Myself and Clara have just completed our first full week of drama lessons with the kids so I thought i'd share what exactly we did with them and why these exercises worked.
We both agreed that first and foremost we should get to know the children in order to alleviate any shyness and to really make them feel comfortable and at ease.
We wanted to get to know our students' names (there's nothing worse than standing and looking at a child whilst shouting 'you' or 'oi!) and get to know a bit about them and what they like.
Here's a selection of the most effective exercises we played in the 'introduction week' -
Name Game 1 - Stand in a circle. One person says the name of another person and walks towards that person to stand in their space. Before they have reached that person, the new person must do the same thing - say another person's name and walk towards them. It is a very good exercise for concentration and I personally found it the best way to learn names :)
Variations - have people 'out' if they hesitate, say 'ummmm', or fudge up!
- shout an emotion and they must move across the person and say the person's name with this particular emotion
Name Game 2 - Prison Break - Half the students sit on a chair with someone stood behind them. 'Prisoners' are sat on the chairs, and the 'guards' are behind them. One chair is empty and has a guard stood behind it. The idea is that the guard keeps the chair occupied at all times. In order to 'gain' a prisoner he/she simply shouts the name of a prisoner and that prisoner runs to the empty chair without their guard catching them. To catch - guards cannot move their feet. They must stand at all times with their hands behind their backs, when their prisoners' name is called they can try to grab them with their hands, but without moving their feet. This game is more enjoyable for younger students :)
Getting to know them game - Each person would mime an action of their favourite hobby with a distinctive sound effect. After taking it in turns presenting their action and sound to the rest of the group, one person starts by 'passing' an action to someone else (they simply do someone else's action and sound, that particular person acknowledges this by subsequently doing someone else's action and sound...). The idea is to keep it fast-paced.
Variation - move on to doing the sounds only
After knowing their names and a little bit about them we would spend about 5 - 10 minutes playing running games, such as stuck in the mud or tag. A particularly good variation of tag is Clara's sheep and wolf game -
Sheep and Wolf - All the 'sheep' stand at one end of the room with a wolf in the middle. All the sheep must get to the other side of the room without being caught by the wolf - if they do get caught they become wolves themselves.
These running games acted as a good 'break' between the other exercises which required a lot of focus and concentration. After the running, we would play some circle games, such as 'SPLAT!', and 'Zip zap zop'. My favourite variation of Zip zap zop is a game I learnt on a clown course in London in which a clap is passed around. To send it in the opposite direction someone shouts 'Ha!' at the person who just sent them the clap, etc, etc. We started playing this with some basic instructions, the main idea being speed and focus.
Actually, anyone can make up their own variation of this game. In England I would play the Eastenders version (passing an aggressive 'Oi' around the circle, 'Get outta my pub' to skip a person, 'You ain't my Mother' across the circle.... all with exaggerated east London accents). A variation a colleague taught me is played with a southern American accent, passing a 'Yeeha' around the circle, 'haybarn' skips a person, etc etc.
We would then do some more 'serious' activities with either 'Wink Murder' (although I don't think this was understood as a successful game was never actually played) or a miming game using some picture cards we have. We would select students to mime as many words from the cards as possible in 1 minute.
To end we would play sleeping lions which I think worked really well provided they understood that touching a lion was cheating!
Sleeping Lions - There is one 'hunter' and the rest are 'lions' who are asleep on the floor. The hunters must make a lion move (laughing and smiling counts as moving) WITHOUT touching them. When a lion moves he/she becomes a hunter.
What I love about this game is that there's that awkward moment when a hunter realises it's not so easy to make the lion move and they have to think up ingenious ways to do so. This encourages creativity, but most of all, silliness! I think the sillier you can behave in order to get the lion to move, the more fun is had, the more the student is playing and coming out of their shell.
All in all it was a very successful week and I think our lesson plan worked perfectly.
For the next week we will do something similar as we feel it is important to get to know the students a bit more. We will probably keep the same structure but with different exercises.
** Luckily with drama you can use most of the same games and exercises with all ages, no matter how 'silly' they are! So we were able to use the same general plan for all ages. **