Time to PLAY: Incorporating Theater Into My Classroom

In my last blog post I shared an example of an activity that I used to help students learn information or practice important skill sets.

We had been playing a number of similar games for 2 weeks so this past week I reduced the number of interactive games and shifted our focus to reading. Just about every day my students were reading short excerpts from articles and answering questions or writing summaries. Each article is longer than the first and this coming week they will be assigned their first really long reading assignment (10-15 pages).

Of course, with these kids you gotta switch it up every now and then so I had them do one of my favorite activities while they took a break from the reading. I call it “Time to PLAY.”

The task is for the students to split up into groups and do an improv performance that is based on a given prompt. The first time we ever did this activity my students struggled in a variety of ways. Many of them were shy, had difficulty projecting their voices, didn’t follow the instructions well, couldn’t figure out their plan in time, or the acting was just BAD. I let them know that I don’t expect them to be perfect the first time BUT that I do expect them to show massive improvement throughout the year as we do this activity more and more. The pressure is relieved by the fact that my students do not receive a grade based on how good or bad their performance is but they do receive a participation grade for completing the task. Below is the instructions, prompt, and some feedback on the activity along with a few pictures.

Time Limit:7 min

Students must use their time frame to determine:

  1. Plot/Storyline (which must include a conflict)
  2. Characters (everyone must have a role)
  3. Setting

Prompt:

You are a colonist living in the colonies and you are very upset with the British for the laws they have been passing. The British pass the Quartering Act which allows British soldiers to stay in your home without your permission. One day 2 soldiers approach your home, knock on the door, and instruct you to let them stay for 1 week. You let them in but on the first night the soldiers get drunk and destroy some of your property. The second night, they begin harassing your teenage daughter and asking you to cook them meals. How do you respond?

Skills Targeted

  1. Empathy
  2. Collaboration
  3. Quick Thinking
  4. Public Speaking/Projecting One’s Voice
  5. Creativity
  6. Problem Solving
  7. Conflict Resolution

Student Response

  1. 100% engagement in all classes except one where students were disruptive during other student’s performances or didn’t take the activity seriously.
  2. There was a lot of comedy during this activity. Some students took their characters all the way. One student took total advantage of the opportunity to play a drunk person and it was quite hilarious.
  3. The high level of comedy meant that some students were laughing really hard or loud which made it difficult at times to hear a performance.
  4. Many of my students struggle with speaking too softly. It’s an ongoing issue that I know is related to confidence but basically, there were some performances where I could barely hear.
  5. At the end we always go around the classroom and share what each group did well or needed to improve on. The students were very honest and sincere in their feedback.

Below are some pictures. I’ve blurred out the faces of my students!!

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