Drama classes in storytelling style

Drama classes in storytelling style

You’d love to try a drama class in your English lesson and don’t have a clue what to start with. Start with your drive! 

In this article, we are going to help you with some practical ideas how to first set up your drama classes in ‘storytelling’ style, what stages are essential and what purposes they serve to. 

Why drama through ‘storytelling’?

#1. You don’t actually need props.

#2. The classes as well as performances are highly language productive.

#3. Students develop their ‘public speech’ skills and learn to interact verbally and non-verbally with the audience .

#4. There’s a lot of room for improvising, you don’t have to repeat the exact lines.

#4. It’s trendy – think of ‘TED talks’, which is a kind of ‘storytelling’ itself, as an example of a really successful and popular project all over the world.

Session 1/ Day 1

Step 1 – Warm-up

Once it comes to a warm-up in a drama class, one of the cornerstones – make it ‘physical’ or ‘kinesthetic’ as much as possible. There are 2 reasons for that. First, we all live in our ‘bubbles’ and acting out means getting into your partners’ bubbles, getting really close to your partners, so a warm-up is a chance to get this process started and in a positive way. Another point, drama is about moving and about your body, so having a proper warm-up is just taking care.

Some ideas for your warm-up:

  • Do a warm-up in a circle.
  • Get the students to hold hands while doing some exercises.
  • Ss turn backs to their partners still standing in a circle and massage each other’s backs, shoulders. After 2 minutes they turn around and repeat.

Step 2 – Introduce a story

Get students to listen to a story, watch a short story or read a story.

Discuss the plot, the message of the story, the characters, the feelings the characters experienced, or if students are rather open – their feelings as well. You might pay attention to sounds, the voice pitch or anything Ss found impressive.

Optional: to make the storytelling more productive you might pause and play ‘Rumors said’: Students have to whisper the last sentence they heard to their partner on the right/left in the circle.

At this stage, students act out just as listeners, the more attentive the better.

Step 3 – lead your students into their stories

Once your students have listened to a story they can have a go with their own story. Their first story should be telling about their experience that happened in the past, provoked strong emotions then and safe to remember about now. A good suggestion for such a story can be sharing a fear you used to have when you were 5-6 years old and which you overcame.

You go through it over a few substages:

a) Get students to close their eyes and turn back to their pre-school years, feel the weather, smell the air, catch some details of the place, people around, their feeling, etc. Give them about 2-3 minutes to stay there.
b) Then students turn to their partner on the right and share their story. They have 2-3 minutes to do that.

c) Next, they turn to their new partner on the left and tell the story have just heard.
d) Finally, students discuss these stories open-class to see how much detail has slipped and if the plot stayed untouched.

Typically, that is enough for the first session/day.

Step 4 – Reflection/Feedback stage 

Do discuss every day how they felt while listening / telling/ retelling stories, what memories, insights have sprung to their mind.

Session 2/ Day 2

The aim of the second session or day is to feel the ground as actors and have their first viewer or viewers. 

You go through the first 2 steps in the same way you did the first day.

Step 3 – Another topic

Choose a different topic for their story according to the same principles – vivid memories, filled with emotions and safe now. For instance, it can be a story of a scar on their body. Go through similar substages while ‘setting the scene’.

a) Find a scar on your body. Remember how it happened. Encourage Ss to close their eyes and dive into memories, help them with some ideas what they can pay attention to – when and where it occurred, time of the day, season, weather, clothes, etc. Allow them w-3 minutes and then offer to come back.
b) Repeat the ‘routine’ with sharing their stories.

c) Students retell the stories three or four times.
Variation: they can tell their partners stories within shorter time limits – first, they have 6 minutes for 2, then, 4 minutes for 2, then 2 minutes for 2, minute for 2.
d) Discuss two or three stories open-class.
e) Divide students into groups of 3-4 and offer to act out their stories in groups as ‘An Unlucky Day’.
Some more ideas you might come up with for Step 3 – tell about a favorite toy you lost or that got broken/ tell about a friend you had when you were a child that moved.

Variations to retell: tell as if you were one of the characters (maybe even unanimated object like ‘a toy’), tell with a different emotion – as if you are tired, angry, etc.

Step 4 – Rehearsal stages 

The aim of this session is to introduce plays to a bigger and bigger number of viewers. Teacher or ‘Storytelling Director’ monitors and is at hand. 

a) Allow 10-15 minutes to make up the plot and include all 3-4 stories into one storyline.
b) Allow 10-15 minutes to first-role-play on their own

с) Act in front of the teacher. The teacher comes up with some language/performing suggestions.
d) Work on suggestions/rehearses again.
e) *Optional. Act in front of the groups.

Hope this article will help to organize great lessons!


Мария Нифонтова

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