Teaching Drama

The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum uses the terms elements, techniques, and conventions to differentiate three aspects of a skills and knowledge base for drama. As in all curriculum areas, it is vital that teachers and students share a common understanding of the langu?ge used to describe the body of knowledge that is Jarticular to the subject. This particular language helps teachers and students to talk and write about their work and helps them to describe how to develop and improve the work. The terms used in drama are discussed in this section.

Elements, Technlques, and Conventions
The Arts in the New Zealand CUrriculum (page 48)

defines the elements of drama as "the key ingredients of drci'ma (e.g., role, time, space, action, tension, focus)". They provide a foundation for drama and are terms that teachers and students can use to analyse. and describe what they do in drama. The elements combine with contrasts in movement and stillness, sound and silence, and darkness and light to communicate meaning in drama.

Also central to drama teaching is the cycle of . action and reflection and assessment because understandings in drama will develop through this cycle. These understandings will best develop in a safe classroom environment. This section discusses reflection and assessment and outlines some of the aspects that contribute to a safe classroom environment for drama. See pages 17-18 for timecode references to where the elements, techniques, and conventions appear in the video.

Role involves stepping into the place of another person, sustaining belief in that position, and representing that person's relationships and point of view.

Time is When the drama is set.

Space is where the dramatic action takes place. It refers both to the imagined place of the dramatic action and the physical space that the students have to work in. Action Action is what each person in role is doing and thinking, alone and with others. It's what happens in the drama.

t'Working with drama has been excellent. Even my most reserved child has become involved and eni oye d rt."
Teacher of year 3-4 students

Tension is the force that drives the drama. It's created by obstacles that those in the drama have to overcome. The element of tension heightens the dramatic intensity and creates suspense or unease.

Focus is the point that demands the audience's attention. It is the central event, character, theme, issue, or problem of a drama or part of a drama. The term "focus" is also used to refer to a place Dr moment in time that captures the essence of the ·dramatic action. The third way the term "focus" is used is to refer to the student's focus or concentration on the work. In drama, a role is placed in a setting of time and space and combines with action, tension, and focus to create dramatic meaning.

shows a student dedding what techniques to use to warn his mother that she is going to trip over a skateboard.a rr. dear) • Demonstrating intention (to warn.in a unified way. they will enhance thei r personal body awareness and the depth they can bring to their drama work. beckon. Sometimes these experiences have a specific skills focus. precise. • Persona! body awareness . gesture.30. such as voice warnrups or activities with facial expressions. or greet) • Conveying the mood and role • Showing. . where the movement links with the way others are moving .in a contrasting way. • • • • • • Controlled (uncluttered. disapprove. and facial expression can enri ch role.in a complementary way. Variety Intensity Appropriateness to role Showing emotions clearly Communicating the message or intention clearly • Indicating clearly the relationship to others. • • • • • • • • • Volume Projection Tone (mood) Pitch (vocal range ... The teacher can offer a variety of experiences 50 that the students can build up their range of techniques.ftationship to others. Listed below are aspects of techniques that students will work with.'. at timecode 11.using stillness suiting body shape to the role .iffect.using pathways in travelling varying the pace of the movement . movement. At other times.Techniques Techniques are the use of: • voice • facial expression gesture movement to achiexea speci!I~PUrp~$e oh. where everyone is doing the same thing at the same time .from high to low) Breathing Articulation (speaking clearly) Phrasing Pace Accent. • Movement that shows the audience an imagined space. • Moving with others . • Awareness of the audience in body positioning.travelling (moving) through space . The video. the content of the drama provides opportunities for the students to explore how voice. where the movement dashes with how others are moving. As students develop their ability to use each of these aspects of technique effectively. For example: • What tone of voice will he use to warn his mother of danger? • How will he move within the space as she approaches? • What will he be doing with his hands? • How will his facial expression add emphasis to his words? .

and the video shows only some of them. They can predict and then play out what they think will happen. or tableau. to give the audience an opportunity to study and interpret the image. or moment. students interview someone who is in role (for example. Freeze-frame image is also called frozen image. middle. an'd set up the physical environment in which their drama will occur.Conventions Conventions are ways of working or strategies that we use to structure and sequence (or frame) dramatic action. some year 10 students use flashforward to play out their fantasy for their birthday party. where appropriate. still image. The conventions used in this resource are listed below. The teacher or the students use conventions to explore meaning. or add impact in drama work. Hot Seating A flashforward or flashback occurs when the action and the time of the drama move forward or back so that the participants can view it from another time perspective. On the video (timecode 22. year 10 students prepare and present a chorus of voices to represent the Not-50-bad Wolf's point of view. year 6-7 students work with freeze-frame image to demonstrate the significant moments in the beginning. focus is particularly important . Negotiating and decision making are important aspects of thisconventlon because they help students to build their belief in and commitment to the drama. Chorus of Movement A chorus of movement is a group moving together with a sense of purpose. but their age and experience will determine the sophistication with which they use it. Freeze-frame Image On the video (timecode 41. In hot seating. This convention increases the impact of a dramatic moment. year 3 students define space for Maui and the Sun. FlashforwardlFlashback in a freeze-frame image. a character from a story or a person from history) to bring out more information about the events or the person. In this convention. The movement may be repetitive or stylised. On the video (timecode 48. group sculpture. The freeze is held for several seconds to give the' moment significance and. and end of their drama. plan. action and expression are frozen to capture the essence of an idea. Chorus of Voices A chorus of voices is a group using their voices together to make patterns of sound. The use of any convention is not limited by the age of the students. On the video (timecode 28. deepen understanding. or they might investigate an influential event from an earlier time frame. Defining Space This is the process by which students discuss.10). There are many conventions used in drama. a year 10 class USesa chorus of movement to portray Antigone coming to claim her brother's body.the focus of each student and the point of focus of the whole image. A chorus of movement can heighten the moment or create a particular spatial or visual effect. theme. The teacher and the students can also create their own conventions. On the video (timecode 43.58).38). Hot seating helps .04).11).

