More on Drama with Remote Learners

This is the second blog article written as I pause from my regular blog posts which focus on drama classroom management, integration, collaboration, and assessment to share ideas about conducting drama for remote learners in the age of online classes and social distancing.  I know there is difficulty in taking a collaborative art form and retrofitting it into the new educational parameters. I spent from April-June teaching young people drama via an online interface and beginning to design ideas for socially distant classrooms.  I will be sharing with you some of the ideas that were successful for me in doing drama with remote learners.  I am asking that you use this forum to share your ideas – you will be credited –challenges and lessons learned.  We will all be grateful to you.

A Possible Warm Up/Intro to Drama

I used the BASIC MIRROR activity (page 127 in the 181 Ideas for Drama book and available at  For this activity in my online classroom, I began leading all of the participants as they faced me through the screen.  I gradually made this harder with some of the additional mirror Level I activities. Throughout the activity, I would call another student’s name and they would begin leading with the rest of us following.  I would side coach to move faster, slower, be less tricky, watch to see that everyone is keeping up with you, etc.    In a socially distanced space, if students are all facing one direction and set apart from each other, the activity can be implemented by you being the leader up in the front and then asking individual students to come to the front to lead the rest of the group. 

For younger students (first – third grades) there is a story called “The Caveman” (available in the FROM PAGE TO STAGE 50 ORIGINAL STORIES FOR CLASSROOM DRAMA and available at that can be used as an extension to the mirror activity following the same classroom set up as above:  one leader in front and everyone following as the story is played out.  I am wondering if you could do the mirror in partners as well if there is enough distance between the partners.

If, in the socially distanced classroom, you have enough space for distant mirrors – or by using the one student in front method – you could create HAND MIRROR STORIES.  This activity works well in online situations (like Zoom) with one leader who shares their hand story with everyone, then everyone weighs in on the story.

Hand Mirror Stories 

© 1989 Karen L. Erickson

Students will:

  • Concentrate during drama experiences.
  • Identify and use dramatic structural terms accurately such as: setting, character, plot, conflict, climax, problem, obstacles and resolution along with who, what, why, where, when, and how.

Step 1:  Warm-up with the Basic Mirror activity. 

Step 2:  Have the students sit and let their hands come alive as two distinct characters: human, animal, or object.  They should move their two characters about as you might move a puppet.  Side coach them to let their two characters meet.  “Are they friendly? Enemies? Strangers? Dangerous? Kind?  On a mission of some type?”  Let them keep playing and exploring with their two characters.  Side coach them to let their characters meet up and do something together.  One of the creatures might cause a problem for the other, need help, or engage the second to do a task.  Then a problem happens they must solve together.  They solve the problem and the characters head off in opposite directions.   

Step 3:  Individual students play their hand story out in front of the group (either as an online group or Socially Distanced in front of the class) while the rest of the participants mirror the moves/story.   When the leader has finished, call on another classmate to orally retell the story as she thinks it unfolded.  The student who created the story then tells his story as he tried to communicate it.  Then the next student is called up to lead their story.  And so forth and so on.

 For social emotional learning – have the stories be about responsibility, compassion, or empathy between the two hand characters.  I recommend discussing the chosen word with the students and brainstorming examples of that word in action in daily life.

I used this activity with K-5 students in an online classroom and it worked beautifully. They loved it.  The younger the students the more coaching is needed to create the story and they will be simple and short.  Older students added a great many more details.  This is also a wonderful way to integrate with language arts and to teach details in writing.

Hang in there and keep trying.  New and innovative ideas will come out of this current situation as the struggles you have are common among all.  Send me your ideas for drama with remote learners or even your struggles and I’ll incorporate them here for all to share.

by Karen Erickson

Karen Erickson