dramaEveryone likes drama. No, not the kind of drama that happens on Monday nights during “The Bachelor” (I know I have better things to do, it’s just that or “Hoarders” at the gym). People enjoy the kind of drama that holds your attention – the kind that makes you gasp, laugh, cry and smile.

Students are no different. Ask them what their favorite show or movie is, and why. When asked why, no one is going to say the dull plot. Theatrical elements are riveting; they command attention. Try just raising your voice or popping into a loud whisper.  You’ve got them in a moment.

Educational Theatre has been a rapidly growing Masters Program in NYC. Whether it be due to the large amount of defunct actors or the innovative educational system, there are a lot of people getting degrees that focus on how to incorporate theatre into classroom learning. Without going back to school again, there are a few easy ways to make the magic of the stage happen in your classroom.

First of all, drama does not need to be the focus of the lesson. It could be as simple as using activities that involve imagination to inspire creativity. Visualization is one of the first thing actors figure out how to do. Ever wonder how some of them cry? Thinking of a sad time. Smile? Remembering an amazing moment. So why not start a class with ‘Viewpoints’.  It’s as simple as asking students to begin walking around the room in a normal state, then offering suggestions. Say things like, ‘imagine yourself on the coldest day of the year’ or ‘happiest day of your life’ or ‘walking through jello.’ The sky is the limit for the suggestions, and they have to change how they are moving and standing depending on how they interpret the suggestion. By opening their imaginations, you open creativity and exploration.

History is full of drama – and photographs that can be better interpreted and understood with theatrical based activities. Tableau-Vivant.  Tableau is simple – ask the students to take positions of people in the work. As they hold the position, two things can happen. The teacher or student can read text that is appropriate to the moment, whether it be actual historical accounts or another appropriate text.  A reflection is helpful to discuss what it felt like to ‘be’ in those positions: what thoughts went through their minds, what emotions they had. The other route involves a bit of creative license – begin in the same manner and have them both create the dialogue and the moments before and after, based on what they know and the poses. Reflect on the why – what evidence led to the decisions made.

Finally, improv. As a working improviser, I’m a firm proponent of using improv games in the classroom. Aside from helping with the fear of failure, it builds confidence in students and teachers and creates a flexibility in teaching and learning. It improves focus, specificity and speaking skills. It also makes us all around nicer people if we ‘yes, and’ opinions and information. The idea of ‘no buts’ can help with argumentative individuals along with negativity.  Have the students start a one sentence at a time story – everyone must take the sentence they just heard and ‘yes, and.’ Repeat the information and add to it – this will begin to focus listening as well as teamwork.

These are just a few ways to incorporate drama into a classroom – there are countless. Get up, get your class moving and try something new this week. Taking a chance and possibly failing or possibly achieving greatness is far better than never trying and never having a chance at that beautiful ‘ah ha!’ moment.

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