Drama enthusiasts say "the play's the thing" to motivate young students in the classroom. Introducing plays to your students can increase their reading skills, give them a sense of self-esteem they've never known before, and expose them to some of the greatest literature in the language. This week, Education World offers a comprehensive list of drama resources you can use now! Included: Author Aaron Shepard offers thoughts about using drama and theater-related activities in the classroom.
Aaron Shepard will tell you that he's a children's author, not a teacher, but his Reader's Theatre Web site has won the admiration of many educators who are hooked on his methods of bringing drama into the classroom.
"Many teachers have told me that readers theater is by far the best way to get kids reading," Shepard told Education World. His Aaron Shepard's Reader's Theater site is a well-known resource for many teachers who use his original scripts, as well as other scripts available on the site, to bring excitement to their classrooms with this unique art form.
The beauty of readers theater is that props, costumes, and a performance space aren't necessary. Students read from scripts while sitting on stools in the front of the classroom, which still gives them the sense that they're performing.
"Teachers have told me that reluctant readers have come alive when they've used dramatic scripts as reading material," says Shepard.
Be sure to see Education World's Reader's Theater script archive for dozens of free scripts your students can use to build reading skills.
Lisa Blau, a Seattle-based educational consultant, agreed with Shepard that drama activities can draw out reluctant students. She told Education World that inexpensive props, although not necessary, can add to the excitement of drama in the classroom. Props may also encourage shy students to participate more.
"Use puppets, masks, or other props that children can either stand behind or use to take the attention away from themselves and feel more open to express themselves," Blau advised teachers.
Student-made props can aid teachers in beginning a drama activity. Art Teacher on the Net and Childfun.com are a couple of places to start. Both sites have loads of ideas for easy crafts. Kids can build simple props in a class-produced play.
Poetry also can be a great way of introducing creative dramatics in the classroom. As children learn and recite poems, teachers can encourage kids to dramatize the poems. "This way the poems become more alive, more real," said Blau, "and children will remember a very positive experience with language learning."
The American Academy of Poets' Online Poetry Classroom provides some wonderful resources for children. Shel Silverstein created very readable plays, poems, and children's books, and Jack Prelutsky writes children's poetry that would work well as an integral part of a unit of dramatic reading.
AN INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING TOOL
Drama activities in the classroom can incorporate a number of subjects. Besides reading and language arts, drama can also play a role in teaching art, history, character education, and critical-thinking skills.
The Costume Page offers a section on the historical aspects of costumes as diverse as the jewelry of ancient Greece or popular college fashions of the 20th century.
Improv sites such as the Improv.com offer lots of ideas for warming up for longer dramatic activities, practicing off-the-top-of-your-head skills, or letting students express their emotions through improvisational scenes.
COMBINING DRAMA WITH HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES
From writing their own plays to designing sets or costumes, teachers who combine hands-on activities with dramatic readings or productions provide students with the opportunity to put what they've learned to practical use.
At Mask Makers Web, students can view masks of all kinds and even contact the artists by e-mail. Students might choose a favorite mask, contact the artist, and ask for advice on making a similar mask.
Using activities such as cooking to create edible props, encouraging students to enter non-school related writing contests, or watching a stage production or movie of a piece used in the classroom are other ways to reinforce what students learn from dramatic readings in the classroom.
Even on a limited budget, teachers can bring drama to life in their classrooms -- and provide memorable learning experiences for their students.
ADDITIONAL ONLINE DRAMA RESOURCES
Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By
This site showcases stories from around the world. It's a good place to find stories that could be used as mini-dramas in the classroom. Teaching materials are also available on this resource, especially for character education curricula.
Medieval Drama Links
This comprehensive site was put together by a British drama teacher. For teachers interested in the historical aspects of theater in the time of Shakespeare and Marlowe or in a staged reading from the medieval period, this is the place to start.
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