Warm-Up of the Week: Zombies

1.  All students walk around the room with their eyes closed and their arms crossed in front of their chest.

2. The teacher then taps a student on the shoulder to indicate that they have become the zombie. They will need to make a zombie noise that warns the others students.

3. The zombie then stretches their hands out in front of them in search of humans…

4. If the zombie squeezes a student on the shoulder they become a zombie also.

5. If two zombies squeeze each other on the shoulder they turn back into humans. They must give a big sigh to indicate that this has happened.

6. In large classes it is a good idea to split the students into two groups and use the second group as a barrier so the humans and zombies can’t escape.

This game was generously taught to me by one of my prac students Brielle. Thank you!

Warm Up of the Week: Zip Zap

I pulled out an old favourite this week to play with my students. Give this one a go when you want to build energy, test reflexes and concentration.

1. Start in a circle.

2. Students clap their hands, turn to their left, make eye contact with the person next to them and say “Zip!”

3. Each student does this around the circle until the Zip returns to the starting person.

4. Students then clap their hands, turn to their right, make eye contact with the person next to them and say “Zap!”

5. Each student does this around the circle until the Zap returns to the starting person.

6. Start off with “Zip” again but at any time, any one in the circle can change the direction to “Zap!”

7. Students can also re-direct the energy flow by saying “Boing!” across the circle. The person it is directed at needs to duck quickly and then continue to pass the energy flow around the circle in either direction.

8. If a person is too slow when they duck they are out.

Warm-Up of the Week: Do You Believe Me?

This a super quick activity to get your student’s thinking about the delivery of dialogue in performance.

  1. Select a student to stand facing the wall at one end of the room.
  2. Have the remaining student’s in the class form a straight line behind the chosen student.
  3. Choose a line of dialogue, for example, “I love you.”
  4. Have each student say the line to the person at the other end of the room.
  5. The solo student should only turn around if they believe the person who delivered the line.

Swap students and lines. Obtain feedback from the student’s after each round. Remember, each person will have a different point of view when it comes to the delivery of lines. It’s important to let the student’s know this so they don’t become disheartened if someone doesn’t turn around for them.

The 7 Steps to Better Scene Work

I’m really fortunate this year to have an absolutely fantastic Year 10 class. They progressed through Year 9 willingly and enthusiastically. So this year I am really looking to challenge them and refine the skills they developed last year. Before we launch into playbuilding later in the term, I want to bring out a couple of things in their performances. I’ve found that they rush their dialoague and don’t critically think about their theatrical choices enough. Some of the things I’d like to work on include:

  • Dramatic Tension
  • Belief
  • Focus
  • Motivation/Objective and its translation through movement and dialogue choice.
  • To create polished, confident scenes and performances

I had a look in two great drama resource books that I encourage every drama to purchase if they haven’t already: Centre Stage by Matthew Clausen and Acting in Person and in Style by Carol Wimmer. I used them to create my own scaffold for working with my kids on their scenes. So full credit must be given to them and the work they have both done in this area.

We are using selected scenes from “Summer of the Aliens” by Louis Nowra. So far, this structure is working.

  • Scene Read Through – Complete full read throughs of the scenes. As many as are needed but at least two or three. Swap roles if student’s aren’t sure which character they want to be. Do not exert any effort to “act.” Just gather information and facts from the text about your character.
  • Communicate More – This should be about the third or fourth read through of the scene. This time student’s should try to make maximum eye contact with the other actor’s in the scene and include any physical contact if necessary.
  • Walk & Talk – Groups should improvise the scene in their own words with free movement and activity. Try to reveal all the information learnt in Step 1. Don’t hold the scripts. It will be too tempting to look for cues.
  • Script in Hand – This is the point where groups should explore the scene through guided improvisation. Try each run through with something different in mind. For example, each character has a single goal in mind, perform the scene whilst eating or drinking something, perform the scene with an opposite value (e.g if it’s a love scene play it as if it is a hate scene), perform focusing on entrances and exits, perform with each actor swapping roles, play music during a performance of the scene, perform with focus on vocal delivery, gesture and mannerisms.
  • Set All Business – Finalise blocking and incorporate props and costumes. Finalise character and any emotional decisions. Establish a motivating force.
  • No Interruptions – Run the scene without interruption to set up a flow or rhythm. Focus on energy, tension and belief.
  • Preview & Perform –  Run through the scene two or three more times. Perform the scene in front of the class. Follow with a written evaluation. De-construct the performance with verbal feedback from the class and teacher.

What things have you tried to improve your student’s performances? Comments appreciated.

Image Credit: Scaffolding: Not just for construction workers anymore / Kevin Dooley / CC BY 2.0

Yoga in the Classroom – Why Not Try It?

I recently posted about managing teacher stress. It is important for us as teachers to ensure this so we are highly functioning and energetic in our dynamic classrooms as well as able to emotionally handle situations rationally.

But what about our kids? How can we get them to manage their stress? We’re all suffering from sensory overload, our minds racing at a thousand miles an hour. For a teenager, chuck in hormones and a high sugar diet and you have one highly wired child. I see it everyday and it worries me. Many of our student’s are not resilient and not coping with the challenges that schooling, their social life and home life can bring.  I believe yoga is one way of uncoiling us from our stress and finding stillness.

