I Heart Drama (in the Classroom)


(Adapted from Patrice Baldwin’s The Drama Book)
Process drama is a specific form of drama particularly suited to engaging students deeply in whatever subject is being taught. The following tools can be used singly to make a lesson plan more meaningful or in various combinations to form a complete process drama exploration.
The following is a listing and explanation of several process drama tools and how they might be used in the classroom.
1.  Improvisation—unrehearsed scene co-written with partner (s) without pen or paper.
     (Example: A slave owner and an abolitionist meeting at a dinner party.)
2.  Teacher in role—Teacher takes on the role(s) of character(s) within a drama.
     Teacher takes on the role of a messenger coming to warn a group of people about a plague coming to their town. Later, he/she takes on the role of the Mayor, another townsperson, or another character within the drama.
3.  Still Image (Tableau)—The group takes up different poses to construct a picture describing what they want to say. (Example: A young boy during the Civil War saying good-bye  to his family as he goes off to war.  Students may use thought-tracking (see below) to extract meaning from the image.
4.  Freeze-Frame—A series of linked still images that can describe important moments within a drama, piece of literature, event in history, etc. (Example: Cinderella at home with her Stepmother and sisters, Cinderella wishing she could go to the ball, appearance of the Fairy Godmother, Cinderella with the Prince at the ball, the sisters trying on the glass slipper, Cinderella trying on the glass slipper, the Prince
     and Cinderella being married.)
5.  Mantle of the Expert—Students are asked to take on the role of people with specialized knowledge that is relevant to the situation of the drama.(Example: Scientist, President)
6.  Narration—Teacher narrates part of story or sequence of events to help it begin, move it on, to aid reflection, to create atmosphere, to give information, to maintain control.
7.  Thought-tracking—Individuals, in role, are asked to speak aloud their private thoughts and reactions to events. (Example: In the above example of a young boy going off to war, audience members may ask questions of the persons playing the boy, his father, mother, brothers and sisters. They may come from the audience, tap the person on the shoulder, and ask their questions.)
8.  Hot-seating—Students, as themselves, question the teacher in role or student in role to find out more information about the character and their situation. (Example: Teacher (or student) takes on the role of Eleanor Roosevelt. Students ask questions about her life. This is a great technique to use when students are giving reports about people or events.)
9.   Meetings—The students come together in a meeting (in role) to present information, plan action, suggest strategies, solve problems. (Example: The slaves on board the Amistad meet to determine how they will escape their captors.)
10. Collective role play—Several members of the class play the same part simultaneously to provide mutual support and present a range of ideas. (Example: Four students play the part of Abraham Lincoln.)
11.  Decision alley—Students line up in two lines facing each other. One side favors one side of an opinion, the other side another. A student walks down the “alley,” as each side tries to convince the person of the truth of their opinion. The person who has “walked the alley” tells the class what his opinion is or what he/she has decided after having this experience. (Example: One side of the alley tries to convince the
       person walking through the alley that marijuana should be legalized, the other side tries to convince the other that it should not be.)
12.  Role-On-The-Wall—Students outline the figure of a person on a long sheet of butcher paper. They then write on the paper feelings or thoughts they have about the person. (Example: The Mayor in the story of Rose Blanche who puts a little boy in a truck to be sent to the Extermination Camps.)
13.  Guided Imagery/Visualization—Teacher narrates part of the story while the students close their eyes and visualize sensory details. A writing assignment directly after would augment their sensory impressions. Soft music while visualizing can add depth to the experience.
14. Pantomime/Movement—Students act a part of the story using no voice. Music may add to the pantomime. Abstract movement can illustrate an emotion or sensory details of a story.
15. Soundscape—Students use voice to suggest the sounds of a certain setting within a story.
16.  Interview—Students act as newspaper reporters finding out information about a scene.
17.  Choral Speaking—Students repeat certain lines in unison or divided into various parts according to gender, pitch of voice, character, etc.
18. Speaking Objects—Objects in a scene speak about themevles in relation to a character or event as an eye-witness with a viewpoint.
19. Performance Carousel—Groups prepare scenes representing parts of the drama story, then arrange them in chronological order and perform them in sequence without interruption.
20.  Eavesdropping/Gossip—Groups or individuals overhear conversations and report them back to others.
21.  Forum Theatre—Students enact a scene. Audience can stop the drama, replace or introduce new characters to change the scene.

Puppets? In the Classroom?

Although many might only associate puppets with entertainment, puppets can be a great classroom management tool. There are many uses of puppets in elementary school classrooms.  The following are some of the ways puppets can be used in the classroom:

  1. Puppets can ask students questions to check for understanding. The puppet can ask questions that students can answer. The teacher can also ask puppets questions (the puppet will always be wrong) and students can correct the puppet to demonstrate understanding.
  2. Puppets can help shy or timid children participate. A child puppeteer might feel safe “behind” a puppet. The puppet will be one “talking” and the student my feel less scared to share thoughts through a puppet.
  3. Puppets can discuss things in a non-threatening way, since they are a third party. If there are conflicts or intimidating discussion topics, the teacher can use puppets. Puppets are not threatening, so they can help bring down anxiety within students.
  4. Puppets can encourage enthusiasm, or be the class mascot. Puppets can be silly or overly enthusiastic, while still maintaining the dignity of the actual teacher.
  5. Puppets can serve as cheerleaders to encourage students.
  6. Puppets can get student’s attention to make announcements such as homework, changes in daily routine, and birthdays (as well as lead the birthday song!).
  7. Puppets can ask bold questions that the students want answers to, but might not want to ask. For example, an introduction of the class restroom policy might sound like this:
Puppet: What do I do f I have to go to the bathroom?
Teacher: Well you can raise our restroom card quietly and I will see you.
Puppet: Why can’t I just ask you out loud?
Teacher: That can disrupt the class and disturb others who are working. I will nod to let you know you may go.
Puppet: Oh, okay. So I should quietly raise my bathroom card and you’ll see me and nod that I can go?
Teacher: Yup! You got it!
Puppets can be an effective tool to manage a classroom. Puppets can keep students entertained and can take some of the pressure off of the teacher and allow the teacher some room for fun and creativity.

Theater Games!

One of the best ways to break the ice when trying to encourage students to stand up in front of their peers is playing a game first. There are gobs of theater games out there, but this one is one of my favorites…

Theater Game: Who am I?
Description: A student is sent out of the classroom (or at least out of earshot) and when they return, they must interact with other students until they know the famous person or occupation the class has chosen for them.
Connections to other content areas:
History: choose famous people from history
Science: choose scientific careers (doctors, optometrists, field researchers, zoo keepers), or people who have made famous discoveries
English: choose prominent characters from literature (especially books you have read in class)

Teaching Inflection & Voice

One aspect of good reading is inflection. Let’s face it – nobody wants to hear a robot read out loud to them. Selecting the right material is crucial in teaching young readers to read with inflection. This poem provides students the perfect chance to practice using emotion when they read. Try it, it’s fun…

At History I’m Hopeless (By Kenn Nesbitt)
 At history I’m hopeless.
At spelling I stink.
In music I’m useless.
From science I shrink.
At art I’m atrocious.
In sports I’m a klutz.
At reading I’m rotten.
And math makes me nuts.
At language I’m lousy.
Computers? I’m cursed.
In drama I’m dreadful.
My writing’s the worst.
There’s only one subject
I’m sure I would pass,
but they don’t teach
video games in my class.