Drama Games for the Introvertive Student
Is that possible? Drama students can be shy? I know it’s tough to believe, because we are a noisy bunch.
For various reasons, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Recently, I read a post from a teacher lamenting about this on a Drama Teachers Group Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/groups/161102463965487. Her shy students wouldn’t budge from their seats no matter what she tried–and these were fifth and sixth graders.
What Do You Do with Reluctant Students?
After teaching for thirty-eight some years, I have taught all types of students from the most enthusiastic class to the smallest and most shy.
Do you need help?
Like adults, students are primarily afraid of the unknown. Aren’t we all? I’ve had adults who desperately want to participate in a play but scare themselves off before they even sign up for an audition. Students might have older siblings telling them embarassing stories about their experiences in a dama class. Or they’ve seen bloopers on youtube and put themselves in place of the performers and suddenly “everyone” sees the mistakes. Little do they know the performers actually shared their bloopers for the express purpose of getting likes. You never know what your students think a drama class looks like.
My advice is to dispel any myths about drama class which they might have accepted as truth. Myths of drama class are: we always act, lines must always be memorized, classmates will laugh and ridicule our performance, we will be asked to do something embarassing, etc. Students worry about their image at all times whether they are in a drama class or in the hallway. The last thing the teacher wants to do is feed that anxiety.
The best way to de-mystify their worries is by starting very slowly. Use drama games and exercises in which everyone can have success. Or if that seems too much for them, start with technical theater lessons first.
Games for Shy Students
Here are a few of my go-to games for the introvertive or reluctant student:
- “Alliteration Name” Game--A lot of teachers use this game, however in drama class, we are a bit more expressive. I expect students to come up with word which describes you realistically or unrealistically. They must add a gesture of some kind and they can choose the rate of delivery for the line (fast or slow), add an accent and certainly choose some emotion to convey through the line. I demonstrate first that gives the students an example of what their interpretation should look like. If a student is stumped when their turn comes up, I direct them and even demonstrate an idea. Usually, that’s all the reluctant needs. Once they have a little success with the exercise, they see where they can fit into the class.
- “Copy Me”–I like this game because it’s a simple premise: the student copies the tone, inflection and body position of the person before them. Then they do their own version of the same line. Suddenly, the worry about performing is minimized. How hard is it to imitate someone? We do it all the time whether we realize it or not. We pick up vocal inflections, a person’s delivery and even their gestures. Think you don’t? Have you ever mocked someone or demonstrated to someone how something was said to you? Yup.
More Games and Exercises for Shy Students
- “This is not a hanger”--This exercise relies on a person’s imagination, however the challenge is very focused. We just come up with something which is the same shape as a hanger. It could be large (pyramid) or small (earring), used (an iron) or enjoyed (a martini.) You do need a hanger for the students to see. Go around the class and when they are ready to particpate, instruct them to say, “This is not a hanger, it’s a _____________.” There is only one rule– once that thing is suggested, no one can suggest it a second time.
- “Lean and Leave”–This exercise strengthens the imagination and uses the body for demonstration. Person A pretends to lean on something such as a wall and must be able to hold the position indefinitely. Person B goes to Person A and leans against Person A in some particular way. (For instance, if Person A is pretending to lean on a wall with one hand, Person B might rest their elbow on the back of Person A. Person A asks Person B, “Are you ready?” because Person B must be able to lean indefinitely without Person A there. Person A steps away. Person C goes to Person B and leans against them in another unusual way (for instance, they lean with their back against Person B). Person B asks the same question of Person C and so forth. Everyone can participate in this exercise. It’s very engaging and different. I always challenge students to lean on different planes—high, medium or low, or putting their feet up on the other person and so on. I’m known to instruct the new leaning person to turn his head or bend an arm to show the difference in the look—just like those sculpture people.
- “Tableau”–Any student can have success with tableau. It takes very little investment on the part of the student. Students work in a group (that’s a real plus), they choose a story to demonstrate (for instance they show the beginning of the story, its middle and end) and there are no spoken lines. Ultimately, they merely freeze in place as part of the tableau. If the students are feeling more comfortable, take this exercises a little farther by tapping each student and allowing them to say something as the character. Again, keep it nice and friendly.
Where to Go From Here?
If you are seeking more advice from an experienced drama teacher and director, read some other posts of mine:
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Need a lesson you can use tomorrow, check out this one Drama Class: A Playwriting Unit or How to Help Your Students Feel Seen