Voice Work – Sound to Dialogue

Vocal Work – Building Vocal Confidence – Sound to Dialogue


Beginning with movement, imitation, and pantomime is an excellent choice for young actors or beginning actors of any age.  Sooner or later, however, you need to introduce the human voice.  Improvising believable dialogue is not easy for students.  They might take the path of silliness or shock.  Take it step by step with the voice and you will have better dramas.


Step One Vocal Sounds: 

Add sounds to pantomimed or imitated work.  These might be nature sounds, environmental, manmade, or other worldly.  Participants can create sounds in a sequence to tell a story or develop a setting.  Activities you might download from OneStopDRAMAShop.com include:  Vocal Environment, Vocal Symphony, Sound Catch, more.


Step Two Choral Work: 

This can be either choral reading or choral speaking.  Teammates blend their voices to add expression, volume, varying rates, tonality and vocal qualities to existing or group created work.  You might download any of the 60 pieces of poetry included at the website for choral work.


Step Three Story Telling: 

This is most often solo work but can be done in partners or teams.  Individuals might act as narrator to a movement pantomime; stand in front of the class and tell a story from memory; work with a partner to tell a story using character voices as well as a narrative voice.  Here students work on eye contact, varying vocal inflection, adding fluency, building suspense or mood, and improving their speaking volume, rate, and pitch.  I like to use the activity The Liar’s Club or the lesson, I Was Courageous both found at the website.


Step Four Reader’s Theater: 

Individuals take the roles of characters and narrator in a pre existing script or piece of poetry or prose adding some blocking movement as the piece is read.  Props, costumes, and music might also be added by the team.  Scripts are held by the actors who have them half memorized so that they can use eye contact both with their fellow readers and the audience.  They only glance down to cue the next lines when needed.  Gestures, posture, facial expression, loco motor and non loco motor movements may also be used and are highly recommended.   See the Reader’s Theater Lesson and Rubic; also use the poetry collection for this purpose.


Step Five Partner Interviews: 

This format gives participants an opportunity to ease into dialogue.  Actors are given a situation where one character must interview another.  This might involve a TV program, radio show, detective and suspect, a character from history or a novel.  Start by giving everyone the same situation and move to improvised scenes devised by the actors.  Discuss types of questions:  Yes/No, Why, How, When, Where, and What and reflect on the type of answers that are given in response to each.  The actors should also be encouraged to use gestures, posture, and facial expression to give information about their characters and their characters thinking.


Step Six Creating Dialogue:

Participants now use and combine action, sound, and speaking (dialogue, monologue, asides) in their drama work.  At first it is improvised scenes followed by scripted work which is memorized.  Both of these forms can be presented  with or without costumes, props, music, etc.   By beginning with improvised work, the participants are acting as playwrights and will find the transition to writing their dialogue down in a documented form to be much easier.  Start with pair improvisations: a teacher with a learner; someone with a problem and advisor; a buyer and seller.  Move to larger groups when the actors are ready.  Also have actors use voices to personify animal and object characters imitating the vocal qualities those characters might have if they were human.


A Few Characteristics of Good Dialogue

  • -->Sounds like human conversation
  • -->Reveals the relationship between characters
  • -->Reveals a character’s personality, history, motivation
  • -->Moves the story forward
  • -->Helps the character get what he or she wants (achieve an objective)
  • -->Leaves some mystery (subtext)
  • -->Allows moments of silence

by Karen Erickson

Karen Erickson

Process Drama Workshop with Pam Bowell on 14th January, 2023

OneStopDRAMAShop and Creative Directions are excited to welcome Pam Bowell as a presenter for a virtual one day working session on Saturday, January 14th on Process Drama.  Overwhelmingly, our summer conference attendees asked for “More Pam, please.”  So here she comes all the way from Buckinghamshire in England – to share her immense knowledge with us via Zoom.

Pam is the co-author of two books on Process Drama with her friend and colleague, Brian Heap, called:  Planning Process Drama:  Enriching Teaching and Learning,


and Putting Process Drama into Action:  The Dynamics of Practice… both available from online booksellers…but nothing beats hearing it firsthand from one of the authors. 

I have participated in many workshops with Pam over the years, and it is always a joy to be in her presence and learn from her significant strategies and techniques in integrating curriculum.

