A Guide to Teaching Drama Part 4 - Your First Session

Guide to Teaching Drama

How do I teach a five year old to get inside the head of a character?

How do I get a class of children to think about their physicality and use that to present a different emotion/mood/age?

How can I encourage them to speak clearly?

Full disclosure: There is no single, immediate answer to any of these questions. Instead, there are different components of drama which can be combined, structured and explored accordingly, session-by-session, to aid your students in creating the answers themselves. Plus, it’s super fun!

For Part 4 of our Guide let’s take a look at the purpose of nine of the most important components before downloading the resource attached to look at how each of these can be put into practice for EYFS/KS1 and KS2.

1. Breath

To make a variety of sounds safely - and in drama, it’s not always just words we’re voicing - we must first know how to utilise our breath. At an early stage this will involve exploring simply how we can breathe differently. Developing further, students can explore control of their breathe and gain a stronger physiological understanding.

2. Voice

You want your students to be heard when performing! And this doesn’t simply mean “Louder!”. Establishing the different vowel and consonant sounds, and ways in which to move the mouth will help pronunciation, enunciation and clarity. From there, exploring pitch and stress will help students create voices for characters.

3. Physicality

Students must first understand how their own body works before trying to recreate another. Take the time to explore student’s current physical abilities before encouraging them go further. This is especially important with EYFS and KS1 students who will still be discovering their gross and fine motor skills.

4. Coordination

This is a test of the brain as much as the body and introduces the idea of performing more than one task at a time. When performing in a play, actors will need to think of the three previous points (breathe, voice and physicality) as well as costume, props, set, other actors, cues and the audience! That’s a lot to be dealing with and so you’d better get training now!

5. Speed / Reaction time

This can involve either verbal or physical reaction. Either way it trains actors to respond quickly and appropriately to various, and varying, stimuli when performing; different actors, a forgotten cue, a wrong line, a wrong move etc. It is also key when asking students to come up with their own ideas and create their own stories and/or scenes. Say goodbye to that mind-numbing “Uuuuummm….”.

6. Memory

Hopefully this one’s fairly self-explanatory. Remembering lines, cues and places! Train your students’ memory so they can begin to manage themselves as performers, instead of you having to repeatedly remind them! (Win, win!)

7. Creating characters

Utilising breath, voice and physicality that you will have identified, here you can really start to have fun with them!

How high can your voice go? Who talks like that?

How slowly can you speak? Who speaks like this?

Can you walk leading with your knees? Now, with your hips? Who might walk like this?

Exploring individual elements in turn, and then simultaneously as students progress, builds new-found characters which can then be applied to stories, scenes and scripts!

8. Exploring emotions

With younger students this will be identifying different emotions in context and recreating them appropriately. Progressing further, students can apply these different emotions to dialogue and scenes to explore alternative versions of the same situations.

How many different ways can “Romeo. Romeo. Where for art thou Romeo?”  be said (happy, angry, sad, dreamy?), and which one is right for your student and their Juliet?

9. Collaboration

Last but certainly not least, collaboration is key. Students must be able to work together as students before expected to perform together as characters. Not only does this create a sense of trust, safety and later camaraderie, but it always makes for a more enjoyable performance in the end. A cast that works well together, performs well together!

Remember - you can mix and match these components as you see fit. Though I would recommend always including Breath and Voice to start a session, omitting sections and reordering others is entirely up to you!

Itching to try this for yourself? Download the resource below for exercises for the first 8 of these components, for EYFS, KS1 and KS2:

And that’s a wrap! Remember, you can also book a drama workshop for your Primary School with a West End in Schools expert facilitator. Sessions include Shakespeare, poetry, contemporary fiction, and fairytales.

- Sarah

More from A Guide to Teaching Drama:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3