Integrating Drama in the Elementary Classroom: Where Do We Begin?
In any arts integration initiative, it is vital students receive explicit instruction in the content and practices of the arts. This way, they learn to make natural connections across content areas in the classroom. Many elementary students are fortunate to have art and music time built into their schedules. However, drama classes are more difficult to find at the elementary level. So the question is: in order to effectively integrate drama into the curriculum, where will the explicit instruction of theatre arts come from?
How can we integrate drama into the classroom while providing some foundational skills and concepts in theatre arts?
Drama is a powerful tool. And in the absence of a drama program in the school, the rest of us should provide students access to the standards, skills, and concepts of this content area for their benefit. Through participation in theatre, students develop speaking and listening skills. Students collaborate with others in accomplishing common goals. Theatre arts promotes creativity in problem solving. Theatre games for kids stretch perspective by giving students opportunities to reflect on behaviors, situations, and personalities in the context of a drama. Drama allows students to demonstrate a deep understanding of pieces of literature. Why wouldn’t we want to leverage this amazing tool?
Though many classroom teachers do not have a drama teacher to collaborate with, drama is a natural place to begin arts integration. Regardless of your experience (or lack thereof) in theatre arts. Below I’ve compiled a list of a few strategies that I think are really effective for integrating drama in the classroom. Moving forward, we’ll look more closely at the national standards for theatre and how “non-drama” teachers can provide theatre instruction through arts integration to help students achieve those standards, but for now.
Here are a few easy theatre games for kids to get started:
Explain to students that all actors have five tools when creating a scene: voice, body, imagination, concentration, and collaboration. Have students stand in a circle for the Actor’s Toolbox warm-up (see script). Ask the students to experiment with each tool. After the warm-up, describe a scene in detail, including colors, characters, and setting. Once students picture the scene with their imagination tools, have them depict the scene using one of their tools in a frozen picture somewhere in the classroom.
Actor’s Toolbox Script: https://educationcloset.com/2013/05/31/actors-toolbox-script/
Students create a frozen picture using their bodies. When creating a tableau, students explore various levels (sitting, standing, kneeling), use different body parts, and collaborate with classmates to create a scene. This technique might be used to assess students’ comprehension of major plot points in a story and differing perspectives.
Students create a tableau based on a piece of literature. The teacher taps the shoulder of a student in the tableau to prompt them to share their character’s perspective. This can be used to allow the teacher to assess a student’s comprehension of character and plot.
Show students a piece of artwork, and ask them to choose a character or an object from the painting to imitate with their bodies in a frozen tableau. Once the students are frozen with the painting, walk around the room and select a student to describe their character and tell a story about what is happening. When that person is ready to pass the story onto someone else, they can tap them on the shoulder and take their place in the painting.
Groups read biographies from a historical period, noting important points (events, actions, scenes, lines of dialogue). Students plan a scene with their biography groups, focusing on actual words or an actual event from the biography. (Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts, Cornett).
How have you been integrating drama in the classroom?
Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: https://artsintersection.wordpress.com/