Accelerating literacy skills through drama
What do you do when your son, a psychologist, educator, consultant, professional actor/comedian and singer comes from his home in Germany for a holiday to Dominica? You get him to do a drama workshop for teachers of course!
Thanks from us all Adam! You were brilliant (and it’s not just your Mum who says so!)
Fly back soon!
Drama Workshop 13-SEPT-07, Roseau
with Adam Lawrence, B.Sc. (jt.Hons.)
Why teach drama?
The purpose of school drama is the experience, not the performance. Crucially, there are no wrong answers!
The experience of drama gives children:
Confidence – won through experiencing and experimenting with other behavioural strategies in a safe environment.
Communication: increased skills in expression, public speaking, persuasion, projection of self.
Cooperation – drama is the most truly collaborative of all art forms, teaching self-discipline and teamwork.
Empathy – increased understanding of other people through being “in their shoes”.
Enrichment – better understanding of other studies, and a better school experience.
What are the tools of drama?
Here are some warm-ups and games for younger students, which train the different tools of drama. Remember, one of the best ways to train a skill is to isolate it – e.g. to emphasise body acting, take away the voice and/or face, for example by doing masked mime.
Body knots, human machine, mime, human puppets, tableaux & statues, emotion walk
Voice tongue-twisters, sirens, wall resonance, changing the emotion behind words and phrases (“teapot!”), radio programme, sound effects, gibberish
Face: lemon-face, lion-face, mirrors, mime, photo-comic, imaginary journey
Imagination book or fairytale work e.g. mime to story, expand an episode in a story, interview characters, new story from old pictures; free work making stories from prompts e.g. words, props, poses
Space (less important for younger children, but simple sets and stages can work well)
Some physical resources
Puppets are very good for making children feel more confident about performing – “the puppet is
acting, not me!” They can be made from spoons, paper bags, old newspapers and string (giant sized!)- indeed, almost any object – and from other children.
Masks are a great art project that transfers well into drama. They show clearly that our body language is more important than our facial expression.
A prop box is a great help. Unfocused kids are immediately focused with a prop in their hand. Squares of cloth can become clothes, blankets, walls,waterfalls… A few hats, sticks, pairs of glasses and odd objects go a long way.
Embedding drama in thematic learning
Remember, whatever it says on the timetable, you are never doing “just” drama. Drama can be a useful connecting force in thematic teaching, and a powerful one. Using drama to put the children “inside” the theme will greatly increase their interest for the theme in general. Drama also supports the other “subjects” because we learn by doing – not just by hearing or reading – and drama is all about doing…
For example, a rainforest project could include children making sounds of the forest (accompanying a story), animals moving through the trees (animals and trees being played by children), interviews or dramatic scenes of farmers discussing whether to cut the trees or not, trees and animals dying (kids love death scenes!) or returning to the forest. Look at one aspect of your theme, think about your tools of drama, and you will soon see how each tool can be applied.
Working in tight spaces
A lot of Dominican school classes do not have much space. If you cannot get another room or go outside, think about drama that can be performed at the desk: e.g. sound effects, miming to a story, mirrors, puppetry, preparing and performing radio theatre, imaginary journeys.
Sharing the children’s work
Writing (or adapting), preparing and performing an end of term show for the parents is very rewarding, but also a lot of work. A far less stressful alternative, which is also well received by parents and students, is the “open workshop” where you show your best drama games and exercises.
childdrama.com – dozens of excellent games, lesson plans and ideas
proteacher.com – (keyword: drama) real teachers’ lesson plans and ideas
show-me-wow.com – ideas for thematic teaching with limited resources
I’m a psychologist, an educator, a consultant and a professional actor/comedian. I live in Germany and work all over Europe and beyond. I have taught drama to children and young people aged 6 to 19 for five years. It’s fun, and it’s easy. I also teach communication skills to headmasters. Now that’s hard!
I’d love to have your feedback and questions. Please mail me through my Mum on her How to contact Chris Lawrence page on this website