Monday, 29 December 2014

Making Taking the Register Fun

A fun way to do the register once you have got to the point where you are happy that you know all of the students names in the group is to get a student at the start of each lesson to choose a category e.g. types of food, premiership football teams, brands of shoes, makes of car, breeds of dogs, rivers etc etc. The teacher calls the individual students names out, taking the register, and the students individually answer when their name is called with something from the category rather than saying 'yes sir/miss'. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Using a Continuum as a Plenary

The following exercise can be done as a starter to introduce a topic or as a plenary to reflect on the lesson/ topic.
         Whole class form a continuum- a single file line along a wall. Label one end of the wall /space January and the other December. The students line up in a single file line facing you, in order of their birthdays. They can speak to each other for this one.
         Teacher count down from 5-1= pupils individually but all at the same time, freeze as - someone remembering a happy memory or as a character from the lesson, or a particular moment in a story for one chosen character etc etc to create a tableau. Teacher can count down again to show different moments.
         To create a new continuum but this time using the first letter of either their first name or surname. This time the students aren't allowed to speak.
         Count down and repeat the freeze with a sad memory or a different moment or character
         Talk about facial expressions and body language.
         This can be done to show how they feel about their own progress in class as well.

After the final one, the students could then be thought tapped. Using a drum to freeze on also
helps younger students to focus.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Teacher in Role

Younger students love when the teacher goes into role (T.I.R) with them during an improvisation. It works well because it is unexpected if not overused as a teaching strategy, because the teacher is also 'playing' and therefore showing another, more human side to their personality. It is a shared experience that they are unlikely to have with another member of staff or possibly with another adult. It also helps keep an improvisation on track as the teacher can direct the improvisation in the direction that it needs to go in, ask questions to explore themes or ideas that may have not arisen yet and to help support less able students.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Tongue Twisters - Starter Activities and Practice at Home to Improve Vocal Technique

Some good tongue - twisters that can be done in class with students initially- say them altogether, then maybe they work on them in pairs. Practice saying in turn each tongue twister, slowly to start with and then try and get faster.
         Red  lorry, yellow lorry
         She sells seashells on the seashore
         Ed had edited it
         Are you copper bottoming 'em maam? No, I'm aluminiuming 'em my man
         You know New York, you need New York, you know you need, unique New York
         She stood upon the balustraded balcony, inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping and amicably welcoming him in
§         Then can be practiced at home to develop the use of  voice/ articulation by saying and repeating actual lines at home so that every word is clear.
§         Encourage the students to say them in front of a mirror so that they can see how much their mouth/ lips/ tongue have to move to get them right and clear!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Speedy Starter Game

A good whole class warm up game- this works well when introducing topics such as 'Commedia' because it gets students thinking quickly and introduces them to the idea of improvisation and develops their listening skills. It also develops good hand/ eye co-ordination for a cross curricular link to PE! 'Earth Air Water' game:-
·         Whole class in a circle. Teacher in the centre.
·         Throws a ball to people in the circle and says either 'earth, air or water'. Then they count down from 5-1.
·         The student has to catch the ball, say a member of that category and get the ball back to the W/Shop leader before they get to 1, or they are out.
·         Play until one person left.

·         Not allowed any repeated answers.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Starter Game to Iroduce Symbolism

A good whole class warm up game- 'Balloon Race'- can be used to introduce the topic of 'symbolism'- play the game and then ask what could the balloon be if not a balloon. Include a red balloon and you can discuss the ideas for what red could represent e.g. anger/ love/ war. Also can be played to introduce the idea of 'blame', 'responsibility' etc.
         Whole class sits in a circle.
         Label them red/ blue alternately according to the colours of the balloon.
         Get the red team to put their hands up so they know which team they are on and repeat for the blues.
         Start with 2 balloons at opposite sides of the circle and shout 'go'.
         The students pass the balloon to their team mates in a clockwise direction. This can alternate on the next go.
         The aim is to catch up with the other balloon!

