One of the things I love about teaching Drama is that every lesson is different. Even if you repeat the same lesson with another class or year group, everything is different. The reactions are different. The interpretations are different. The performance work is different. What I like the most about this is that most often, it is completely unpredictable how different each students responses are.
But after teaching for so long, there are things that I have found to be the most important in teaching and planning a Drama lesson. Some I’ve only recently found, some I’ve been doing for years without having a ‘proper’ name for it and some I’ve been just doing since I started many years ago.
Here are my five must haves in every Drama lesson.
This is one I’ve been doing for years but didn’t have a proper name for it. These need to be quick questions designed to draw the relevant knowledge from the schema of the learners into focus, ready to be used in the lesson. It’s important that you make sure you explain how this prior knowledge is going to connect to this lesson. Read about how to develop retrieval practice in your lessons through entrance and exit tickets.
Ever since my first lesson, I’ve been keen to make sure that every lesson has a warm up. That doesn’t mean I always got it right. Making and performing Theatre is a physical activity and therefore we need to physically warm up the muscles involved for voice and movement. But warm ups serve more than that. They serve as a transition into the active endeavour of making Theatre. They help to focus learners minds and aid engagement. They are also an opportunity to develop metacognition.
Metacognition 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. Therefore, each purpose for each Drama game you choose must link to the focus of the lesson and through metacognition, we draw out learning from the game and apply it to the focus of the lesson. Read more about the relationship between metacognition and drama games here.
It is important that we set our levels of expectation high and challenge the learners to complete the work to a level which is above and beyond them. In any task you are looking for depth of understanding as well as skilful application of knowledge. But it is also our job to engage with every learner and have a dialogue with them to help them achieve the high standard you have set. Read more about setting more stretching and challenging activities here.
Giving learners the opportunity to be able to reflect on their progress and their needs can be an immensely powerful tool in learning. Providing the learner with a sense of autonomy over their work helps them to be empowered to make further improvements in their work without waiting for intervention from the teacher. Imagine the feeling that power must be like for a young person. To be able to evaluate your progress, to analyse it and identify what needs improving AND have the power to then implement that improvement without having to seek approval or help from the teacher. Read more about how to make students self assessment work.
Finally, giving feedback for improvement is the most important element of a successful lesson. Your feedback to the students practical and written work is singularly the most important element to their progression and improvement in Drama. But keeping track of verbal feedback can be hard. Post-it note feedback can be an excellent approach to help your students keep track of your feedback to them. Read more about how to use Post-it notes as a way of keeping track of verbal feedback.