Drama is already very cool by nature, so as a teacher of Drama as a secondary school subject or a vocational one, you already have one up on some of the other teachers on your campus! Nevertheless, each educator will have to work hard if they want to impress their class of pupils, and producing subject matter that everyone enjoys teaching and learning about can be quite tough.
Whether you’re employed to teach in a secondary school, you are teaching drama as a vocational subject to children and adults in the community, or you a certified teacher in a kindergarten, you will need to brush up on your teaching skills and earn respect if you want a successful career in teaching Drama. To obtain the ‘cool’ status when working with children in particular, you must demonstrate excellence in early childhood teaching methods to become a teacher that they like and look up to. Whoever said that a career in teaching was easy?!
Drama is quite a cool subject because students see it as an opportunity to express themselves. Photo credit: kargaltsev on VisualHunt
Therefore, here are some tips on how to create interesting and exciting Drama lessons for every student that enters your classroom during the school year or attends one of your workshops.
Drama, in the sense of acting lessons and drama workshops, is fun and engaging and classes are usually attended because someone gifted has a passion for doing them as either a hobby or they want to pursue it a a profession. But is Drama, the educational subject, as attractive for students of middle school or higher education?
Drama is offered nationally as a GCSE or A Level subject, both offering a broad education programs to keep pupils interested and invigorated by the subject. Younger students will no doubt touch upon dramatic studies as part of their English or Literacy lessons (even pre-teens learn about Shakespeare’s plays as they dabble with more advanced Literature) whilst older students in higher education also have various pathways of study to pursue in the field of Drama. As such, Drama is a faculty that is rightly given a fair amount of attention by the national board and Department of Education. Meanwhile, some aspiring teachers don’t feel that it is recognized as the valuable certification program that it is.
Drama at GCSE level is designed to help pupils respond to drama by exploring performance texts, understanding their contexts (historical, social and cultural), developing theatrical skills, communicating ideas, contributing creatively to theatrical performances and developing an awareness of roles and processes undertaken in contemporary professional theatre.
Drama at A Level, meanwhile, has a curriculum that is intended to help pupils develop and apply analysis to drama and theatre, understand theoretical research and practical exploration in informing themselves about drama and theatre, understand how contextual elements influence drama and theatre, understand the practices used in 21st-century theatre making, and participate in theatre actively and as part of an audience.
As a teacher, you cannot simply design your lessons around reading, analysing and performing the texts set out by the curriculum. There has to be more to your lessons than that if you want your students to gain anything from them!
As a certified teacher, you must find ways to make some of the more tedious tasks much more interesting for your pupils, and dare we say ‘cool’, ‘neat’ or ‘sick’ (in their language). How great would it be to be remembered by your alumni of students in years to come as the ‘cool Drama teacher’?
Creating Colourful, Noisy And Energetic Lessons For Elementary Level Pupils
Obviously, it is easier to prepare fun activities for primary (or prep school children, if you work in a private school as opposed to a public school), as younger students will be imaginative with basic games and concepts and more open to creativity. Therefore, you could use music and singing to make the teaching of plays more interesting. Why not try borrowing some equipment from the music teacher and allowing each pupil to play a part with their own instrument?
In fact, many other departments could prove useful for your teacher preparation and offer their own guidance and tips on meeting your school’s shared goals, like the Psychology, Humanities, Philosophy and Literature leaders. Drama offers pupils a range of basic skills that can be applied across the curricula, so you may even find links between your lessons and those of the Biology, Chemistry and Physics classes, so keep the Science teacher on side!
Encouraging children to be creative can really help to get the message of the lesson across. Photo credit: A. Strakey on VisualHunt
Similarly, preparing visuals can be very beneficial in lessons, especially for those younger age groups. Children will respond better to images and colour than to plain text on a page so try reading from a picture book or bringing a story to life in the classroom using props and costumes. Puppets are also a great way to capture their attention during those challenging days in your teaching career.
If teaching Drama to young pupils, there are endless opportunities to make lessons fun, even in the run up to exams.
Even though there may be times when your pupils need to get their heads down, try to organise some energy-packed activities at least once every fortnight to keep the momentum going, ensure they remain interested in the subject and look forward to your next class.
Cool vs. Cringe: Finding The Balance
For students in higher education or at universities, you may need to seriously up your game. Play games in class, and risk losing all credibility for treating them like children (which of course they’re not!) but make lessons too grown up and they might lose interest in the subject matter altogether. In short, you can’t win.
It is a very tough balancing act with teenagers – so be prepared for some disheartening lessons in the life of a teacher!
But when you do get it right, it is all the more satisfying and rewarding!
If studying classical drama, why not ask your class to bring the stories up to date and to re-write scenes as modern day scenarios to submit as course work?
Or, to encourage confidence in performing, you could ask those happy to do so to write some poetry or lyrics and perform them on stage or in the classroom in front of their peers. To get stir up some competition, you could turn it into a game with some members of the class acting as the judging panel… J-Hud eat your heart out!
Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the best places you can go to bring the works of Shakespeare to life for your Drama students.
On a trip to the acclaimed playwright’s hometown, you can go backstage at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), watch a performance of some of his famous plays, take part in a Drama workshop and visit some key sites in the writer’s life.
London Theatre Trips
If you are at a London-based school, you could always arrange a trip to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre instead, situated in the London Borough of Southwark.
Alternatively, there are a significant number of small to large theatre productions taking place all across the capital. You could see a play by Chekhov or a brand new masterpiece.
If you don’t have the budget to spend on school trips, then you might like to organise a workshop at your own school to bring a bit of variety to the semester. Theatre Workshops visit schools with fun-filled activity workshops led by trained actors. Pupils can watch performances, be taught acting tips like breathing exercises, and get a chance to stand up on stage themselves too.
Naturally, Drama lessons can cry out for a bit of screen time. Even more so if you don’t have the budget to physically go and watch some plays being performed on stage. That said, it is really important that you limit how much television you watch during lessons, so as not to let your class get distracted from what it is you are trying to teach them.
Watching approved adaptations of classical plays on screen can be very beneficial in this content area, but you might like to choose individual scenes that support your lesson to show rather than putting on an entire production that takes up an entire hour. To support the teaching of old plays, you might also like to try recreating them yourselves or, if time and finances allow, going to see a version of the play being performed by other establishments or by acting professionals.
Don’t rely too heavily on television to teach your lessons for you. Photo credit: flash.pro on Visualhunt.com
Secondly, while it can be tempting to sit up all evening sourcing costumes, painting props and cutting up cue cards, try not to spend too much of your spare time on details. You need to stop at times and think: “will this enhance the teaching and learning?”.
Remember, there will be no remuneration or reward on top of your usual salary for putting in this extra effort, but if it makes you happy and you think that it benefits the class then by all means do go ahead!
Finally, though it can be hard, try not to be offended by students who don’t take your lessons seriously. This goes for teachers of all subjects, but as a Drama teacher who is often very much on show, it can be easy to take offence by comments made by pupils. As someone who has experience of participating in drama lessons, you probably have developed quite thick skin but it is always worth remembering that any negativity isn’t anything personal, it is just a way of acting up to their instructor for one reason or another.
In fact, it is these students that can bring you the biggest sense of achievement in the job because, if you manage to impress them over the course of your placement at their institution, then you really have overcome a big hurdle!