Following on from Drama with children1 here are a few suggestions that will help you integrate drama into your classroom. Many of the activities are non-verbal but can be adapted at a later stage.
- To put the learners at ease.
- To generate ideas and encourage imagination
- To introduce adjectives to describe characters
- 5 upwards
- Cut up squares of paper
- Soft classical music or sounds of waves for visualisation
Although you may at first ask what mime is doing in an English class where you are practising language, you should quickly understand the benefits that silent imitation can have for your class and how language can be generated from mime.
- Charades. On small pieces of paper write a range of verbs or any other language that you have been practising in class. Put the class into two teams. One person from each team comes and looks at a randomly picked paper and then acts out the word(s) to his team. The first team to guess what is on the card wins a point. You put the class into teams so that the shy children don’t have to perform in front of the whole class. This isn’t about making them feel embarrassed. You can always make sure that these children get the easier words to act out so that they participate and help the class generate some English without having a hard time.
- Scenes. Put the class into groups and give each group a handful of small pieces of paper upon which you have previously written places. i.e. a bedroom, school, the beach, the market, a mountain… As a group they have to mime the scene for the rest of the class to guess. Whoever guesses correctly where the scene is acts out the next scene with their group. The class can later choose their favourite places and create a scenario based on one or two of the settings.
2. Body language
Using their imagination is something that lots of children find easy and fun but sometimes they need a helping hand, especially when you want them to be creative in another language. Try using visualisation as a means of concentration, generating ideas and creating bodily awareness.
- Get everyone to put their head on the table and close their eyes. If you have a small enough class and a large enough space you could do this activity lying down. Check with the teacher first though.
This works better with slightly older children (7 upwards). You may have to pre-teach key words although it’s not essential that they understand everything. The main objective here is for them to imagine a scene n their heads, to relax and to concentrate. In a very slow, soft voice say the following sequence adapting it for your learners;
- You are on a beach.
- You are lying down in the sand.
- It is very very hot.
- It is very very quiet.
- You can only hear the waves quietly splashing.
- Touch the sand with your hands.
- Touch the sand with you fingers.
- Touch the sand with your feet.
- Touch the sand with your toes.
- You are feeling very very tired.
- Your head is heavy.
- It is very very hot.
- It is very very quiet. …
- …Slowly open your eyes and slowly sit up.
You can carry on adding simple sentences of your own. Keep it slow and quiet.
Once you’ve finished the class can draw a picture of the scene they had in their head.
This is about getting the children to use the language they already have at their disposal and being creative with it. This is best done in groups or pairs.
- Active improvisation. Give the whole class the same theme. It should be one that is familiar to all the children for example; having a family meal, first day at school, going to a football match…
- Put the class into groups of four. Give them a time limit of ten minutes by which time they must create a short scene based on the given theme. They decide who plays who and they decide if it’s funny or serious. They decide what they say. The only rules being that they must all say at least two lines and they can ask you for help three times. If you have a large class you may want to limit this to twice.
- They should then perform their sketches to the rest of the class.
- As a follow up they could vote on their favourite sketch, obviously not being allowed to vote for their own, and then discuss, act out, or write the script for the chosen sketch.
- Passive Improvisation. This is great for very young learners. You tell a simple story to the children and they act it out as you say it. There need to be loads of simple actions in the story that they will understand and will be able to perform easily. You are working on their listening skills as well as their ability to play at 'let's pretend'.
4. Developing characters
You can use your puppets here with each child using their own again and again. Using puppets will help the younger children 'becoming' a character.
- Ask the class, while holding their puppets, to make their puppets look happy.
- Then ask them to make the puppets look sad. Each time you demonstrate not only with the puppet but by also using your face and body to express the different emotions.
- Then introduce character descriptions such as old, young, angry, shy. You will need to be standing to fully show these different descriptions. Once the class have got the idea you can ask volunteers to demonstrate the character to the class and eventually when you say a word the whole class makes their puppet do the action or be the character in their own way. You should only intervene if you see someone obviously misunderstanding a word and confusing 'sad' with 'happy' but otherwise let the children be imaginative.
- Move on to actions like eat, sleep, run and work your way up to telling a story with the class acting it out.
For children who can write and have learnt English for a couple of years you can get them to write their own scripts at home or in groups in the class. Whatever you decide to do with them you should always incorporate what they do at home into the following class. They don't have to perform everything to the whole class however. If time is restricted then split the class up into pairs where they show each other what they've done and you circulate and oversee what they're doing.
The following links are sample pages from the excellent resource book Drama with Children written by Sarah Phillips
http://www.oup.com/pdf/elt/catalogue/0-19-437220-0-a.pdf introduction on why and how to use Drama with children
http://www.oup.com/pdf/elt/catalogue/0-19-437220-0-b.pdf acting out a poem
http://www.oup.com/pdf/elt/catalogue/0-19-437220-0-c.pdf telling a story with stick puppets
http://www.teachit.co.uk/pdf/games.pdf a whole host of warm up and cool down drama games
http://www.articlesforeducators.com/general/000011.asp a story to tell to your class where they act out what you say
By Jo Bertrand