- Original Welcome
- Why Drama?
- Drama and Development
- The Basics
- Example Lesson
- Second Example
"You have to live in order to act and what you put into your
performance is what you've learned from life." - Peggy Ashcroft
Please read this first: These research pages
represent work that was done in 2002 as a defense of theater in an educational
environment. The research became the original primary draw for this website.
All of the pages are presented in their original form, and are best read
in order starting with this page.
Before we get started with our
discussion on how to create drama in your classroom, we need to cover
the beginning aspects of classroom drama, including the things you
want to avoid and promote in your classroom.
The first issue we need to examine
is the definitions we use, specifically the difference between theatre
and drama. For the sake of the discussions on this website, theatre
pertains more to performance work. The word should bring to mind images
of plays and actors. Drama refers to shared elements used to explore
our emotions, our thinking, and to teach.*
Classroom, Playing Area, Space
Students, Participants, Players, Teacher-in-Role
Teacher, Leader, Facilitator, Artist-Teacher
Scenario, Story, Material, Idea
Practice, Work On, Experiment With, Explore
Share, Show, Play Out, Dramatize, Improvise
Assess, Discuss, Reflect
The difference between the two
terms becomes very clear when laid out like this. Remember that these
are not universal definitions; they are simply the way we will address
drama and theatre here. When we talk about using drama in traditional
classroom setting we are not talking about creating a play for a performance,
the focus is not on the final product. Later we'll look at some sample
lesson plans, but for now the focus should be on learning the basics.
If you've never worked with improvisational work before, there are
some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind.
- Classroom drama is still part of your class,
and management is just as important as it is during a more traditional
method. Students should know (and rehearse) procedures for work. For
example, if you raise your hand and say, "freeze," students
should know to stop moving and listen to what you have to say. It is
useful to have procedures for gathering together for instructions,
stopping activities that are getting out of hand, sending students
to find a place that they can work in, and freezing their bodies completely
so they can take a look at each other's work.
- When dealing with role-playing, particularly
with older students, there is a tendency for content to get out of
hand. It is often useful to begin a session with three rules: School
rules and policies are still in effect, be respectful, and follow directions.
Basically everything falls under these three rules, and you can quickly
remind off-task students what the rules are.
- What ever is said in a scene, goes. Generally
this is a rule in performance - if one improvisational actor tells
the other that the sky is falling, the sky is falling and the
matter is not up for debate. In classroom drama however there is a
slight difference - the teacher must remain in control so that the
activity continues on track. Try to honor student suggestions, but
feel free to keep looking for or offer the correct answer. The goal
is to educate, not play games.
- It is often necessary to front load students
before beginning a project. For example, when dealing with serious
material or material of a mature nature you may need to begin a session
with a discussion on how we handle situations. When working with the
Hispanic tale La Llorona I began by discussing how we sometimes
make jokes when confronting serious material that makes us uncomfortable.
When students would start to snicker, I reminded them of our earlier
discussion to bring them back on track.
- Find a way to segue from the normal classroom
environment to the drama time. Perhaps you have a magic hat that the
students associate with you changing characters, or a phrase you say
that signals the change in classroom environment. For older students
something as simple as a warm-up game (see Resources)
will work fine. With young children it is especially important that
they know when drama time begins and ends, or their imaginations will
keep them from focusing back on classroom activities later on.
- Besides acting as an introduction, warm ups
are a valuable tool for focusing a class, quickly assessing skills,
and preparing students for the days activities. Try to find warm-ups
that fit the lesson and the nature of the material. For classes with
rowdy students try very structured activities such as stretching -
you'll find that students will often concentrate more closely when
offered specific instructions.
- Find out when your students are the most
attentive to drama activities. Generally, students are the most attentive
in the mornings, before lunch. Keep drama inside the classroom, moving
outside causes too many distractions and on-stage gives the illusion
that you are performing (Saldaña 1995).
- Students can work from their desks, or you
may find it useful to push the desks out of the way. Decide what works
best based on your lesson.
The following are the basic steps you should
use in writing your lesson plan:
- Decide on the objective of the lesson. What are the academic and
social goals for the class? What do you want them to learn?
- Pick a general format for the lesson. Will you use a story, an
improvisational scene, small group work? How will students work in
- How much time do you have, and what does your work space look like?
- Begin to structure the session on activities that you are comfortable
leading. Allow time to stop activities if they get out of control,
and extra activities in case you come up short or end up skipping
part of what you have planned.
- Write this all down, like you would any lesson plan. How specific
you are depends on you as a teacher.
- Decide how you will assess the students. For some subjects a traditional
test at the end may work just fine, but for other drama activities
you may find yourself needed to assess the students through observation,
journaling, videotaping, discussion time, or any other format.
- Have fun! Drama is not play, but nor should it be dogged and boring.
Enjoy the time with the class, and keep things moving at a pace that
will interest the student. Avoid becoming bogged down in the lesson.
If you come across an activity that the students just aren't getting,
feel free to move on rather then let that break the flow of your
These are only the very basic rules, laid out
to give you a rough idea of how to begin. Teachers should never feel
bound to them, each classroom is unique and will require a different
management technique. For sample lesson plans look at the Resource page
and reference the books in the Bibliography.
Click here to
view a sample lesson plan.
* Chart from Saldaña