         More balloons can be added.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Warm Up Game - 'Shopping Lists'

A good whole class warm up game- 'Shopping Lists'- can theme the lists to absolutely any topic e.g. social skills- 'smile', 'making eye contact' etc or Europe- 'Gouda cheese', 'a Ferrari' etc.
         Choose 4 volunteers to be 'shops'. Stand them on a chair in 4 corners of the room. Give then a shopping list.
         Teacher in centre gathers rest of class around them and asks them to find different items off the master list, one item at a time.
         The students go around the shops and ask them politely if they have the items.
         Shopkeepers can pretend to be hard of hearing/ not understand etc, but must answer yes/ no.
         If yes, the students keep quiet and line up in front of that shop to form a queue.
         If no, they keep going around the shops until they find the correct one.
         The last 1/ 2 students in the queue are out.
         Repeat until there is a winner.
         NB- this game will get quite speedy and noisy!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Stanislavski Starter

A good starting point when looking at Stanislavski techniques to develop students belief in their characters is the following exercise:-

         Individual exercise - students sit in a space and close their eyes. The W/Shop Leader takes them through the following questions which the students respond to in their head initially as their character from the text/ fairy tale, using their imagination:-
         Who are you?
         What is your name?
         How old are you?
         Where do you come from?
         What do you want?
         Why do you want this?
         Where are you going?
         What will you do when you get there?
§         Teacher - countdown from 10 to 1.
§         Students mime being in a place that is appropriate for their character to be in. Ask the students to consider – 'if I were there, what would I be thinking?' and 'if I were my character, what would I be thinking?' This is the 'Magic If' theory.
§         Teacher says 'freeze'.

§         Teacher thought taps several students.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Examiner's Visit

Before the examiner's visit, ensure that the correct paperwork is completed and sent in good time prior to the exam- ideally at least 7 days before. Your centre won't be the only centre they are visiting and they need to check the paperwork/ mark written elements of it before the visit. When arranging the actual visit from an examiner, remember- they must be provided with a room to mark in after each performance. Preferably they should be near to the examining/ performing space which will help ensure the smooth running of the day. They should not be escorted between the performance space to the examining/ marking room by students as this goes against the examining body's child protection policy. Use a TA or second member of the department if possible. Put clear signs on the door to tell students and other members of staff that this room is out of bounds for the day. Other staff must not go into a room where notes may be kept during other performances. Announce this in staff briefing/ in a staff bulletin to ensure this message is received. The examiner does have to write a report on each centre visit and details such as these are included in it. Examiners may be full or part time teachers, they may be a freelance drama practitioner or work in another area of the arts. They are trained, employed and contracted to an exam board for the duration of the exam season. Don't ask them all about themselves on the visit. They are there to do a job and will be polite and professional. They are your examiner, not your new best friend. They understand the process that your students are going through, but must mark what they see on the day. If something goes wrong- e.g. illness, it is your responsibility to contact the exam board, not the examiner. THEY HAVE TO MARK WHAT THEY SEE ON THE DAY.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Exam Tip- Performance Support Students

If you have a student/s taking the technical option on an exam e.g. lighting/ sound/ costume etc, make sure they say in their 5 minute presentation about what they did using the word 'I', not 'we'. Get them to include their research in their portfolio and outline the decisions they made and why they made them. Get them to discuss the decisions that they made when in consultation with the group. What do they hope to achieve in the performance? Photographs/ sketches/ models of the process help. Go through the criteria carefully for each discipline and check their portfolio- e.g. if it says include a lighting grid and a cue sheet with at least 6 lighting states, make sure they have included these for their groups performance. 

Even if a group doesn't have a lighting or sound design support student working with them, leave time to consider lighting and SFX as it helps create the atmosphere for the audience but also helps the performers stay in role and believe it themselves. This isn't compulsory though and they should plan to finish polishing their piece above and before putting lighting and sound in as it is the performance they are getting marked for. If a group does have a technical design student working with them then it is essential that plenty of time is scheduled in for the rigging/ focusing/ plotting/ tech rehearsals for all of the students involved with that piece.

If using costume and props, make sure the day of the performance isn't the first time you have ever used them. Things will go wrong!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Getting Started on the Exam Performance- Script Ideas for GCSE & AS Level plus Suggested Stimuli for Devised Work

Looking for suitable texts to use with GCSE students? Here are some of the more popular ones- 'Too Much Punch For Judy', 'Blood Brothers', 'Bouncers', 'Shakers', 'Road', 'Two', 'A Talk in the Park', 'Blue Remembered Hills'.

