Susan C. Anthony

Creative Drama in the Classroom

Children love to pretend. Here is some background on creative drama with easy ideas and activities to get kids started with informal dramatic interpretation.

History of Creative Drama

Drama and dance have existed throughout human history. It may be that there is an innate impulse in people to mime and play. This may include playing out feelings, pretending to be someone or something else, and worshiping or expressing religious feelings. Drama became structured in Ancient Greece, beginning with the creative playing of religious themes. Contests were held during religious celebrations. As the art of drama improved, individual playwrights emerged from the troupes of players. During the Middle Ages, drama was used as a vehicle for teaching religion. Most of the players in medieval plays were amateurs, people of the local community.

Creative drama is valuable for teaching both skills and concepts to young children. Children play naturally, and much of their learning in the early stages of life comes from this active vicarious experience.

Reasons for Using Creative Drama in Education

Social skills

  1. Children are rewarded for good and original ideas. A positive atmosphere is maintained, free from destructive criticism. Students gain confidence in themselves and their ideas.
  2. Social awareness is increased. By working with others and pretending to "be" others, a child can learn to understand himself and others and gain awareness of interactions between people and the effects of his actions upon others.
  3. Children often work in groups toward a common goal. This provides an opportunity for children to learn cooperation as well as leadership, followership, and discussion skills.
  4. Problem solving and resourcefulness are learned as children take what is available and use their imaginations to use what they have for a variety of purposes.
  5. Communication skills are emphasized in creative drama as children express themselves using voice, hands, face and body.

Individual Growth and Development

  1. Sense awareness is emphasized as children learn to relax and listen, look, feel and smell their environment. This can lead to an enhanced aesthetic appreciation of life.
  2. Creative drama helps develop motor skills and coordination.
  3. Concepts in many subjects can be demonstrated. For example, a group of children can create a "machine" with interrelated parts.
  4. Imagination and independent thinking are encouraged. Children are asked to think of a variety of ways to achieve the same goal.
  5. Creative drama is "fun". Children are more motivated to learn when at least a part of each day's learning is fun.
  6. Children are often restless. Creative drama can be a healthy release of tension as well as a way of working through problem situations by acting out different parts.
  7. Creative drama should lead to a greater appreciation of formal drama.

Stimuli

  1. Pretend to be a character. Take on his/her personality and style of speech.
  2. Wear a costume. Act and talk as you think a person wearing that costume would. Try to think like that person would think. Examples are a fur coat, a blanket, a scarlet cloak, hats, large pairs of boots, helmets, pairs of glasses, a false nose, an animal mask, a beard, wigs.
  3. View a picture, then act out what is shows. Pretend to be in the picture.
  4. Listen to a rhythm and make up a "dance" to that rhythm.
  5. Listen to music and move to match the music. If the melody is smooth, move smoothly. If it's jerky, make jerky movements.
  6. Listen to a story or an unfinished story and then act it out.

Some Specific Activities

  1. Carry on a "conversation" with another person using only that person's name. See how great a range of meaning you can communicate through voice inflection, facial expression and gestures.
  2. Choose a person to leave the room. The rest of the group stands in a circle. Choose a leader who begins and changes all movements. Everyone else should be aware of the leader but not look directly at him. Change movements when the leader does. Once everyone has the idea, call back the person who left the room. Ask him to stand in the middle and try to figure out who is the leader.
  3. Choose partners. Sit back to back on the floor, legs straight out in front. Interlock arms. Try to stand up together as a unit by pushing against each others' backs.
  4. Sit in a circle. Choose a conductor. Everyone create a sound and rhythm using hands, feet, voice, etc. in time to the conductor's leading.
  5. Shake hands quickly, slowly, gently, angrily, sadly, tenderly.
  6. Play artists and blobs. The artist forms his partner into some kind of statue. The blob relaxes as much as possible until the statue is formed, then tries to hold that pose.
  7. Sit in a circle. One person starts a sound. The next person picks it up and it travels around the circle so it becomes a ribbon of sound. Each person should pick it up and pass it on as quickly as possible. Transform it into another sound.
  8. Form a long chain holding hands. Designate a leader who goes in, around and under, taking everyone with him until a human knot is formed. Then, the leader retraces his steps and unties the knot.
  9. One person begins a mechanical movement. Another person attaches himself to it and adds a movement. Continue to add yourselves to the machine, using sounds and moving through space.
  10. One person goes to the front and begins an activity nonverbally. Others enter once they figure out what the first person is doing. Form a scene without words and let it play itself out.
  11. Use your bodies to build a house. Some people become the furniture, telephones, tables. Others live in the house. Then huff and puff and blow the house down.
  12. Form two teams. The first person in each line places an orange under his chin. On the word "go", pass the orange from person to person using no hands. The first team to pass the orange to the end of the line and back wins.
  13. Two partners share one pillow. Experiment with different ways of giving and taking the pillow. Make it something very valuable and precious. Make it something vile and distasteful. Make it very heavy. Make it light. Make it prickly. Pretend that it's a ticking bomb, an injured cat, a hot plate.
  14. Stage a sudden happening. Then have everyone describe exactly what happened in writing, giving as many details as possible. Compare the descriptions. Are they the same? Why not?
  15. Pair up. Look carefully at each other. One person closes his eyes while the other changes something, such as untying a shoelace. His partner opens his eyes and tries to identify the change. Reverse.
  16. Form two lines facing each other. The first two persons in each line begin a conversation. At any point, the person behind a speaker can tap him/her on the shoulder. That speaker then goes to the end of the line and the conversation continues between the new speakers at exactly the point it was interrupted.
  17. Make your hands take on different characteristics: nervous, greedy, flabby, magic, fierce, gentle, strong, frightened, etc.
  18. Pretend to fight in slow motion. Imagine that you are under water or in space. Imagine that you are wearing heavy armor. Use an imaginary long sword.

Ideas for Pantomime

You may wish to have small groups act out scenarios for each other with the audience guessing what is being portrayed. Actors should brainstorm details and ideas beforehand. Some possibilities are included below.

  1. Buying shoes, hats, food, a car.
  2. Going on a bus journey.
  3. Making a telephone call.
  4. Watching TV.
  5. Felling trees.
  6. Spending a day at the beach. Contrast a hot day with a cold or wet day.
  7. Spring cleaning.
  8. Helping a blind person.
  9. Shipwreck.
  10. Family car ride (flat tire, something left at home).
  11. Trip to the zoo.
  12. Going out into the snow.
  13. Having a picnic (maybe cows arrive unexpectedly)
  14. Walking in the country (rainstorm).
  15. Working in a factory.
  16. Going on a train journey (lose ticket).
  17. Flying a kite (tangled in a tree or lost).
  18. A tour guide and sightseers.
  19. A misunderstanding or quarrel.
  20. A difficult interview.
  21. Interviewing a famous person.
  22. A deep sea diver meets trouble.
  23. Putting up a tent in calm or stormy conditions.
  24. Having a nightmare.
  25. Smelling smoke and discovering a fire.
  26. Making an escape.
  27. Turning into robots.
  28. Exploring a new land.

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