Classroom Strategies for Drama: Part 3

Hello friends of OneStopDRAMAShop, and welcome back! In my last blog article, I introduced five more classroom strategies for drama, each linked to an applied example from our lesson library. This installment continues with six more strategies, each including a practical example. As always, please reach out if you have any questions, and happy teaching!


1. Jigsaw

Students are placed in “home teams,” and given a problem to solve, a text to read, or a work product to create.  Each member of the team is given a research component, portion of text, or activity related to the “production.”  The teams subdivide and new sub-teams form that have similar tasks. Upon completion of their tasks, the home teams reform with each member of the sub-team bringing the work of their sub-team back to their home team.   I often use this when we are completing complex full class dramas with scenes being devised by individual teams.  One lesson I often use this for is Baking a Cake.  Shake up your teaching and give it a try!

(Note: This strategy is not included in the currently published version of this lesson. However, it is a very effective way to work on group dramas, and I highly recommend implementing it.)  

2. Higher order inquiry questions

These are often called essential questions or exploratory questions. They have no right or wrong answer and provide a base for long term exploration. This is a great strategy for encouraging group discussions and challenging students to think deeply about the concepts they are learning.

An essential question or exploratory question is included in every single published lesson in the Erickson curriculum.

3. KWL

At the beginning of a lesson, ask students what they “know” about a subject, next ask them “what” they want to learn about that same subject, and at the end of the unit ask them what they have “learned” about the subject.  For older students you might add an “H” for “How will you learn it?”  This makes it a KWHL.  Some instructors add an “F” for “feel.”  How do you feel about this subject, topic, etc.?  This is a great way to hook students into a topic.  When doing the lesson Randolph, I ask the students what they know about bears.  When doing Life in the Colonies or Tax Freeze, I ask what they know about the Revolutionary War.  If I know what they know, it allows me to go deeper into a topic.  Asking them what they know or want to know also helps me gauge their interest on a particular topic and make plans on how to add the research component. Here are some examples of KWHL Questions on the topic of castles:

What do you know about castles? 

What would you like to know?

 How will we find out what you want to know? 

Then, at the end of the unit:

What did you learn about castle life?

4. Mantle of the expert

This strategy comes from the drama world and was coined by Dorothy Heathcote.  Students are put into the character role of an adult expert as they discuss, research, and make decisions about an assignment or real-world problem. You might check out my Art Prints Lesson for an example of this strategy at work.

5. Metaphorical activity

Students are given a metaphorical activity to perform that helps them understand the ideas, themes, or topics being studied.  For instance, when studying the food chain, students might perform a dramatic exercise where a restaurant runs out of food while they are trying to serve dinner to a famous person. The reason the restaurant cannot restock is because the farmer ran out of gasoline for his tractor. Thus, he cannot produce crops and supply them to the grocer who supplies the restaurant.  Students must solve the farmers’ problem to get food to the grocer, to get food to the restaurant so the famous person could be served their meal.  This exercise helps students understand the food chain by demonstrating the difficulties that might arise in natural food chains. Another example of metaphorical activity is in my Revolutionary War: Tax Freeze Lesson, which uses a drama freeze activity to teach students about unfairness.

6. Mystery

Primary documents from a historical period or invented documents with clues imbedded are given to the students, who use them to answer key inquiry questions.

Here are some examples of clues you might give to the students:

  • stories told out of order
  • pictures with portions missing
  • poems with missing lines or stanzas

Students must use these clues to complete the work and justify their decisions.  A simple example in my work is Humpty Dumpty, where so many details are left out of the poem.  As students add the missing material, they create an entirely new work based on the poem.  I have written 50+ poems and added them to the website, most with missing events that must be added and created to complete a drama.