Thinking of doing devised work for GCSE exam performances and need a stimulus? Poetry or monologues from existing texts are always interesting; an item of costume or shoes; a piece of music with an interesting/ provoking set of lyrics e.g. Elvis Costelloe's 'Let Him Hang' or Billy Holliday's 'Strange Fruit' or to interpret the mood and introduce themes of war/ loss/ devastation and rebuilding of life, try Penderecki's 'Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima'; a photograph or article from a newspaper, whether local, national or global; explore an issue affecting your school/ local community/ national or on a global topic; an advert for a charity..... anything that provokes the students to use their imagination.

Looking for suitable texts for the AS Level Paper 2 Drama teacher directed performance exam? Here are some of the more popular ones- 'Our Country's Good', 'Too Much Punch for Judy', 'Vinegar Tom', 'Cider With Rosie',  'The Crucible', 'Easter', 'Find Me', 'Dr Faustus'.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Ensemble/ Multi-Role

If using multi-role/ ensemble work:- all characters must be physically and vocally different. Playing too many roles means that none will be very well developed. Better to play one main role that is fully developed and then have one or two small cameos in a different role at most. Remember, you have to show the arc of the narrative- not just for the plot of the play but for the characters development.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Exam Tip- Staying Focused

Another important skill that the performers must demonstrate is their ability to stay focused: their ability as a performer to remain concentrated during the dramatic action. Things can go wrong in a piece, especially when someone isn't concentrating or focused and fully in role. This is obvious to the examiner. If something should go wrong, the students must be able to get themselves back on track whilst remaining in character. Students should not 'play to the audience' if it alters their intended portrayal of their character. For this reason it is always wise to do a dress rehearsal performance to parents/ peers before the examiner sees it. Also note, that whilst it is a performance to an audience, it is still an exam and the importance of this should be made clear to the students and the audience.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Exam Tip- Using Symbolism

For G&T students you might get them to introduce and develop the idea of Symbolism in their piece: where an object or gesture or sound is used to represent something else. Objects that work well for this are - balloon, key, suitcase, book (bible/ diary etc), photograph, a ring, a flower, a neutral mask, an item of clothing or shoes or a coloured ribbon. These can be used throughout the performance or hinted at subtly, it might be used between characters to show a change in them or by one character throughout e.g one piece I saw had a helium filled plain balloon attached to a chair at the back of the room. It stayed there until the very end of the piece, when it was then released and allowed to float freely. The character that released it had been a victim of domestic violence who cracked and murdered her husband. She released the balloon when she was imprisoned to show that whilst she was imprisoned, she was no longer trapped, that this actually was the most 'free' that she had ever been.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Where To Put The Audience

Students don't have to perform their exam performance in the traditional 'end on' - where the audience sits at one end facing the action format- they can also use:
         In the round: Where the audience sits around the stage.
         Traverse: Where the audience sits on either side of the action.

They could start the performance in the corridor and lead the audience in or as a full promenade performance (where the piece is performed in several locations) using the moments where they take the audience to the next location as another way of telling part of the story.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Exam Tip - Some Strategies To Help Your Students Develop Their Characters

There are some techniques that can be done in the classroom as part of the rehearsal process or as homework that will help students develop their character and their belief in them in their performance. These can include:-
         Writing in Role: Writing as if it is my character writing the words, not myself.
         Role on the Wall: Attaching a piece of paper to the wall or board and filling in character details in the form of words or pictures.
         Character Timeline: Writing a history for my character from birth to present day to help develop my understanding of them.
         Hot Seating: In role and without preparation, I answer questions about my character and his or her circumstances.
         Mantle of the Expert: When hot seating someone, even the people asking the questions are in role as other characters.
         Context: If using a script/ text then the following analysis can be done. Set up a grid with columns entitled- What the Playwright says about my Character (find this info in the stage directions)/ What my Character says about the other Characters/ What other Characters say about my Character/ Social, Political, Historical & Cultural (this will have to be researched separately)- each week a different column can be set as homework. By the end of it the students will know a lot more about the play and the characters, including their own.

Other strategies that can be used by the teacher in the classroom to develop characters are:
         Teacher in Role: When the teacher takes a central part in the role-play.
         Tableau: The whole class forms a large frozen picture in which different incidents are portrayed within the same large event.
         Improvisation: Devising and acting out a story line with little preparation.

