I get sent quite a few questions about drama teaching. I have included a few of the questions and answers below - click on the subject titles to read them.
David Farmer,Director,Drama Resource.
Getting groups to listen to each other
As a dance teacher who is going into a secondary school in September to teach a few hours of drama and currently teaching a drama/dance summer school, I would like to thank you for the drama games you have posted and emailed. They have been extremely helpful to someone who has little previous experience of drama themselves let alone knowing how to teach it! Whilst all of your games have proved thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial to my students, I am however experiencing a few problems and this comes at the end of a drama task/activity when the students have been given time to complete a task in groups. Do you have any tips on how to make a large group of students stop what they are doing, be quiet and focus on the teacher ready to take the next instruction without it seeming that the teacher is shouting and nagging all the time which I feel spoils the fun activity? At the minute I feel like I am simply shouting over their noise and getting nowhere, even clapping my hands to signal attention does not appear to have any affect. Please help.
Kind regards, Julie.
I think you have to get them used to sitting down and watching each others’ work. Encourage them to do this by asking each group to make three positive comments about another group’s work. This way they will not just be waiting for their turn to show what they have prepared. Ask them to come up with a set of rules that they think should be used in the drama space – and justify each one. Write them on a big sheet of paper and display them so that students can refer each other as well as be referred to, the rules!
Hope that helps, David.
What are your thoughts on teaching directing concepts to younger children?
Really these are the same concepts which a group needs to understand for presenting any piece of drama - where and when the scene is happening, who the characters are and what story they are telling. Get the children to tell a story using three still images - a beginning, middle and end. Encourage them to think about where the audience will be viewing from. Then share the pieces, asking other groups to say what they understand and what they don't. Children from other groups could then make suggestions about how the images might be clearer, either through explanation or by moving children within the image. This will help to develop some key directorial skills!
Drama at summer camp
Q: Regarding my summer drama camp, I’m not directing a play, but just introducing basic theater concepts through various drama games. I wonder if you have any suggestions for a culminating activity that doesn’t involve actual play production?
Well, you may not be producing a play but if the students are on a summer camp they will probably want to feel that they have achieved something while they are there. It's best if it's not an actual play with lines to learn, but something that the students have improvised themselves. I would try to teach them a few different drama techniques, such as image theatre, freeze frames and essence machines. Also teach them some voice exercises and encourage them to move in a freer way by playing games like "Mirror Movers" and "Points of Contact". Then activities like "Pecking Order" and "Breakfast Serial" will give them experience of improvising (you can find all these in 101 Drama Games and Activities). This will set them up with a range of skills and ideas which they could use to prepare a short scene or two for the last day. Find a short story or extract that you like and encourage them to apply their newly-learnt skills to producing a short improvised performance. Make sure that when they are watching each others' work that you encourage each group to give positive comments to the work of other groups so that they can critically appraise and thus improve their work!
How do you boost the confidence of young children?
I was wondering if you could help me? Although all drama practice is an excellent tool for building confidence in the young, this is of course most successful when it is worked over time. I am often asked to work for short periods with children I have never met before and of course expected to produce excellent results. I tend to approach this by making sure the children feel safe and comfortable at all times and I work hard to make sure that they enjoy the drama sessions. Do you have any further tips or can you guide me to any particular games in your book which you think are particularly good at boosting confidence? I'm sorry I know it is a bit of a strange question as every child is different and it is preferable to get to know a child over a period of time to "find a way in" as it were. I was just wondering if you could help me pull out some magic for those one off drama sessions? Thank you for your help.
Kind Regards, Eleanor
I think one of the most important things for helping children gain confidence is ensuring that they are doing tasks that they know they can do. If they are given tasks in which they feel competent but which allow them to have fun and be creative then they will naturally feel more confident. This is why I use Ten Second Objects in virtually every drama session I run. It is a game that is never the same and to which there is no right answer - every answer is right! Come up with some fun objects and the children will have fun making them as well as enjoying each group's results. An atmosphere of fun, where there is no chance of "failing" definitely helps. The practitioner needs to remain open to the children's responses, ready to change or adapt the activity if it is not working. I honestly think that all drama games can help improve children's confidence. Of course you are right when you say that every child is different and so this is why you need your armoury of games and techniques to pluck out something appropriate. After playing a few games you can move onto more extended activities such as developing a series of Still Images for a story.
I hope that helps! David.
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