All About Teaching Drama

It’s an old saying teachers hear time and time again: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” George Bernard Shaw’s lines have pestered teachers for years, but the reality is that most educators and parents know that effective teaching is one of the most challenging professions in the world.

If you have had to do the draining and demanding work of instructing students, you likely also know that it is one of the most rewarding jobs anyone can have. Sure, you must deal with loud classes, endless planning, and the public scrutiny that comes with having long holidays - but you also get the incredible reward of enabling children to develop intellectually and achieve new milestones. Teachers love their jobs, and spend endless hours preparing lessons and creating learning environments in which their students can produce their best work.

Drama is an area of teaching where the rewards are incredibly high for educators and students. The arts are one of the most underfunded area of education, yet essential for fostering creativity and confidence in students. What could be more fun than helping kids explore self-expression, movement, and storytelling through games and activities? Let’s explore why teaching is one of the best professions to be in and what life is like as a teacher of the dramatic arts.

Learn everything you need to know about being a drama teacher in this article.

What Do You Need To Be A Drama Teacher?

public school teacher
Teach in a school and have a rewarding career. Source: Unsplash














To become a school teacher in any province of Canada, you will need to get your teacher’s certification by taking a teacher education program. Each province has a different governing body for their teachers, so make sure you have the right one! To be eligible for a teaching certificate, you will typically need to have a Bachelor of Education (BEd) in addition to an undergraduate degree (though in some schools you can complete a BEd concurrently with your undergraduate program). To teach intermediate and senior level Drama courses, you will likely need to specialize in dramatic arts or theatre in your undergraduate program, plus another ‘teachable’ subject (Ex. English, History, Visual Arts). 

Your teacher education program will be focused on learning instructional methods that work at the grade level you want to teach, be it primary, middle school, high school, or adult education. You will have to complete a practicum portion in which you will practice teaching with another teacher already working in a school board.

Once you have your undergraduate degree, you can apply to a teachers college to do your BEd. Education programs usually last 1-2 years, after which you can apply for your teaching credentials. In most cases, you will have to pay an annual membership fee. With a BEd, you will be eligible to teach in public schools and institutions, and have a certification that shows you are trained with skills in developing and implementing pedagogy.

Find out how to create fun lessons for your drama classes.

What if I Already Have my Teaching Certification?

If you already have your teaching certification and want to become a drama teacher, you can enhance your skill set by taking professional development courses in dramatic arts. Faculties of Education typically offer these courses for a tuition fee, and your coursework will be documented on your teaching certificate. Another way to land that drama educator job is to take an active role in promoting theater in your school or community, and help organize and produce plays and musicals. 

Do I need Teaching Certification to be a Drama Teacher?

If you want to teach in most public schools, teacher certification is usually prerequisite. However, private and boutique arts schools may overlook the qualification if you have a theater background. You can, for example, teach acting workshops for adults or drama classes in kids’ summer camps if you have professional experience. If you are seriously considering a long term career in education, however, you will want teaching certification to ensure you are qualified to work in any context.

Want to find out where you can work as a drama teacher? Read more.

What Can I Expect as a New Drama Teacher?

Expect lots of new challenges as a teacher. Source: Pexels

New educators of drama can expect the first few years on the job to be hectic, overwhelming, and incredibly exhausting. Planning great lessons takes time, and what may work with one group may not work so well with another. You will have to be on your feet to keep activities engaging, fun, and rich for your students, as well as supporting extracurricular activities in other areas of the school. Elementary and Secondary teachers will have different experiences due to the age and developmental levels of their students. 

Teaching Drama in Elementary School

Drama teachers in elementary schools will have to focus on keeping the pedagogy approachable for kids and managing challenging behaviours. For younger kids, drama is focused on simple role play from familiar stories, movement, dance, and the joy of being creative with props and costumes. As a teacher, you may find yourself regularly hunting for items and costumes you can leave in your drama classroom so students can truly get into roles.

Have plenty of simple skits ready for students to act out, and be patient. Students love being able to explore their dramatic skills and the room might start to get loud and messy as students move desks and experiment with props. Whenever possible, combine dramatic activities with subjects like Language Arts and Social Studies to reinforce content.

Teaching Drama in Secondary School

If you are lucky enough to teach drama in Secondary School, you will have the benefit of getting to work with students that truly want to develop their strengths as actors. Of course, you may also get plenty of students that take drama because they perceive it is an easy way to get a grade, so take those attitudes into consideration when you plan your lessons!

With older students, one of the greatest advantages is that they are independent and do not require as much management as little ones. Keep the content interesting, relevant, and fun for teens and you will have them hooked. Spend time watching film clips to observe the nuances of different Shakespearean performers; invite students to write their own screenplays and record short films with a smartphone and some editing software.

Special Education and ESL Students

Whatever grades you teach drama, you will also have to teach students with special education needs or are English language learners. Drama is one of the most exciting and inclusive subjects for your special needs students, as it involves creativity and movement along with linguistic and emotional expressions. Scaffold the work for your students by offering a variety of assignments and strategically grouping different students together. Make sure the learning environment is a safe place for students to speak and express emotions in whatever way they can.

Lesson Planning for Drama

When you plan your drama lesson, make sure you are doing your best to keep the work engaging for your students - which shouldn’t be hard, because drama is one of the most fun subjects to learn. If you are teaching a skill like improv or simply reading with expression, make sure you model what you want students to learn. When they see exactly what you expect - through your own demonstration or a video - they will be more likely to reach the learning outcomes you have set out. 

If you have a specific block of time, plan how you will spend it in 10-15 minute chunks. Remember that it is easy for drama classes to get out of hand when students get bored or there is no accountability. Avoid classroom management issues by spending the first part of a period listening to instructions and learning from models, allocating a specific amount of time for free, collaborative work, and then checking in at the end. If the weather is nice, take your lesson outside so students can be as noisy as they wish. 

Finally, encourage students to use technology to produce their learning products. Thanks to video cameras on every phone, it is easy to get students to record their own work. Students love working with technology too, and applying or learning new technical skills can be exciting. Have students script their own plays or dialogues using apps like Google Docs, which enables real-time collaboration.

Read about some reasons you should become a drama teacher.

Be a Drama Tutor

If you prefer to focus on more serious students of drama, or do not yet have the qualifications to teach, why not put your theatre and acting skills to the task of tutoring privately? As an acting coach or a private drama tutor, you can help aspiring actors practice their lines and help them explore different acting techniques. You will not have any classroom management issues to think about, and can work with the material your students bring you or simply use scripts and activities that you love. You’ll help students gain confidence and rehearse for auditions and roles, all on a schedule that you can design on your own.

Where do you get started if you want to be a drama tutor? Join sites like Superprof so you can list your services and strengths as a tutor. Millions look at the site each day, making it easy for you to source new clients. Check out Superprof today!

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Colleen is a Toronto-based educator, mom and freelance writer who believes in lifelong learning and strong coffee.