using a given starting phrase. facial expression. On the video (tlmecode 36. and students use this information during the hot-seating exercise. TheY lI~e. This may bedone in two ways. Action may be frozen and the teacher lightly touches a student to signal that they should speak their thoughts.n~ take qn 'c. students draw an outline of a character (on paper or white board) and record the character's external appearance outside the outline and their inner feelings and attitudes inside the outline.58).it. a student in role speaks the private thoughts of their character to add tension or provide information.movE!ri-Jerit.ecdi:ie 10.tit: lI~ing theiriloi. Slow Motion Riiua".ltmay be acc{}rrlpaniedby souridClr'l9 mayincqrporate repeUtIO(1.~Lide. and gesture to heighten tension or to isolate a particularly important moment.10). Slow motion is the process of slowing down and exaggerating movement. Speaking Thoughts Aloud Mime2JAdfdfj. year 3"'4 students useinimedactiori as they recreate a sectIon of Maui and the Sqr. In thi5.. attitudes. year 10 students use slow motion in The Bank Robbery. Riti:Jalis an E!st~l:lmhedprocedure at a sequence of mO\lemeDtthatha~i35enSe of cerempily. students can prepare speaking thoughts aloud to go with freeze-frame images.or the USe of symbolS.'. with Voices in the Head) In this convention. . SoundtracfdnglSoundscape As part of a drama. On the video (timecode 14. n Alternatively.M{han vOice.forlTlallty. On the video (tirnecode 29.tene. and appearance.14).19).·'B. there is a role on the wall for Te Ra and for Maul. This strengthens students' U5eand understanding of techpiquesqih. It is a useful convention for exploring a character and thinking about their personality. On the video (timecode 19.. aiid'1fBd~1 expression to communicate meaning. On thevldeo (timecode2D. On the Vi~~q(tfri.~htiPI). ' r withb. Role on the Waif To use role on the wall.students to bililcjknow!edge ?nd tlnderriimding of the role.t8h. year 3-4 students use the ritual of receiving their animal costumes and then entering into the role of Wild Things.geStur~. motives.41). . year3:A ~tudentshot seattheS0n ~TeRa)iD MaUl and the sun. and clJ5{~MatJ()\Jtit. They may use instruments or everyday sounds. students may create a sequence of sound to enhance the mood and action. On the video (timecode 36.37).c. A role on the wall can remain on display for use in language work.tlso helpstobuilc! commitment to and belief in the role. "I want to .ap'qi~.LJar makes explicit the chan'geinvcilved in' movinglri'i:@role. (compare.tbbisand techrifqll~5ir\. the year 1Dstudents develop a spoken soundtrack for The Bank Robbery. "Speaking thoughts aloud" Is also known as "spoken thoughts". for example.ces.26). feelings. year 6-7 students create freeze-frame images and work with speaking thoughts aloud.

The teacher can question the students both whlle everyone is in role and when they have come out of role. The teacher can facilitate this by freezing the action in a scene and nominating a student from the audience to stand beside or make physical contact with a student in the frozen scene. for example. She reveals that she is not a very good dress designer and asks the students. They then speak the "voice in the head" of that role. This can be repeated with further students speaking the voice of the same character but revealing other thoughts of that character. . or is it too intimate? On the video (timecode 18. This provides a unique opportunity for the teacher to ask the students questions about their ro les and What they learnt in the drama.'II was amazed at the children's -_"'!.ul1ded.04). to help her. Whole-group Role Play In this convention. On the video (timecode 34. but it reabtlqrtwh~h th~y first saW ril e in dilt~k~lpngJQrth~rn to jo·ih Teacher in Role In this convention. Whole-group role play can also be very powerful When the teacher works from within the action (see Teacher in Role). On the video (timecode 22.' ".' """ -' . she adds the tension of time pressure to the drama. a student who is not in role speaks the thoughts (or voice in the head) of another person who is in role. and as a group. year 1 students are involved in whole-group role playas Little Billy Goat Gruff and the troll. the teacher of the year 3 class takes on the role of a dress designer. role. The choice of role needs to be carefully thought through 50 that it is appropriate for the students. the teacher is involving everyone in the drama at the same time.31). who are expert designers. TI-l~YW~+~dql-nbfq.04). Voices in the Head (compare with Speaking Thoughts Aloud) In this convention. all the students are in role and place themselves in an imagined setting. the class (and teacher) shape the drama while it is in progress. In using whole-group role play. is the role too scary or intimidating for younger children.'. year 7-8 students use voices in the head in their drama about the influenza epidemic. From within the role. the students and the teacher are in role for an extended piece of improvisation.

