Drama Teaching Tips

Well, most of this blog is about information and resources for effective Drama teaching, but I thought I’d post a few tips on how to ensure your students achieve beyond the expectations of everyone.

Learning Must Be Fun: Let’s face it, school isn’t exactly a bundle of laughs for many teenagers, so on the top of my priority list for effective Drama teaching is make sure as many of your lessons and activities as possible are fun for your students. While you’re at it, remind yourself that if you don’t make learning fun, you’ve lost half the class … instantly. I even take a risk and tell my students at the start of a course that one of my responsibilities is to ensure their learning in Drama will be fun for them and that they are encouraged to tell me whenever the fun has stopped!

Keep Your Students Engaged: I never stop asking my students what they’re into, no matter what year level. While my enquiries are genuine, it also enables me to stay young and by knowing what’s cool at the moment, I can always use this to my advantage to adapt a future exercise, drama game or activity, so my students remain engaged in Drama. These enquiries allow me to tailor ensemble performance topics to their interests etc. Being critical of your own teaching has its advantages, too. Mix it up a little and never get stale with your delivery, so your students keep engaged.

Know Your Students Well: I always make an effort to get to know my students, ask what bands their into, genres of music, films etc. Particularly if they are senior students. Always keep professional boundaries very clear. Never try to win students over by pretending to be their friend. You’re their teacher. But good teachers care for their students beyond the textbook and the classroom.

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Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations: I set my expectations in the very first lesson of a Drama course, to avoid any confusion later on. I’ve blogged on The Drama Teacher before, that I will not accept laziness and lying (to the teacher) in my classroom. I make no apologies for it. I set my student expectations high at the beginning and spend most of my Drama courses encouraging (daring?) my students to see what they are capable of in Drama.

Ensure Everyone Respects Each other. Every Drama course I teach, at any level, begins with an agreement that my students firstly respect themselves, secondly respect other students in the class and thirdly respect me as their teacher. In return I tell them I will respect them all by default each time they enter my classroom. I ask students to respect why other students have elected to do this Drama course and to respect those that are less confident than themselves. This results in a warm atmosphere where less confident or able students are more prepared to take risks in performance work before their peers. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of respect in the Drama classroom.

Know Your Content. You can’t be a whiz in Drama teaching overnight. It takes time. Although I have blogged here before that in my opinion knowledge is not necessarily king in the Drama classroom, knowing your content certainly can’t go astray. Once you have gained much knowledge, two more things become important: firstly, remember we never stop learning and secondly, never be afraid to learn from a student. It empowers them and they respect you more as a teacher in return. Never pretend to know all the answers in front of your students.

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90% Perspiration and 10% Inspiration. I’m sure many of you may have heard of this old adage. It’s true in Drama teaching, too. The most creative students you’ve ever seen in a Drama classroom will be useless if they are not prepared to put in the hard yards. I remind my students all the time, they have to be prepared to perspire if they want to achieve their own personal goals in Drama.

Keep Ownership with Your Students. When a school play or musical is a huge success, when an in-class Drama performance was fantastic, when your students performed beyond their wildest dreams … always keep the ownership with them, not you. While it may be true that you directed the musical, guided them in their class performance, or helped them every second step of the way, I always try to remind my students that the wonderful product they created belongs to them. This is when they smile and become very proud, but more importantly, realise what they are truly capable of in Drama. Encouragement and positive feedback will always return far bigger dividends than you ever expected in a discipline such as Drama.

Whether it is an A+ or a C, there’s nothing more satisfying than a Drama student being rewarded with a grade beyond what they believed they were capable of. Using these tips, above, has worked wonders for me over the years. I hope they work for you, too.

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8 comments on “Drama Teaching Tips

  1. i was to be a drama teacher and i’m looking the drama notes for classes please adversed me what should i do?

  2. Comment concerning backstage noises and talking.

    Try to involve your students in setting the guidelines and rules for the drama classes or activities. This must be implemented in early stages of the work / production / program… and must continuously referred to and reminded of. By involving your students in putting their own rules the chances to abide with these regulations are bigger. Assign the responsibility for backstage order / supervision to students who are usually known for their backstage noises.
    Maybe it helps.

  3. Thank you for presenting such great insight. I absolutely agree. We, teachers, have to stay updated with what’s new in our student’s life. Often we can relate such material with the material given in class. This helps them retain better and class goes more fun. My favorite part was on 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration. Like us, students must be in it to win it, no pain, no game and theater is definitely a hard working and never ending game.

  4. Desiree,

    Try some of the following:

    – if possible, have another teacher help out supervising backstage during a performance, insisting on silence in this area
    – press upon the students that talking backstage can easily distract the actors performing and is therefore unfair to others in the show (or class)
    – remind your students that all people involved a production (including those backstage) have a responsibility to the audience to deliver a quality product and that this cannot be achieved while people are talking backstage

    There aren’t any ‘trick’s’ I know of for students to be silent backstage during a performance. From my experience, it’s all about rules and guidelines that everybody agrees on and adheres to, and a culture where this valued and accepted.

  5. Any tips on how to keep them quiet and focussed back stage during a performance. Especially in a difficult space where they want to talk and be silly?

  6. If you have your class broken up into production teams that would be extremely helpful. I just completed a class project with my Drama 2 & 3 students that involved the use of production teams. The students were responsible for Direction, casting, publicity, props, set, lights, sound, costumes, make-up, etc… This ensures that all students are actively engaged and part of the process positively. Your actors can double up duty so when they are not engaged in rehearsal, they are writing e-mails to press for the production, working on props, sweeping, various house keeping chores, focusing lights, etc… I start the process out by discussing the different departments needed for a production and then the students sign up for which department they want to work with in addition to their acting. This helps create a well-rounded student with the awareness of all details involved in producing a production.

  7. I am currently working on my major production that my drama class is putting on at the end of next month. There are 17 students in the cast, but obviously some have bigger parts than others.

    Any suggestions for what I can get those with smaller parts to do while they are not on stage? They are really struggling with just watching the rehearsals (when not involved), and since it’s a class, I feel I should be making them do something, since they are also getting a credit for the course. I’m just not sure how to make the best use of these students.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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