Process Drama is rarely done in America because we are often too busy creating the year end production-- rehearsing, making costumes, and painting set pieces.  But what if we could harness this powerful tool and pass it on to classroom teachers so that drama might be integrated in the teaching of social/emotional learning, social studies, language arts, and science? What if we made drama indispensable?  What is wonderful about Process Drama is that it works from Pre-K-to high school and beyond.

Pam will be taking us on a journey into teacher-in-role, questioning techniques, planning the dramatic event, selecting the material, and guiding the implementation.  Participants will get to play in role with Pam, ask questions, and take away materials to read and use in their own planning.

Pam has been a secondary school drama teacher, a drama advisory teacher, university professor in teacher education, a world renowned speaker and presenter of everything drama, and an author leading the way in the Process Drama field.

Join us for an amazing day with Pam.  I’ll be there.  Hope I get to see you too.


Teaching Negotiation Strategies

teaching negotiation strategies

I recently had a question posed by Abbey in Maryland, who wanted to know more about negotiation strategies. I am including her question and my answer here in hopes that it will give others more insight into these strategies. You might want to reference the “Concentration and Partner Work” lesson in the Getting Started With Drama sequence on the OneStopDRAMAShop for additional context on this topic. We encourage you to keep sending us your ideas and thoughts on this or any topic. None of us are as smart as all of us, so jump in there and share what you know relating to each question presented.

Hello [Karen], I am doing Concentration and Partner Work lesson. I’m supposed to explain the three beginning negotiation strategies which are:

a. Chance
b. Taking Turns
c. “I Don’t Care.”

There is no explanation on each of the said strategies. What are the expectations for each? Kindly elaborate. Or is there a place on the website that explains in depth about negotiation strategies that you can refer me to?

Hello Abbey,

Nice to hear from you. I hope you are doing well and that your year is off to a great start. I will do my best to answer your question about negotiation strategies.

CHANCE. (This is any type of chance.) When teachers say, “If you wore red today, line up first,” this is an example of chance as it was by chance you wore red today. “Bubble gum bubble gum in a dish” or “Eenee, Meenee, Minee, Mo” are both examples of games of chance. Picking a number between 1-5 or drawing a name out of a hat are also ways to take a chance. Students like to play “Rock Paper Scissors,” but this is one game of chance I won’t allow as many students know how to cheat. I learned this early in my career, as I stood over groups of second graders using “Rock Paper Scissors” to make a decision and saw them cheating at this game. If all this seems strange, just ask your class how many know that people can cheat at this game. Also ask how many don’t know. They will tell you.

The absolute best strategy for chance is called “Odds and Evens.” It is quick, fair, and I haven’t witnessed any cheating. In this game, each partner puts one hand behind their back, each partner selects either odd or even, then on a count of three they reveal any number of fingers from behind their back from zero to 5. The two partners add the fingers together…if it’s an odd number, odd wins; if it’s an even number, even wins. This is a very quick decision making game of chance. In a group of 5-6 students who all want to play the same role, they move quickly around the circle as individuals play games of odds and evens with each other to reach the final outcome.

I tell the class,
“When you play a game of chance with someone there will be a winner and one or more losers. You have a 50/50 chance of losing. If you decide to play a game of chance…you must cooperate by going along with the final decision.

If they don’t want to “go along with the outcome” then they must choose another negotiation strategy like….

TAKING TURNS.  “Taking Turns” means everyone who wants to do a certain role or task gets to switch off and play the role or do the task…back and forth, back and forth.  I often see “Taking Turns” turn into “Sharing a Role,” where a one headed dragon becomes a multi-headed dragon, and the heads take turns speaking the lines.

Important note:  When taking turns, if the team can’t decide who goes in which order…they might play odds and evens – take a chance to decide.  I remind them that it won’t matter who wins or loses because everyone gets to do it!    This comes up very rarely, so I never mention it if they don’t! Better to address it when and if it happens. In all my years it has only happened 3-4 times ever.   

Now, there is an even faster way to decide:

I DON’T CARE.  I say to them, “If you don’t care and you’ll do anything, just say, ‘I don’t care.’  It is fast and gets you into practicing quickly.  However…

Three rules about this. 