I discovered yoga almost two years ago now and have reaped the benefits of a healthy body and mind. Many gyms offer it as part of their regular group fitness timetable and there are many yoga ashrams that offer classes specifically for children and teens. If you can get it incorporated into your PDHPE or Sport program, do it!

Last year I decided I wanted to vary up my usual 10-15 minute drama warm-up with some yoga practice instead. I wanted the kids to become more aware of themselves and how they were feeling that day and to offer them simple, easy to do exercises that would allow them to manage any discomfort they may be feeling.

So I took a day to do some TPL to see what another, experienced yoga in the classroom teacher felt was a good way to go about it. I then went back to school and experimented with my then Yr 9 student’s. I thought I’d share with you what I have tried doing. Maybe you will consider giving it a go. If anything, it really is a very simple alternative to playing a drama game.

1. Awareness of the Breath – Lie in corpse pose and concentrate on taking deep full breaths for 5 minutes in and out through your nose. Start to relax the muscles and feel the earth support your weight.

2. Salute to the Sun – Here is a clip explaining how to do the Sun Salute. A standard start of practice exercise to bring heat and energy into the body:

3. The Triangle

4. The Tree

5. Reaching for the Toes – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Sit nice and tall. Breath in and reach forward and grab the outside edges of your feet. Bend your knees if you can’t reach. Hold for five breaths.

6. Beginner’s Shoulder Stand – Lie on the floor with your legs straight up and leaning against a wall. Keep your eyes closed and concentrate on the breath for five minutes.

Try this routine for a couple of weeks and then vary certain poses by removing one and replacing it with another. Initially you will need to establish routines and expectations just like you would any other classroom activity. However it is important to emphasise in these exercises that you work where your body is at and that it is not a competition to see how flexible you are. If anything it is about the breath.

For those student’s who may be reluctant to participate, a really great suggestion I was given was to get some dot matrix paper from the Maths department and get the student’s to draw lotuses by connecting the dots. You could also just have them lie in corpse pose and concentrate on their breathing or sit cross legged (half or full lotus if they can manage it), hands resting on their knees, eyes closed and breathing.

Some teachers may like to burn some incense before the student’s enter the room, others may like to play music.

I have also tried this in my English classroom. This was a room full of desks and chairs. We meditated with our heads resting on the desk and tried tree standing behind our chairs. It was five minutes of yoga after a crazy lunchtime. It settled the student’s a little and helped them focus. With continued practice I’m sure I can get better results. Give it a whirl yourself. You might be surprised by your student’s reactions.

For more informatin on Yoga in the Classroom try these links:

Have you tried yoga in your classroom? What has been your experience? Comments appreciated.

Image Credit:The Pink Panther’s Yoga Mat / Christian Yves Ocampo / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Warm-Up of the Week: Fly!

This year I’ve taken on pre-service teachers for the first time. I felt it was about time I started imparting some of what I’ve learned in my five years and also to keep developing my skills by learning from teachers who are connecting with new research and ideas at university. My current pre-service teacher taught me this warm-up game this week. Give it a whirl with your class.

1. Find a space in your classroom or outside that is long in length. A good 6-10 metres at least.

2. Use masking tape to mark out a serious of points from one end of the space to the other. Make sure they aren’t stuck down too tightly because they will be ripped up later on in the game.

3. Line the student’s up at one end of the space.

4. Student’s need to make their way from one end of the room to the other stepping between each marker using only one step.

5. Student’s are to observe the way in which they use their bodies to move between the gaps.

6. As the student’s become more confident, remove one of the markers so that certain gaps become wider. The student’s will need to change the length of their step and the way in which they prepare to reach each marker.

7. Speed up the pace with which each student goes through the markers and begin a process of elimination until there are only two student’s left. Eliminate student’s if they can’t make it to the next marker in one step.

8. The student who can “fly” through each marker in one step is the winner.

Student’s should notice how their steps change and the use of their bodies becomes bigger as they begin to “fly.”

Warm-Up of the Week: Chain Mime

This game is a bit like Chinese Whispers…

1. Split your class into groups of about 4-5.

2. One of the groups exits the classroom and lines up outside.

3. The group remaining in the classroom has to come up with a scenario that one of their group will perform. Keep it simple. Something like coming home from school and pouring a glass of juice.

4. The group in the classroom selects the member of the group who is going to perform the short scenario. The group watch them perform it and then sit down in the audience space.

5. The first member from the group outside comes in and sits in a chair. They then watch the group member selected to perform picking up on everything they are doing and saying.

6. The person who has come in from outside then stands up and performs what they saw and heard as close as possible to what was presented to them by the other group, to the next person who comes in from outside.

7. This continues until all the group members from outside has entered the room and performed.

8. The original member of the other group who started off the chain mime then performs again and the class discusses how the mime changed from the beginning to the end.

9. Switch the groups so that the student’s who were originally in the classroom coming up with the scenario are now outside waiting to be performed to.

We also tried this with everybody going outside and only one person coming up with the scenario. My class only has 12 students in it so it worked fairly well but I don’t think it would work so well with classes that are larger.