Teaching Tips – Drama Activities for Younger Learners
by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)
Drama activities provide good practice of the target language, variation in the lesson and, through fun, stimulate the learners. Drama activities provide good practice of the target language and good variation in the lesson. These activities needn’t occur all the time but the more familiar learners become with drama activities the more successful the activities will be.
Drama activities need careful setting up and lots of encouragement and can involve materials production as well as very basic writing and reading skills. To be really successful the activities need props or realia and almost certainly prompt or flashcards to help the learners.
* Simple actions, structures & words can be practised through movement and chanting activities
* Mime & action games can be used as team activities – e.g. one team (A) selects an action for an opposite team (B) member to perform – team (B) have to say what the action is
* Change the settings of basic role-plays to make the activity more fun – e.g. offering & asking for things could be done in an aeroplane situation (instead of in a café etc.)
* Introduce drama skills & techniques little by little so learners become accustomed to these activities over time
* Kids love games & pretending – the more fun and active we make these drama activities the more enthusiastic the learners will be
* Consider how eagerly your younger learners do activities like run & draw, slap, stations etc. This is because they are fun, easy, active & familiar ways of practising language. If drama techniques are used in every lesson the learners will happily take part & become more confident
* Mime, TPR, movement, role-playing, etc is used in young learner classes anyway – in fact you probably use drama techniques all the time!
* As well as the drama techniques above craft work can be used to develop mask making & prop making, bring ‘costumes’ for learners to ‘act’ in (e.g. a hat, a pair of gloves or even a white shirt can make fun dressing-up props!).
Some Activity Suggestions:
Action Circle: This activity practises names and actions. Review some very basic actions (brush your teeth; read a book etc.) Have everyone in a circle and start to beat a rhythm. Learners stand around and clap one beat. One person jumps in the circle, says their name and does a gesture. Everyone copies the gesture and says the learner’s name. Then a second person jumps in the middle and does a different action. Everyone copies the
first and then second learner’s actions maintaining a beat until everyone has had a turn.
Adjective Movement: Board a list of adjectives known to the learners (eg happy, sad, angry, young, fat, thin, cold, hot, old etc). Line learners up against a wall and demonstrate walking slowly from one side of the room to another. Next choose (or have the learners choose for you) one of the adjectives (e.g. Old). Now walk from one side of the room to the other in the manner of an old person. Repeat this with all the adjectives so learners get an idea of which movements they can do with each one.
Alternatively, have learners wandering the room or walking in a circle in the manner of the adjective. When you shout ‘STOP!” they should freeze in their position and hold that for a few seconds. When you call out the next adjective (e.g. angry) they should wander again in the manner of that adjective then get them to freeze again etc.
Mime: Review some known actions, jump, skip, play the piano (depending on level). In teams learners take turns at miming one of the actions (either individual team members or the whole team together). The other team has to guess the mime/action to win a point.
Alternatively, one team selects an action for an opposite team member who then performs the mime for his/her home team to guess.
This kind of activity can be used to practice many areas of language.
Role-plays: Learners will need a lot of guidance on preparing the role-play, one way to help them is via substitution drills. Remember role-plays needn’t stick to text-based language.
For example, using the following target structure “What would you like ..?”:
A: “What would you like to eat?”
B: “Fish, please”
A: What would you like to drink?”
B: “Water, please”
Put learners in groups of three. One is the flight attendant and the other two passengers. The flight attendant then offers food and drinks to the passengers. You can have lots of fun miming the actions of the planes movements! Other situations for this language could be in a boat; café, spaceship etc
Role plays can be done with any level but will range from being very controlled by the teachers to a freer practice activity where the learners are more able to develop a role-play themselves.
Don’t worry if learners appear to ‘resist’ role-playing initially. They need time to become familiar with the concept and accept it as a ‘fun’ part of the lesson.