1. Oral interpretation of a poem. Select a poem or short excerpt from a story or novel and plan an oral interpretation of that text. Determine the meaning you want to convey through your pacing, emphasis, rhythm, tone, sounds, and nonverbal cues. Then, perform your oral interpretation for your class or create a video of your performance to be shown to the class. Garner some responses regarding the meaning that was conveyed through your performance to determine if the conveyed meaning matches your intended meaning.
2. Storytelling. This storytelling activity was developed by Sarah McArdell Moore, Madison, Wisconsin. Chose a partner, tell them a story—any story, something that is comfortable for you. Topics could be a childhood memory, an apology, a surprise, a recent challenge, or any number of things. Give the story a beginning, middle and end, give it details. Each person will have 3-5 minutes. After both people are finished give the students 5 minutes to write down the other persons story. Now tell the person back their own story.
3. Warm-up activities. It is always important to include warm-up activities when engaging in drama activities to help group members achieve a comfort and trust level in doing activities together. Go to these or other Web links for this chapter and find some warm-up activities:
The following are some warm-up activities developed by Sarah McArdell Moore, Madison, Wisconsin
I Come From
Go around the circle several times with each person saying their name and completing the phrase “I come from.” This is a game to start exploring all the places we come from – physical, emotional, geographic, spiritual, all the experiences and ideas that create us as individuals. For example:
I come from the South,
I come from a spiritual father,
I come from hope for the future,
I come from being tired out,
I come from a small house with only one bathroom
I come from feeling impatient,
I come from art
After students are comfortable with the game and you have gone around the circle a number of times, stop and ask students to answer the question “I Come From” in their portfolio. Give them just a few minutes, and then go around the circle verbally one more time. Repeat some form of this activity each day. Ask students to keep all their “I Come From” statements together. Their responses to all writing activities in this unit be collected in their portfolios, turned in at the end of the unit and returned later in the semester. Writings will not be graded.
Energy & Focus Work
These activities-games are primarily designed to create “safe space” where students can have an open and honest dialogue. As in all the games in this unit, the activities have clear boundaries and tasks. These activities promote positive group dynamics; they are “getting to know each other” games. They prepare students to move ahead into deeper work that requires more focus and attention.
Every one stands in a circle around one person who stands in the middle the object of the game is for 2 people in the circle to silently signal each other to switch places. The person in the middle tries to get to get to an open spot before the switchers. The person left takes the spot in the middle. This is a silent game.
Everyone stands in a circle and tosses and object they can find that aren’t sharp or breakable in the center. Spread the objects around so that the whole center is evenly covered. A volunteer closes their eyes. The rest of the group, using only their voices, tries to direct the volunteer to the space directly across from them in the circle without hitting any of the objects in the “minefield.”
Devising Role-Play Activities
Select a scene in a text or an issue portrayed in that scene. Based on a conflict or tension portrayed in the text or related to the issue, create a role-play with four roles, one for each member of a peer group, including yourself. Try to build the situation around a conflict or tension that will serve to perpetuate the role-play. This can involve:
- the characters themselves having to cope with a problem or make a decision related to an event in the text or some hypothetic event.
- the characters coping with other new characters that you import from other texts, totally new characters, historical figures, celebrities, etc.
- a similar situation or predicament involving new “real world” roles that you create—for example, for Holes, a teacher makes her students stand next to a whiteboard with their noses on the whiteboard.
- a game, contest, or reality-TV drama (current or historical) in which students assume roles related to the themes or issues of the text.
Example: to examine the issue of gender and power in a text. Mike and Sally, of Minneapolis, are visiting with Joe and Jane in their home, in Seattle. Sally has just received an offer at a large firm in Seattle where Jane works. Joe, a close friend of Mike’s, misses the cold weather in Minnesota and wants to move back to Minneapolis. Mike has just received a promotion at his firm in Minneapolis. Mike and Sally must decide on what to do: move to Seattle or stay in Minneapolis; Joe wants Mike to stay in Minneapolis and Jane wants Sally to move (these characters serve to push the conflict.)
Specify the nature of the 4 roles: what are the traits, attitudes, typical behaviors, and agendas for each role—give names. You can either verbally tell each student this information so that everyone knows. Or, you can tell each one separately or provide the information on slips of paper so that others do not know. Then, perform the role-play. At the completion of the role-play, step outside of your roles and discuss the following:
- How did I feel in this role—powerful/weak, confident/anxious, active/passive, etc?
- What were my perceptions of others’ roles—their traits, behaviors, agendas?
- What kinds of language were used to create these roles?
- What were the conflicts/tensions in the role play? Were these conflicts/tensions resolved or not?
- How was the role-play similar or different from the original text?
- What did you learn from the role play that helped your further understand the text?
For an example of this activity with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, see:
4. Create a drama adaptation. Working as a pair, select a scene or scenes in a story or novel or an entire story and adapt to a play with only dialogue and stage directions. Consider how you are relying solely on the dialogue to portray characters’ traits, attitudes, agendas, and goals. When you have completed the adaptation, read it aloud to the entire class, each of you assuming one or more of the characters’ roles.
5. Create dialogue for two characters. Working as a pair, create two characters, give them names, and put them in a situation or scene. Create about 10 – 14 lines of dialogue for the two characters, including an initial description of the situations or scene. Read aloud your dialogue to your class, each of you assuming one of the character’s roles.
6. Devise a drama unit. Select a play and develop a unit for teaching that play. Include activities that involve making inferences about characters’ traits, beliefs, attitudes, and agendas based solely on their dialogue. Also include activities involving study of stage directions and play production so that students could envision how they would produce a play. And, have students perform parts of the play in small or large groups. Ideally, include a field trip to view a play production.
7. Create Shakespearean language. Based on their reading of a Shakespeare play, have students create their some dialogue or insults using iambic pentameter or other uses of figurative language. Have students perform their dialogue or insults in the class.
8. Study film adaptations of a play. Select clips from several different film adaptations of a play, for example, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer’s Night Dream, or Julius Caesar, and compare the differences in the interpretations of the play in these different adaptations (see also activities for Chapter 11). Have students compare the extent to which the adaptation is faithful to the original text, as well as how alterations in the adaptation created new meanings for or interpretations of the play. Have students compare differences between watching a live performance of a play and viewing a film adaptation of a play.
9. Create skits based on students’ lives. Have students create skits based on their lived-world experiences. Working in small groups, students brainstorm ideas for a skit derived from interpersonal conflicts or difficulties. For example, students may create skits based on tensions with peers and or parents. Students develop an initial sketch of events or actions for their skit, as well as descriptions of the different characters. They then write dialogue for these events or actions. As they are writing, they perform the dialogue and make further revisions in their dialogue. Students could also video their performances to review their writing. Once they have completed their skit, they perform their skits for the entire class and get further feedback, leading to further revisions.