Drama may well be considered a low-priority subject by our current government, but there’s no reason why your students should feel the same way.
Although it may well have a reputation amongst teaching communities as the subject that is more prone to cow shy students than encourage them, I’ve found that with the right techniques, you can turn the ‘doss class’ of the week into an inspiring hour-long session of productivity.
Handled properly, a Drama class can bring the quietest of students out of their shells and into the spotlight. Handled haphazardly and you risk giving your students a weekly hour of carte blanche to do as they please – wrecking their chances of continuing the subject.
So, just how can you keep your class focused and attentive during, what can often be, the most relaxed time of the week – the dreaded Friday afternoon period?
When a student steps into the Drama learning space for the first time, they are usually dazzled by the starkly furnished space and surprised by the dark black of the walls.
These markers tell the intuitive child that they are entering a very different learning experience and that they should alter their behaviour accordingly.
It’s up to you, the Drama practitioner, to guide them into the suitable avenues of behaviour and to encourage them to channel the novelty of the scenario into creative movement and expression.
The lack of tables and chair may well intimate a void of order to the students, but you can quickly assert this by gaining the upper hand in the relationship. Having the students seated on the floor, whilst you orate to them, is a great way to assert dominance and instate a teacherly aura. This will remind them that this is still a traditional class like any other.
When it comes to rehearsing and improvising small performance pieces, it’s imperative that you emphasise the pressure of performing.
Although it might well feel like the best way to dissuade more reserved students from participating – this will, on the whole, have a positive effect on your class room.
Knowing that they will soon have to perform in front of their peers, students will be encouraged to make the most of their rehearsal time – instead of using it as a time to socialise. A solid work ethic can be instilled in students by fostering an element of competitiveness that is inherent within every child’s psyche.
Most children yearn to be the ‘class clown’: a lively character that carefully treads the line of decent behaviour and somehow manages to entertain the whole classroom, teacher included, without disturbing the flow of the lesson. A drama lesson is the opportunity for every child to have their chance to play this character – giving them the time and space to rehearse their lines and hone their timing.
The simplest of jokes can often land with the most impact when they are performed by students who prefer to stay silent throughout traditional lessons.
These unsung heroes get a much needed self-esteem boost in these moments, opening their minds up to the idea of performing again as well as raising their confidence in communicating more with their peers.