Hello! My name is Danielle, and for those of you who don’t know me, I am the Creative Coordinator for OneStopDRAMAShop.com. We may have interacted on the OSDS Facebook or Instagram page, through one of our conferences or workshops, or you may have received a lesson recommendation from me.
In addition to my work as Creative Coordinator for OSDS, I also work as an actor and a teaching artist! Up until now, I’ve mainly taught Creative Drama courses for elementary school students, but this winter I’ve embarked on an exciting new chapter of my teaching journey.
I’m currently doing a residency at a preschool, teaching drama to ages 3-4. Every time I work with my students, I’m inspired by their creativity, energy and openness, but working with this age group brings a different set of challenges than working with elementary school students.
As you may know, OSDS offers a pre-K curriculum, adapted and shortened from our Kindergarten curriculum sequence. To teach my preschool class, I’ve been using this curriculum sequence, as well as picking some of my favorite Getting Started with Drama Lessons and adapting them for a younger age group.
I want to share my experience teaching the Ice Wizard, one of my favorite lessons to teach with any age group! Whenever I start a new class, I begin with this lesson, so I wanted to figure out a way to adapt it for preschool.
Before the session started, I had a meeting with the classroom teacher about her goals for this drama residency. She mentioned that she wanted the class to focus on building social/emotional learning skills, such as listening, following directions, and finding and maintaining personal space. Given these goals, I set out to adapt the Ice Wizard to make it:
- simpler for younger students to follow
- shorter since our class period would only be 35-40 minutes instead of an hour
- include more movement so students wouldn’t get antsy!
- focused on finding personal space and listening to directions
I started with an introduction activity. Because it was our first class, I asked students to share their names and their favorite activity to do in the snow. After they shared their favorite activity, I asked students to act it out, staying in their space in the circle. Then, the rest of the class repeated the action back to them. This way, I got students thinking about different snowy day activities, so they had ideas ready to go for later in the class. I also wanted to build more repetition into the lesson, since the classroom teacher mentioned this had been a successful strategy with previous arts classes. This introduction activity also kept them moving, so students were less likely to get bored while they were waiting for their turn to share.
Building upon this activity, I transitioned into the regular Ice Wizard warm-up, which consists of imitating winter activities in personal space, while listening for cues to freeze and unfreeze. This next portion of the lesson was fairly successful, because students could repeat the activities they had already practiced during their introductions.
Then, we moved on to the story portion of the class, which is my favorite part and usually theirs too! I like to bridge from the Freeze Activity into the story by saying something like this:
“Are we ready to move on to the story? I’m going to tell you a story but I will need your help with acting it out.”
By posing this as a question and asking them for their help, it gives the students ownership over telling the story. It also makes the next portion of class seem more exciting, by building it up as something important for which they need to be ready.
I have the students begin in personal space, imitating their favorite winter activities again. I tell them to listen for the sound cue, just like in the Freeze Activity, so they know when to be still and when to unfreeze in the story. Then, I ask them to show me what a melted puddle on the ground would look like, and I let them know they must turn into a puddle if they move while they are supposed to be frozen. After that, we begin the story! (You can find the Ice Wizard story here.)
Some advice from Karen and other colleagues that I have found helpful while using story drama:
- If you are telling the story to the whole class, try to be as memorized as possible! This will let you add your own character into the story, which will make the class have more fun. It also frees up your eyes so that you can notice and point out when students make a great choice or are showing strong concentration.
- Add in details from the school, class or town you are teaching in! The students will be so excited if you say “This story is taking place in [their hometown],” or if you mention the name of their school.
- Say “Yes, and!” as much as possible to student ideas. It can be really difficult when a student is interrupting you while you’re telling the story or not really following the rules of the story. However, if you try and add their idea in, they will usually become more engaged and the disruptive behavior will stop. For example, if they keep shouting out, “I am a penguin,” during the Ice Wizard, sometimes it is best to mention the penguin in the story. You can include that the penguin is very good at being quiet and staying frozen, so the student feels included but they are also guided in the right direction.
If there is time in a shortened class period, it is wonderful to do a reflection! Here are some of the questions I like to include for this lesson:
- What was your favorite part of class today?
- What was hard for you to do in class today?
- What happened in the story?
- Why is personal space important in drama?
- Why is listening important in drama?
- Was it difficult to stay frozen? How come?
To be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do reflections with this age group. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with me at email@example.com, and we will spotlight them in our next blog post!