Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Creative Drama in the Traditional Classroom  



- Original Welcome
- Introduction
- Why Drama?
- Drama and Development
- The Basics
- Example Lesson
- Second Example
- Bibliography


"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
Environment, Setting
Students, Participants, Players, Teacher-in-Role
Teacher, Leader, Facilitator, Artist-Teacher
Play Script
Scenario, Story, Material, Idea
Practice, Work On, Experiment With, Explore
Share, Show, Play Out, Dramatize, Improvise
Observers, Peers
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:

    1. Decide on the objective of the lesson. What are the academic and social goals for the class? What do you want them to learn?
    2. Pick a general format for the lesson. Will you use a story, an improvisational scene, small group work? How will students work in the session?
    3. How much time do you have, and what does your work space look like?
    4. 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.
    5. Write this all down, like you would any lesson plan. How specific you are depends on you as a teacher.
    6. 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.
    7. 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 lesson.

    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

Creative Teaching through Drama
Questions? Comments? Contact me.
Last Updated July 3, 2007