         Spotlight: Bringing to life a small moment within a tableau or showing some work in progress.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Using Key Drama Forms to Structure the Exam Performance

      An exam performance is the part of the course where the students get a chance to show off what they have learnt on their course. They should be including key drama forms in their piece to add structure to it, to add tension and to help develop the storyline and characters. I recommend that 6-10 key drama forms are included in every piece. Some of these key drama forms include:-
o        Frozen Picture: Also called a Freeze Frame or Still Image. When we form a 3-dimensional image from our bodies. The action is frozen like a photograph. The image should tell the audience about the characters and the situation they are in.
o        Mime: When you act out a story line or situation through movement and gesture without the character speaking.
o        Narration: When one or more characters tell the story directly to the audience.
o        Essence Machine: A short machine-like piece of drama made up of vocal and physical elements that capture the essence of a particular theme or activity to help build tension.
o        Angel & Devil: When two actors play the roles of the Angel and the Devil, to show the audience the 'good' and 'bad' thoughts that a character is having about a problem that they have.
o        Duologue: An interaction of dialogue between two characters.
o        Voices in the Head: When several actors are used to express the thoughts of another character to show their inner torment/ dilemma and to help create tension.
o        Thought Tunnel: When a tunnel formation is created and a character walks down or along the tunnel, the other actors voice their thoughts.
o        Thought aloud: A character speaks a thought for the audiences benefit to show how they are really feeling about a situation or another character.
o        Aside: A character speaks a thought directly to the audience whilst the action is still taking place.
o        Split scene: Where one scene is split into 2 or more scenes and linked together either with speech, a sound, a gesture, a frozen image to show different moments that are taking place at the same time or to show different points of view.
o        Slow motion: When a particular moment is slowed down in order to emphasise its importance to the audience.                                                                                                                       

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Importance of the Length of the Exam Performance

Exam performances are marked based on 5 minutes per performer. The easiest way to ensure that everyone is seen is to keep all students on stage at all times (unless a deliberate decision is made for some reason for someone to exit/ appear for dramatic effect.) Don't have blackouts throughout the piece with music in scene changes as this adds to the length of the piece. The examiner will stop marking at the allocated time, so if a group of 5 students have done a piece that is 35 minutes when it should have been 25-30 minutes, the examiner won't have marked the last 5 minutes. If a student has their monologue/ big moment in that 5 minutes, they won't have been marked for this and this will affect their result.

Monday, 3 February 2014

How Long Should a Drama Exam Performance Be?

For exam performances, the length of a piece is important. The guidelines usually state approx. 5 minutes per performer. This means if there are 5 students in the group, the piece needs to be approx-20-25 minutes. The minimum length of a piece with 3-5 performers is 15 minutes. If it is too short, this will highlight lack of plot development or lack of development when exploring the issue, to the examiner. It could also indicate lack of character development- stronger performers may achieve their 5 minutes, weaker ones may only be on stage for 2-3 minutes. This can affect individual marks. If a piece is too long, the examiner will stop marking e.g. 3 - 6 performers = 30 minutes/ 7- 9 performers = max. of 45 minutes. The examiner will stop marking at this point. A way to try and help the weaker students with this is to keep them on stage and involved for the whole performance, whether in mime, frozen images, echoing words of other performances for example so that they can pick up some extra marks as part of the ensemble.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Drama Exam Tip- Address the Audienece

A student is marked on their ability to successfully communicate with the audience. A very simple way of making sure they pick up some marks for this is by getting each student to perform a monologue: a speech spoken by one character to another/ other character/s, soliloquy: a speech spoken by one character to themselves and/ or address the audience: when a character speaks directly to the audience. Sometimes as if the audience is playing a character in the performance.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Drama Exam Tip - Communication

One of the main areas that an examiner will be marking individuals in an exam performance  is on their communication with the audience. This is done through their use of - body language: using body position and gestures to communicate meaning, gesture: a movement made with the arms/ hands to express a feeling or communicate an emotion, their facial expressions: using their face to communicate thoughts and feelings to the audience, and how they use vocal expression: changing the tone, pitch, volume and pace of their voice to communicate meaning and how they use dialogue: speaking or speech, this also includes their use of pauses and silence.