Drama Games and Metacognition

Drama Games have been the staple of the Drama lesson.

For a long time, drama games and warm ups have been a staple of Drama. Be that running workshops in Primary Schools. Teaching Drama in Secondary School or running weekend Drama sessions. drama games and warm ups have always been there. They are such a staple that I often get students asking when they line up for Drama, “are we playing a game today?”

But, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this, I’ve always felt uneasy about the use of Drama Games in my lessons. What message does it send to students? What about other staff and my leadership team? What do others think when the start of my lesson is playing Splat, Gatwick Airport or Follow Your Nose?

I am talking about drama games and not rehearsal strategies. Rehearsal strategies are something different. I am talking about games like Darts, Jump and Clap and Alphabet Improvisation. Activities and games that have no connection to the main activity of the lesson. Activities which are there to engage, energise and invigorate the students.

And in that definition is their purpose. They are there to help students to ‘warm up’. Not only their bodies but their minds, their engagement and their creativity.

Yet, I don’t think that that is enough. I don’t think that is a good enough way of justifying their existence in the lesson. Not against the wave of evidence for knowledge rich curriculum, lessons and activities.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition may provide the answer. It may provide the way to support the inclusion of drama games into lesson plans. Sitting alongside retrieval practice and deliberate practice.

Metacognition is often referred to as thinking about thinking. It is a process of self-reflection on the way you have learnt knowledge and/or used knowledge. It is also a process of considering how you might apply knowledge from one situation to another.

Using metacognition to improve the use of drama games.

Let’s think about this with a practical example. Take the game Odd places to start

This is an improvisation-based game. Working in pairs, students’ numbers themselves 1 and 2. The teacher then states in what positions the two students stand. For example, student 1 sits on the floor, with the legs and arms crossed and looking to the ground with a sad face. Student 2 then stands behind them, with their right arm pointing down towards them. The students then improvise a scene spontaneous, based on the way they are standing.

It is a fun improvisation game that helps students get creative, active and engaged.

Enjoy the game but know that there is more to get out of it once the game has finished. When they have completed it, ask the students to get all meta. Ask them to think about what factual knowledge (key terminology) they had to draw on to play the game. Ask them how they applied that factual knowledge to achieve the ends they wanted to achieve. Ask them if they completed the task to the best of their ability. Ask them what stopped them from doing it better. Ask them what procedural knowledge (performance skills, creativity, group work) they drew on. Ask them how they used this procedural knowledge to create the performance.

Get them to reflect on what knowledge they had to draw on from their memories. Ask them to reflect on how they applied that knowledge to create a performance.

Ask them to speculate on how they will use this information again, if called to do so. For example, in the next activity, the focus of the lesson or the rehearsal they are about to undertake.

Each purpose for each drama game you choose must link to the focus of the lesson. Through metacognition, we draw out learning  from the game and apply to the focus of the lesson.

Make sure that you’ve got a huge range of drama games that you can draw from. This way, each game is  played for specific purpose related to the focus of the lesson.

Also be pedantic on the role of the metacognition. You may imply that by playing the game you are encouraging an ensemble and group mindset. But don’t rely on that for every student in the room to understand it. Make it clear to them!


Browse the Drama Games available on Burt’s Drama.