The Truth About Drama Exercises

RSCN0525         Annie & Helen

Here is the truth about drama exercises.

I go back to work this week–teaching that is. First, I have teacher work days to complete. They consist of lots of meetings and information, some useful and some not, and then time to plan and find inspiration to teach kids about theater.

However, I have taught theater for so many years (about 38), that I think I might be of more help to other drama teachers than to myself! In other words, I am nearly a walking textbook about drama education.  (I say nearly, because I always learn something new each year and that what keeps me going.)

Bumbling Bea

In Bumbling Bea, the Language Arts teacher is drafted to direct the annual school play in which Beatrice and Michiko desperately want to play the lead role.  Ms. Phillips is a nice lady and appears to be a good LA teacher.  I am not being disrespectful of LA teachers–they are vital to our student’s education. But she’s not a drama teacher. We are a rare breed. Drama teachers train specifically to instruct in the dramatic arts. We are few and far between. I am one of them.


Into the Woods  July 2004


So, knowing that drama teachers like myself are frantically searching for new ideas or sound practices in drama education, I thought I would list a few of my favorite exercises and activities for you!  Remember, I have taught drama since the late 1970’s–back when women wore short shorts called “hot pants”–a really long time ago.  I don’t always know where the games came from, but I will endeavor to give links if I can:

Games and Exercises

Hangman Charades–(up to 60 minutes) This is an excellent twist on two favorite games we all grew up playing.  It works with second through twelfth graders. It would be helpful to have a large white board or a chalkboard.  As the originator of the game states, the students get so involved playing the game they forget there are game points to accrue.  I highly recommend this game!  Link:

Alliteration Name Game–(5 to 10 minutes)  A wonderful warm up on the first day of classes or a workshop.  Many teachers play this game several ways.  My favorite version is to have the students say a word that begins with the first letter of their first name and then use the word to demonstrate about themselves.  For instance:  Dragon Debbie (I act like a dragon as I say “Dragon Debbie”). If this is a new drama class, this is a clever way to assess the group.  A teacher can see very quickly who listens to directions, who is comfortable performing, who is naturally creative, etc.  With the hesitant students, I ask the rest of the class to suggest words that the student could choose from to describe them.  Link:

One Word Story-(10 minutes) We play this game as a warm up when I teach a story telling unit, or we are killing time waiting backstage before our production begins, or we are hanging out at the end of the class period.  I like it because it takes no materials in order to play it.  Link:

Musical Hot Potato--(10 minutes) Upon searching for a link, I found that there is now an electronic game version of this available at Kmart and Amazon.  Sigh.  You don’t need ANYTHING fancy for this game–just an average sized rubber ball and some great music on a CD player.  I buy a lot of animated movie showtune CD’s.  My kids just love them.  It keeps me current and of course, it’s cool to them.  Link:

Please Don’t Take Me–I completely forgot about this exercise until recently. What a fun game! It takes no materials, children of any  school age can play it together (like a cast of multi-ages) or students of similar ages. The great part is that students don’t even realize they are practicing improvisation (a necessary skill for an actor). The game goes like this (or at least how we play it) — Select four to six students at random.

Tell them they are things in a particular place (amusement park, library, grocery store, etc.) They can’t be animals or people. Turn your back and count to ten. View the group as a whole, then go to each “thing” and ask them what they are and why they are important in the particular setting.  Over time, once everyone knows which things the students have become, the characters begin to debate between themselves who they think is more important. To keep the students (audience) engaged, I usually have them vote on who they think has done the best job of persuading us why their character is important. This is a riot and the students’ answers are usually very clever.

There you have it–the truth about drama exercises.  I hope these help you.  I have many more, but they will have to be posted in another blog on another day.  Have a happy school year!

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