Students in Key Stage 2 and 3 may find it easier to take on a role and play with it, but many find it hard to take it to the next level and really get into character. So here are five suggestions of activities to help younger students to engage with creating a stronger character for performance.
Costume and props
There is just a wonderful connection between putting on a costume or using a prop and taking on a character. The dressing up box has long been a favourite place for a child’s imagination, and for good reason. Young children seamlessly and playfully shift between roles when dressing up in a costume. But there is room to work more focused here. Finding a piece of costume or a prop that has meaning and value to the character they are playing will help them find importance in their character. It will help them find a way of moving, of making gestures, facial expressions or even a voice that they can work on and develop further.
Hotseating is a classic activity, but often overlooked and not undertaken properly. The best hotseating is when everyone in the room has a role to play and a purpose to undertake, even those asking the questions. It is important, but not often adhered to, that the person in the hotseat must remain in role throughout. I think that that is paramount in hotseating with young children, that the information they create is done so from being in role – thinking and responding as the character would.
Writing in role
A great activity to do after hotseating, to take the experience and the created knowledge from that activity and place it into a piece of writing where the young person is also in role. Writing from their perspective. It works when there is a context, a purpose to the writing. Letters are often good because it can also be used to reveal the basis of the relationship the character has with whoever they are writing to.
Random tasks in character
A form of the Magic If in some respects, this is about taking the character that the student has created and using them in improvisation. Seeing how they would react in differing circumstances and situations.
During the scene you are working on, either devised or scripted, ask the students to freeze the action and reflect on what has been said and what they have done in character. Ask them to focus on a broad emotion that they think their character is feeling at that moment. Encourage them to say that emotion out loud in the voice that they think that emotion sounds (saying the word “sad” in a sad way for example). Then repeat the scene, asking them to say their lines in that same way until they feel their characters emotions have changed.