A classic Drama lesson with fun activities, engaged students and active learning
Equipment: A space without tables, chairs, stage lights and sound system optional.
- 1 Cup of Engaging Material
- 1 Cup of Engaging activities (that have been linked)
- 1 Large Cup of Pace
- A dash of Music (optional)
- A dollop of Performance
- A squeeze of chance
- A small teaspoon of self or peer assessment.
You will also need some strong and well established routines to use to bind these ingredients together with.
- Begin with some really engaging material that your students will enjoy. You want something that will challenge them on some level, be that emotionally, politically or socially. The material will need to be something that they can spend a long time on, especially if they are going to create a full performance from it. Even if it is a one off lesson, it needs to be something that they will want to explore and find out more about. The three most popular subject areas over the last few years for me has been Blood Brothers, Persecution and DNA.
- Once you’ve got your engaging material and you yourself have got a strong idea of it and its potential then you need to break it up into meaningful and engaging experiences. It doesn’t matter if it is a stand along lesson or a series of lessons, every lesson experience must be a complete journey from the start to the end where everything the student does within it is linked. Even simple rehearsal lessons might start with a character development exercise from which you ask the students to use the knowledge gained from it to add to or change an aspect of their performance. Make sure that nothing in the lesson is on its own, unattached and has no obvious way of connecting to the journey of the lesson.
- Next bind the activities and the engaging material together with plenty of pace. Break the activities down into meaningful chunks of time – 2 minutes to create a still image or 10 minutes to rehearse this element of the performance or 20 minutes before you share your work. In Key Stage 3 I take this to the extreme and give them 10 seconds to move from class discussions to small groups. A sense of pace creates a sense of anticipation, which in turn creates an engagement and excitement.
- Into that mixture of activities and engagement delivered with pace add, if you want to, some music to keep things moving at a comfortable pace. I personally like to add music to smaller classes as it can hide the gaps in conversation and help students to think. I use particular types of music for different activities, different topics and even different times of the day (a upbeat dance track helps students over the lunch time lull).
- Add into the lesson an element of performance, which could come in any form whether it is a full sharing with the teacher, peer-to-peer performance or still images in the starter. Performance helps to not only give the lesson a focus but also gives the students some focus too. Performing still images (or something similar) at the start of the lesson reminds them the importance of performance and how to treat it properly and respectfully. Aiming for a performance at the end gives the lesson purpose and a sense of direction. It also gives the students ownership over their work.
- Then add an element of chance into the lesson. Have a no-hands up rule for questioning but have a way of selecting students which is random (or appears to be random). Do a similar thing for selecting who will perform in each lesson.
- The penultimate step is to add some self or peer assessment into the lesson. There is a variety of different ways of doing this from formal peer assessment with appropriate paperwork to quickly establishing some goals at the start of the lesson and asking the students to self-assess their work against those goals before performing. The lesson needs to finish with some kind of plenary that allows the students to know how far they’ve travelled in their understanding and, if applicable, where they need to go next.
- Finally mix this all up with your routines and favourite ways of working. For instance all my GCSE classes have entry music – which is the theme tune to the old Magnificent Seven film with a little physical warm up whilst I explain what is going to happen today. Well established routines are the things that students strive for and love the most.
Bake for anytime between an hour to two hours depending on the lesson time available to you.
Always take a moment to step back from the lesson whilst it is happening to appreciate how hard the students are working and how engaged they are.
Differentiation can be a real sticking point in Drama lesson. I will say that differentiation by outcome is an acceptable thing and very common in Drama lessons. It is very hard to differentiate some activities, especially when they are practical and involve the whole class. There is always differentiation by grouping or level of challenge within an activity which you could try.