Warm-Up of the Week: I Feel The Spirit!

There are a couple of great groups on Facebook (aside from The Drama Teacher’s Network šŸ˜› ) that you may be interested in joining, if in fact, you have Facebook. In particular they are:

  • Drama Teachers and Those Interested in Drama Education
  • D4LC – Drama For Learning and Creativity
  • Drama Peeps

All three are well worth checking out with lots of suggestions and sharing of ideas for the classroom.

It was whilst I was checking them out that someone was looking for a warm-up game that was going to get their kids feeling energised. I immediately thought of a game that I hadn’t played in a while and that I hadn’t shared on the blog so I knew once I’d shared it with the group, I had to share it with you, my readers!

1.Ā  Begin in a circle.

2. One person enters the circle and becomes the “Preacher.” They begin by shouting, “I feel the spirit!”

3. The group shouts back “I feel the spirit!”

4. The “Preacher” then shouts back, “I feel the spirit in my _________” Insert name of body part. The Preacher then moves that body part.

5. The rest of the group then repeat, “I feel the spirit in my _________” and the action.

The preacher/congregation style should get bigger and more passionate as each student gets a turn. Think of those amazing church preachers who are so passionate about sharing they get right into it.

This is a really fun game to boost energy and get physical! A must before your cast and crew are about to go on stage for their first show.

Warm-Up of the Week: The God Game

This game is great for higher ability groups who are able to pick up on the complexities of the game.

1. Have everyone start in a circle.

2. The teacher in role becomes “God”. The person to his/her left hand side becomes “Hell.”

3. Give every student, moving in an anti-clockwise direction (from the teacher’s right all the way round the circle till you get to Hell), a number startingĀ from one.

4. Begin the following rhythm: slap both thighs once, clap hands togetherĀ once, two clicks together on both your right and left hand. Keep this rhythm going.

5. On the first click “God” says: “God” and then follows on the second click with another number from around the circle. So it goes something like, “God, six.”

6. By saying the second number “God” is passing on the rhythm to that person and on the next set of clicks they must then say their number first and then another number. So it goes something like, “Six, twelve.”

7. The aim of the game is to dethrone “God” and avoid “Hell”.

8. You end up in “Hell” if you don’t respond quickly enough after the rhythm has been passed to you.

Variations: YouĀ could change the names of “God” and “Hell” if you prefer. It’s also a great way of learning names in class. Rather than using the numbers you replace them with names.

It’s quite a tricky game because student’s have to think about the rhythm, listen and concentrate at being able to keep the rhythm going and not get caught out for being too slow. This really is a personal favourite of mine.

Lesson Lovenotes: Playbuilding in the Drama Classroom

Playbuilding is the core topic across Stage 4,5 and 6 Drama in the NSW Syllabus. However, teaching playbuilding in your classroom whichever syllabus you follow is very worthwhile. Here I’ve provided some background information and a unit structure on playbuilding. I will endeavour to discuss the logbook, specific strategies for each stage of the process and ways of reflecting on performance. Look for these posts in the coming days.

So, what is it exactly?

Essentially, playbuilding is the creation of a short performance from virtually nothing. Playbuilt pieces can be as short or as long as you would like. I generally tend to stick to around the 8-12 minute mark. Usually plays can be generated from ideas, issues, events, pictures, songs, plays, poems. What they start out as and what they become is part of the playbuilding process and it is the idea of process that makes playbuilding such a valid part of the drama classroom.

Valid, how?

Student’s in the drama classroom need to learn that the creation of drama is a process. There is a starting point and there is an end point and how you get there is what making, performing and appreciating drama is all about. It is during this process that student’s improvise, learn about new ways to generate ideas, write and reflect on thoughts and ideas they have had or gathered, fight with each other and problem solve with each other all because they must produce a piece of performance.

So, where do I begin?

As a starting point choose a play, series of photographs, a song or poem. The teacher acts very much like a facilitator in these lessons. You want as much of the material to come from the student’s so you don’t want to be directing them and choreographing where they’re supposed to stand or how they’re supposed to move. It needs to come from them. Try and structure your unit around the following steps:

  • Select a Starting Point – as I mentioned above, these things can get you started but what you really need to have happen here is a lot of discussion, brainstorming and even some improvisation. It is the initial phase in which you are establishing group dynamics and a potential direction for the piece.
  • Research & Investigation – with an initial idea and direction for the piece take student’s to the library and get them to research and investigate and find fiction, non-fiction, websites, videos/DVDs/YouTube clips, music, poems, photos, artworks, ANYTHING that will trigger further ideas and empower them with more information so as to generate ideas and make creative decisions. Ensure they are keeping a logbook of all the things they do in each lesson. This is the proof that there was a process.
  • Finding the Spine – collate the information as a group and look to find the dramatic question that you are asking the audience. What do you want them to see, think, feel, talk about after they watch the performance? Other things to consider here include: who is your audience? From your initial improvisations and ideas which one stood out the most? Can you locate the action of the scene/s? Are there any specific or important characters? What is their role in the story? Can you create a timeline for the piece?
  • Working on Scenes – With a dramatic question in mind, this is the point in the process where most of the improvisation happens. It is important that you instill in the student’s that it is necessary to not just talk about ideas but to get up and experiement with those ideas. Actually, physically act them out. You know the saying, “it’s good in theory but in practice…” This couldn’t be truer in drama. A great process to follow when trying to decide which scenes to keep and which not to includes the “experiment, refine, discuss, select” process.
  • Putting It Together/Rehearsing – This is the part where student’s should start to experiment with dramatic structure, different forms and conventions, different performance practitioner’s ideas, using theatrical traditionsĀ  and theatre sports as a springboard, dramatic devices and transitions, costume, set, lighting, sound and music. There are a range of things you can consider here and I will discuss these in a later post.
  • Performance – Student’s perform the scene several times for a range of different audiences.
  • Evaluation – Student’s reflect on their performance both individually and as a group. I will discuss this in a later post.

