Within any classroom, there is a tremendous amount of energy. Properly channeled, and developed through drama, this energy can be invaluable as a teaching tool. It can afford an outlet for students to express themselves, while at the same time helping students to better understand themselves and others.
Drama need not be performed for an audience, although this is the ultimate goal of this unit. Instead, drama can be as simple as the exchanges made on a daily basis by students within any classroom anywhere. These exchanges are both humorous and natural, but may be disruptive. This unit begins with the premise that through examination of student behavior, the spontaneous acting out that occurs can be the beginning of a study of drama. While not actually a soap opera, the interaction of students is anything but dull.
The unit is primarily for seventh and eighth grade students. The major objective is to introduce students to the idea of drama in their own lives; and to then transfer that idea to the works of others. The time frame for the unit will vary according to available time, but one marking period is recommended.
Initially, it will be necessary for students to feel comfortable with one another and with themselves. Very often students have few opportunities to be in a play or to speak in front of a class, and therefore there will be inhibitions to overcome. While reading aloud from a script may be worthwhile to a point, it does not begin to address the creativity and energy which is present during spontaneous conversations between classmates. It is this natural energy and spontaneity which this unit hopes to capture. Indeed the language used and types of interaction may offer insights into student behavior and problems, an area of study known as psycho-drama.
Psycho-drama focuses on the use of the theatre to help students better understand themselves and the problems they face. It affords students the opportunity to discuss the question of identity.
Through improvisations based on everyday situations lines of communication will be opened. Students will gain a better understanding of themselves and their relationships with others. Students must first know who they are before they can hope to portray others. Developing a positive self image through values clarification activities (where difficult choices must be made) will help students deal with problems they must face in everyday life, and will assist in the enjoyment and understanding of theatre.
The unit is divided into three main sections. Section I focuses on improvisational games and activities. The activities described in this section-serve two main functions. First, they are non-threatening and help to alleviate any anxiety students may feel about performing in front of their classmates. Second, they establish the fact that the things children say, and the way in which they are said, are important. Section I concludes with a shared improvisational writing activity. This activity assists in the transition to the written script by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each scene developed.
Section II focuses on the study of existing drama. Three one act plays are discussed first and finally a full length drama. The activities in this section serve to identify the major elements of a play. The works discussed in this section all deal with problems faced by children. While written in styles very different from one another, they offer an opportunity to discuss values. The question of why certain choices were made by a particular character in a play may assist students in choices they must make in their own lives.
The final section of the unit builds upon the skills introduced in Section I and Section II and uses these skills to help write original scripts. Types of plays, the major components of a script, and the reasons for including certain scenes will all be discussed. While not a necessary outcome, the possible production of one or more original works is certainly a desired outcome.