The 8 essential techniques

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Invite children to experience a world of imagination and play with these introductory activities to drama

The following two drama sessions (for lower and upper KS2) give teachers and children the opportunity to try out and practise the eight drama techniques suggested in the QCA Primary National Strategy. Each lesson has one theme – a section from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl for 7-9 year-olds and the Greek legend of the ‘Trojan Horse’ for 9-11 year-olds. This allows all the techniques to be used in a single context. As a class, you can see which techniques you find most useful, and how they can be applied to other topics, thereby giving you a good bank of techniques and skills to tackle in later activities.

Setting the scene

Introduce the children to techniques as they occur, so that they can immediately experience them in a context and see how they work. Here are the eight techniques explained:

  • Freeze frames. The drama is stopped in a silent tableau (scene), either to emphasise a key moment, to examine what individuals are doing, or to allow thinking time. A freeze frame can be called (suddenly or carefully planned) to create a balanced picture representing the emotions of a significant moment. The tableau can be loooked at rather like studying a painting.
  • Thought tracking. A child speaks aloud the thoughts of a character in the drama, perhaps during a freeze frame. They can go up to the character and touch their shoulder, or a group can surround the character and speak their thoughts one by one.
  • Conscience alley. Best used at the very end of a lesson. The class makes two parallel lines facing each other. A child walks slowly and silently through the alley in role as a character from the drama. As they pass, the other children speak aloud their thoughts, giving a voice to the character’s conscience.
  • Hot seating. One person, in role as a character, is in the ‘hot seat’, and the rest of the class interview them to find out their feelings and motives. Questions can be prepared or improvised.
  • Forum theatre. A group of children act out a scene while the rest of the class offer ideas for direction – what to say, expression, accent, actions, and so on. In this way various interpretations of the same event can be explored.
  • Paired improvisation. Pairs of children take on given roles and hold a conversation in those roles, to explore how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes.
  • Meetings. A teacher or able child, in role as some kind of leader, calls a meeting to which the whole class comes, also in appropriate role. Meetings ensure that all children have a definite role and enable the class to share and solve problems through teamwork.
  • Flashbacks/flash forwards. The drama can be stopped at key moments, and children can be asked to discuss what happened to bring this moment about and what could have been done differently to improve the situation. They then look at the possible consequences of their actions and predict where the drama might lead.
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