Some Final Tips

  • I always get my student’s to sign a group performance contract before beginning rehearsals. It is a nice way for them to set up the dynamics and expectations of the group, to feel in control of their learning and it is a great tool for you when you need back up after Miss Sally Bowles hasn’t turned up to three rehearsals in a row šŸ™‚ Believe me, it happens. Diva storm-outs are a regular occurance at my school šŸ˜‰

Image Credits: past the point of love, (made it to #2 explore !) [10,00streamviews!] / ashley rose, / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Warm-Up of the Week: Ice Breakers

This week’s warm up is fabulous if you are starting out with a new class or group of performers. It helps student’s get to know each other and use their memories!

  1. Have student’s form two circles. Make sure the students on the inside circle are facing those in the outside circle.
  2. Have eack pair talk to each other for about three minutes.
  3. Have the student’s in the outside circle move two people along in a clockwise direction.
  4. Repeat Step 2.
  5. Repeat Step 3.
  6. Repeat Step 2 however this time the pairs move out of the circle and find a space in the room to talk privately.
  7. Student’s return to one large circle standing next to their final partner.
  8. Each student must share with the class what they learnt about their partner.

Lesson Lovenotes: Teaching DADA Performance Art

One of the units in the NSW Year 11 Drama syllabus is called Theatrical Traditions and Performance Styles. I stumbled upon DADA when researching new and different styles to teach my student’s. There was something really wacky and totally left of centre that I liked about it. So I decided to create a mini unit as an introduction to theatrical traditions and performance styles.

I think DADA works well as an introductory unit for a number of reasons:

  1. It is simple for new and unfamiliar students of drama and
  2. It encourages random, spontaneous creativity and ideas because there is no right or wrong.

The thing I tend to find with most of my student’s, whether they have taken drama since Year 9 or coming fresh to the subject after not having done it in the junior school, is that the student’s ideas of what drama actually is and what it actually involves is very different to the reality of having to stand in front of an audience and perform. Somehow, they all seem to miss this rather important concept.

Thus, my daily challenge as a drama teacher is to try to make the classroom environment comfortable enough for the student’s so that they attempt a performance.

The difficulty with senior drama is that there is little time to indulge fears and boost confidences. You’ve got to be prepared to get up and perform no matter what. The difference in quality is often determined by whether or not a student took Drama in the junior school or whether they are in fact new to the whole subject. There tends to be a great divide in the classroom initially because of this. However, I think DADA fixes all of that.

Below is a list of strategies that I have used to teach my student’s about DADA. I think it links in well with the Theatre of the Absurd which is what I teach after this unit because it frees them of any fears they may have and helps to set a context that can be developed further through the Theatre of the Absurd. I hope you find them helpful.

  • Fruit Salad: This exercise can be used as a practical/experiential starting point to Dada.Give each student a small square of paper. Ask the student’s to think of their favourite fruit. They are not to tell anyone what their chosen fruit is. Ask the student’s to write down five words that they would use to describe their fruit. Have the students share their five words, one student at a time. Ask the student’s to then think of one movement or action that they can repeat over and over again whilst saying their words. With the teacher as facilitator, experiment with performing the sequence individually and then integrating different pairs together. At the conclusion of the exercise discuss what the student’s observed. If you get responses like “random”, “messy”, “weird”, “it didn’t make sense” then you’re on the right track.
  • Learn about DADAists: This can be used as a theoretical introduction to Dada. There is a fantastic site called the International Dada Archive created by the University of Iowa. I use the Online Bibliography link as a starting point to get student’s exploring what some of the Dadaists created. A lot of it is art and manifesto type stuff but you can use that as a starting point for discussion. It’s also good to get them to research the leaders of the movement. People like Hugo Ball, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara.
  • Get the student’s to watch some clips: I find this part of the mini-unit very important. Drama is visual so student’s need to see what these performances looked like. From there you can dissect them looking at things like the dramatic form, theatrical techniques and conventions used and elements of production used. Here a couple I’ve been using directly from YouTube:

Karawane – Dada Sound Poetry

Gadji Beri Bimba – Dada Sound Poetry

The ABC of Dada – A great three part video with a lot of background info, pictures and sound examples.

  • Do a voice workshop: A lot of the Dada performance work was nonsense, sound poetry. This part of the mini-unit is an excellent place to bring in some technique workshops looking at the role of voice and breath control, warming up the voice and face muscles and using that to manipulate and experiment with sound creating soundscapes, different moods and atmospheres using rhythm etc.
  • Create a mini-performance with costumes and all: What was unique about Dada was the way they produced their costumes. A lot of them used masks and cardboard for costumes. They looked childlike. I get my student’s to split into small groups and create their costumes using cardboard. They then can either manipulate their fruit salad sound poem, one of the ones they created during the voice workshop or something completely new. I give them a lesson to create their costume and a lesson to discuss and improvise and playbuild their performance. In the third lesson they perform for the class and feedback is given on each of the groups.

The mini-unit in its entirety should take no more than 3-4 75 minute periods.

Each of these exercises ties in really nicely with the elements of drama so before and after each exercise use the discussion time as a place to reflect on how these were all used.

Did you find this article helpful? Please leave your comments below.

Image Credits:

The Discreet Charm of The Bourgoiesie, DerrickT, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)