5 Quick Ways to Get Your Drama Class Off to a Great Start

It is upon us. The beginning of term. The term when we establish rules, routines and relationships. Term 1 is hard going for that reason. Your Drama lessons need not be however. Here are some suggestions to make the beginning of term an enjoyable one that your kids will want to stick around for.

1. Get to Know Your Students

The first day can always be bogged down with course overview information, assessment schedules and topic summaries. Absolutely essential of course. It is also necessary to find out about your students. Do they even want to be in Drama? What do they think Drama is? How can you better tailor your lessons to their needs if you don’t know anything about who you are teaching? This simple survey is a really easy way to not only find out about their interests but get a snapshot of their understanding of drama, their expectations and even how well they write! Literacy in action without them even knowing it!

2. Get Your Students to Know Each Other

I’m always amazed at how kids from the same grade, who have most likely been in classes with each other before, do not know each others names. Honestly, it astounds me. So I place a lot of emphasis on playing “getting to know you” type games and getting them to build relationships with students that they may not know well or not have worked with before. I like The God Game. In the getting to know you version you replace the numbers with names. Simple, yet effective.

Another really simple game is to have your students form two circles: one facing out, the other facing in. Each person should be facing someone. Have each person have a 30sec-1minute conversation with the person opposite them before you ring a bell or make some sort of noise to indicate that the outer circle should move one step to their left so that they are in front of someone different. Then you begin a new conversation with your new partner. At the end of the game, each person must share one thing they learnt about one of the people they were talking to. If anything, it’s a great way to teach kids about making sociable, small talk when amongst strangers!

3. Build Trust and A Safe Performance Space

This one is important and probably takes the most time. I like to focus a lot of my warm-up games at the beginning of lessons around this premise. You could try:

Falls – Have students pair up, with Person A standing behind Person B. Person B will fall back only to be caught by Person A. At first, stand close together to build confidence. As the person becomes more confident, stand further apart. Swap and repeat.

Lifts – I like to do this with the whole class. You will need some crash mats. One person lies flat on the crash mat like a plank of wood. Everyone else in the class is to surround the person on either side. Ensure the head and bottom are supported. They place their hands underneath the person and on the count of three lift the person up above their head. Everyone has to work together on lifting the person up and placing them back down on the crash mat gently.

I never pressure kids to do this one and I always give them another opportunity a few weeks down the track to have another try if they were nervous about doing it the first time.

I also love the game Knots to build communication and team work. You might also like to incorporate the creation of some class rules at this point. Linking in expectations about safety and respect. You might do this collaboratively or bring all the activities together and connect them to the expectations of every class.

4. Encourage Failure and Silly Business

My rule is “if you don’t feel silly when you’re acting – you’re not acting”. We want to encourage our students to move beyond just being themselves on stage so we have to encourage a bit of silliness. If you are silly with them and show that you are not afraid to make an idiot of yourself you will earn major respect points. The beauty of Drama is that more often than not you are in the rough and tumble of play which puts you on their level far more than others subjects. You build fabulous relationships this way.

I make the point above about failure. It’s a harsh word and I don’t mean it to sound that way but you’ll find the kids use it. #epicfail anyone?

Often we get our kids to present their work to the class. This is necessary. It is important to also scaffold in through your questioning during presentations, ways that the students can become self-reflective and constructively critical about what they have presented and look at ways to improve and not simply see it as an #epicfail. It’s about turning perceived failures into positives.

5. Document the Process – Keep a Photo Blog

We ask our kids to keep logbooks and I like to keep one too! I love taking photos and short videos of my class. I keep them all together to create a little memento for them at the end of the year such as a calendar, photo album, photo disk etc. It’s a lovely way to track their journey and progress in class and you could even share it with other schools through apps such as Instagram or on a blogging site such as this. It is something they will treasure forever and ever. Just ensure you get permission from their parents and from executive first of course.

Remember: classrooms function when routines are repeated, reiterated and reinforced. Have some consequences up your sleeve for when, in all likelihood, this doesn’t always happen. All the best for the year ahead.

Photo Credit: Jin Jinto via Compfight cc

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