Drama Workshop Ideas For Primary School Kids
Anyone who has ever developed a school musical or a youth production for a drama club will know that rehearsals tend to follow a rather standard format: warm-up, practise songs, work on staging/movement of songs, block a scene, finish with another song.
We feel compelled to struggle our way through the script, generally in chronological order, usually before children have learned their lines or have much awareness of the overall structure and storyline of the play.
However, with a little inventiveness, there are numerous alternative approaches which might add interest to rehearsals and depth to the final performance.
It’s All About The Characters
Great drama comes from great characters. When a child knows their character, they are much more likely to remember their lines. Lines comes about when a character makes a particular decision to say or do something, driven by something in their personality. Working on character development during a rehearsal may be time well spent in the long run. Try the activities below:
- Role Play/Improvise day-to-day situations in which pupils play their characters: kitchens, front gardens, street corners, railway stations, cafes, schools, doctors.
- Swapping characters – improvise scenes where everyone swaps their character with somebody else, allowing for observation of alternative means of portrayal.
- Explore character mannerisms – ask pupils to come up with three physical or vocal mannerisms which they feel are suitable for their role and which they can sustain throughout the performance.
- Beginning and end of each scene – actors decide exactly what their character has been doing immediately before the scene in question, and what they will do immediately following it.
- Backstories – these can be improvised with a partner and then delivered as a life-story monologue.
- Hotseating – an excellent exercise in which the group ask questions to an actor who must respond in a manner suitable to how their character would answer.
For more ideas like these for use in a classroom setting, see our blog on Classroom Activities For School Musicals.
Don’t Move A Muscle
Dividing a scene up into key moments and asking the group to create a tableau for each one is a great way to develop understanding of a scene whilst also aiding blocking. Ideally, rather than micro-managing every moment of a play, you want actors to have some flexibility of movement just as people do. Using tableaux in rehearsal is effective in providing some structure without stifling independence, not to mention helping to ‘chunk’ things into manageable units of action.
Marking The Moment
Most scenes in a school musical work towards a particular moment, be it a line, an action, an entrance or an exit. During rehearsals, it is useful to have this moment in mind and even to draw attention to it, aiding the performers in their recognition of the purpose of the scene. You could mark it with a momentary freeze, some music, some silence, particular lighting, or by how you position it in the space.
What Is Said And What Is Thought
If a scene only involves a few people, why not use some of those not performing to act as the subconscious of the characters. After each line is spoken, they outline what is really being thought (or unsaid) and the purpose of the line.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The …
Forum Theatre is a great way of keeping the whole group involved, even if they are not currently on stage. Rather than the director steering the scene, the pupils take over from within the audience, putting forward ideas and suggestions after each unit of dialogue.
To ensure that everybody in the group remains fully involved, you could even try this handy activity. Ask the performers to act out the scene, then invite every member of the group to stand in one of five lines providing specific feedback on what they have seen:
- Observe – make an observation to the actors about something one or more of them did which they may not have realised.
- Challenge – ask the actor if they can make it funnier, scarier, more exciting, more dramatic.
- Praise – give positive feedback about a particular thing somebody has done
- Try – request that an actor follows a specific suggestion, e.g. a particular movement or emphasis.
- Enquire – Ask an actor why they chose to speak or move in a particular way at a particular moment.
Once feedback has been given, re-run the scene and continue along the same lines until clear progress has been made.
The Line Is … Go Go Go
The success of a school musical is just as much about everybody knowing their lines as it would be in a straight play. As rehearsals edge into the final few weeks, try reading out particular lines from the show and asking anybody in that scene to take to the stage immediately and continue from that line onwards. Not only do the kids love the challenge of it, but the more you do it, the more everybody wants to ensure that they know their own lines.
And Finally …
Clearly there will be times when staggering through the musical, scene after scene, is the only course of action open to you. If this is the case, read up on how to make it as stress-free as you possibly can.
And if you purchase one of our school musicals, you may also wish to consider our drama workshops. Click here for more information: Workshops For Schools