop scenes through conception, experimentation, revision and rehearsal. In this process, students keep discovering, exploring and realizing new expressive possibilities.

Dramatization
Small groups devising an original scene

Conceiving Dialogue
Small groups creating dialogue for their scene

Raw Rehearsal
Whole class putting together small scenes

Revising a scene to the stage area
Small groups fitting their scenes to a stage

Developing a Full Scene
A group develops, practices and revises a scene

Reflect & Respond 

Time set aside for students to reflect on their work helps develops creative skills, understanding and agency over one’s own learning.

Samples of Reflection
Various examples of engaging students in reflecting on their creative work.

Application Examples 

Examples of how various drama strategies can be applied to learning.

Reading Culture through Drama
Recreating cultural icons into still images

Cultural Picture into Action
Creating action from cultural icon images​​

Presentation 

Various performances with students, from in-class presentations to more formal theatre events.  Each features students who were intimately involved from conception to development to presentation of the play.

A Performance Program Overview
Introduction to school-based program in which students developed their own plays.

A Tale of the Ramayana
A school performance of a scene developed by the student performers.

A Pacific Folk Tale
A multi-school festival featuring performances devised by the students.

A Tale from the Marshall Islands
A multi-school festival featuring performances devised by the students.