A strange thing happened this year. Our students were so dramatic-and by that we mean we started using drama as a way to help teach, review and reinforce our learning in every subject area. The kids loved it-even the shy and quiet ones.
We didn’t really add drama intentionally at first, but it turned out to be the best thing we could have done. Our students were allowed to pick any way they wanted to teach the class some information we had learned in geography. One of the groups of students asked if they could do a play. We agreed and the play was short, sweet and very effective. More importantly, we realized we were missing out on a huge opportunity with the rest of our students.
We did some research into how we could start adding some drama into our classroom. Our room is fairly small, so we needed a way to rearrange the room quickly. We taught the students to move all the furniture to one side so we had a big open space and started exploring different activities.
The first year we explored drama we used a few random activities. It was fun, but it didn’t quite have a complete scope and sequence that we envisioned. So, over the summer we tweaked our plans and tried again the next year.
Here’s what worked for us:
1. Teach your students basic acting-speak loudly and clearly facing the audience (unless it’s intentionally meant to be masking something). Always stand no more than forty-five degrees facing away from the audience (unless it’s intentional).
2. Teach your students the different areas of the stage: stage left, stage right, downstage, upstage and the apron or backstage. We just mimed the stage we were using as we didn’t have a formal stage.
3. Start with stories they know. We used fairy tales. They recreated these in a very small scale just to experiment. We gave students the story. They read it, prepared a version of their play, practiced and performed all within about an hour and a half. It was meant to be a quick activity. We didn’t start including props or costumes until much later.
4. Another activity we tried was drama circles. Students each have a card with a prompt to act out. Each card prompts another card until the whole circle has performed. We started with some drama circles from Runde’s Room and we’ve since written a few to meet our social studies needs.
5. As the year progressed and we got deeper into our content, we added drama as a way for students to express their learning. Some students chose to make posters or slide shows, but more and more students chose to perform the information for us. We used it in almost every subject area. Students performed stories they’d read and written. They retold history. They acted out important events and even tried out dances from different cultural groups.
We gave students immediate feedback and encouraged experimentation.
And while all the content and learning was great, there was something more important that happened in our classroom. It was very gradual, so we didn’t notice it right away, but people who only saw our students occasionally noticed all the growth our students were making. Their writing improved as they got better at communicating. Students who were usually shy or afraid to take learning risks publicly started taking chances, speaking up more in group situations and becoming leaders in our classroom and school. The confidence level of all of our students rose significantly.
These aren’t things measured in test results, but the overall ability of most of our students improved with the drama in the classroom. We had such an enjoyable year that we’ve made it our mission to talk to any teacher that will listen to include drama in their classrooms. We started a drama club in our school and had to start a second group because there were so many students who wanted to be involved.
What are your thoughts? Would you consider adding a little drama to your classroom? Leave us your thoughts or questions in the comments below.