Theunitoutlines (pages 20-2j')'offer further. Teachers may also offer alternative opinions. Teachers need to plan the learning activity that they will assess and what they will be looking for. There are examples on the video of students selfassessing and peer-assessing at thecornpletlon of a unit of work (timecodes 22. range Ofpltch. suggestions for assessment. 34. and written. students will increasingly evaluate their progress and make informed plans for future learning.Reflection and Assessment Reflection is both a result of action and a prompt for further actlcn. and reduces disparity of achievement.57. raises standards. either spoken or written. aged 10 . Classroom practice and school-wide arts programmes should use assessment for these purposes rather than as a means of comparing or ranking students' achievement. a teacher assessing a "I have learnt how to have a focus point to keep my actions tight not floppy. Students who document and record their processes of action and reflection discover that reworking and refining are central to making art works and that such works exist within the wider context of the arts in society. visual. It can be an important part of formative assessment. from teachers' and students' notes during performances. student's of expression. Differing opinions are useful because they can help students to think more deeply about their own view of the drama." Adele.19).35. and from video recordings of performances. "Something I would like to improve is speaking more clearly and acting more like the character. forexample. aged 8 Assessment is integral to learning and achieving in the arts. 1 also learnt to make my voice clearer. As they work within and across the strands. Students will not always have the same opinions about their and others' drama work. The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. Effective assessment promotes students' learning. 29." Tessa. page 91 The arts curriculum statement informs both planning and assessment. Assessment information can be collected in a variety of ways. For example. Teachers should provide opportunities for reflection both during and after drama sequences. from students' observations and reflections. I need to think about the movement levels.spoken. The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum. Refer to pages 91-92 of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum for a more detailed discussion of assessment in drama and the arts. Reflection can take on a variety of forms . page 89 Reflection is crucial when students are assessing their learning in and about drama.38 and 48.appr?priatenes5 and projection.

lee-breakers. Warm-up Activities Warm-up activities. Students should not fear failure in drama. Dramatic conventions allow students to talk about someone else and. to talk about themselves. rituals. activities to establish trust. or cultural traditions that are different from the teacher's own. co-operative games. the teacher could use audiotapes or pictures more than written stories. The students' and teacher's personal stories can be useful material to work with. noise. For example. the teacher needs to tell the students beforehand with whom and why it is being shared. Moving out of roie is shown on the video at timecode 16. miming taking off a jersey that represents the role or simply shaking off the role.A SafE' and PositivE' Classroom Environment Drama lessons can be fun and exciting. A teacher who has been working in role also needs to find a way to clearly signal to the students that he or she is now out of role. the easier it is for the students to move out of role to return to the real world of the classroom. students can explore and express their own feelings. After moving out of role. Responding and Reflecting Teachers and students can discuss and agree upon appropriate ways to respond to and reflect on drama work. The teacher might use a physical action to mark the boundary . They will almost always want to participate in the next activity. reflection gives the teacher and students time to consolidate the iearning that has occurred. Because of this.for example. Like the rest of the drama lesson. and students will be more wllling to share their stories if the teacher does too. and students need to know what the "stop" signal is. This can include respecting and encouraging performers by actively listeninq and watching and by offering only constructive comments. If the students' drama work is going to be shared with other audiences. The particular considerations for drama teaching are discussed below. There will be noisy times and quiet times. crea1:ing a safe and positive classroom environment is especially important for drama. dear boundaries and expectations need to be established. and relaxation exercises need to be relevant to the drama. the teacher needs to vary the pace. Moving in and out of Role Students need to be clear about when the drama begins and ends. Establishing Expectations and Boundaries Before beginning a drama lassen. They also need to know that they can "pass" on some activities if they don't feel comfortable taking part. but they can also be serious and challenging. if literacy is a problem for some students. or there may be no physical contact. The more carefully and deliberately this belief in the fictional world is created.08. Through the use of drama. and the teacher could tell them that they are not expecting perfection but rather participation and effort. When working with ceremonies. teachers should check protocols and appropriateness. . Selecting Material The teacher needs to ensure that the material is accessible to all students. in doing 50. and cognitive and kinaesthetic levels of these activities. Certain parts of the classroom or hall may be off-Ilrnlts for safety reasons. Building belief in the students' roles is an important way of helping them to experience the full emotions of the drama ina protected way.