First, don’t say you don’t care if you do.  If you do care, take a chance or decide to take turns.   

Second, don’t begin the negotiation by saying you don’t care.   Begin by asking each other or everyone in a group what they would like to do.  Everyone must say what they would like to do.  If several people want to take the same role or do the same task, only then can you or someone else say, ‘I don’t care, I’ll be __________.’”

Important note:  This is because some students will give in to the status of other students and just say, “I Don’t Care” when they are teamed up with someone that intimidates them or someone they admire.   Everyone voicing what they want to do or what role they want at the start of negotiations means all students have a voice in drama and in the classroom. 

Third, if everyone still cares after “the asking,” return to the first two strategies – take a chance or take turns.

The hardest part is supporting and encouraging the students to continue using the strategies as they work in groups throughout their time with you.  These strategies provide a safe and collaborative classroom where making decisions both in drama and in other areas harmonious.  I hope you find this helpful!  This process works at all grade levels and in life.

by Karen Erickson

Karen Erickson

Drama is a Powerful Tool to Address Bullying

drama is powerful tool for anti-bullying

Some of you requested more help with addressing bullying behaviors in your classrooms and wondered what choices you might make in selecting and devising drama work. 

Drama is a powerful tool in addressing bullying.  It must be used consistently and over time to be effective.  A onetime experience is not enough to provide the outcome we all desire.  This is another in a series of articles that explains steps you might take, safely, to move your classroom, school, community group, or program to a bully free zone through the experiences of dramatic play.

Here are some ideas for classroom practice.  Please, as always, share with me any of your ideas, activities, and questions!

Why Drama?

Research shows that young people need:

  •   – A way to practice anti-bullying behaviors.
  •   – Ways to step out of themselves, in a safe environment, and look at the problem from a distance.
  •   – To develop a common vocabulary and language among peers to discuss and create an anti-bullying culture.

In the first article on Anti-bullying, I mentioned that the simple act of taking on a role sets a young person outside of themselves and provides a safe distance to explore proper language and actions that might be used in a bullying situation. Let’s delve a bit deeper into this aspect of dramatic work. I want to take a closer look at those who stand by and watch: the observers – the bystanders. 


Bystanders can remain innocent by not getting involved in the bullying event.


Most bullying is public, done in front of others. Bystanders are “assistants” to bullies. If a bystander does not report the bully, move to protect the victim, or attempt to deter the bully in any way, he is, in fact, a contributor to the bullying. Bystanders only support the bullying victim in some way in 25% of reported cases.

I didn’t do anything.

This is a familiar refrain when addressing young people who witnessed someone else being bullied.  How do we flip this concept so that students might support the target of the bully’s aggressive behaviors in a safe and productive manner? We want to begin by having the students be able to understand bullying roles through distancing – nothing accusatory or laying blame. Drama is perfect for accomplishing this. We want to give students the knowledge of how to diffuse a bullying action when they witness it or know about it. We also want them to have the confidence of when and how to seek help.

Activity Idea #1 “Role on the Wall.”

Have someone lie down on a long sheet of white paper and trace an outline of that person using a washable marker. (I find that this is best to be done before class as the figure should be anonymous.) Hang this figure of a human, the ROLE, up on the wall.

  1. First label the Role on the Wall as: SCHOOL BULLY (you might have that label written on a strip of paper that you hang over the bully’s head).
  2. Have the students find a space facing the Bully. Ask them to think how close or far away they might stand to show their personal feelings about people who bully others. Tap students and have them tell you why they chose the space they did.
  3. Next, have each student make a shape with their body that indicates how they feel looking at this Bully: are they scared, determined, shy, angry, empowered, etc.? Again, tap some of them to tell you the emotion they are communicating.
  4. Have them think of something the Bully might have done…what is it she did? What would they say to the Bully? What would the words be? How loud would they say it? Give them time to think. As you move about the room and tap some of them on the shoulder, have them speak their words/lines in character to the Bully. You might also choose to have them all speak simultaneously or half the room at a time.

Partner the students and have them share their statues, their lines, and their vocal choices with each other. Have them decide how they can work together to create a moment where these two friends speak to the Bully. They can choose to become one statue, two identical statues, or keep their original shaped statues. Have them decide how they will speak and what they will say to this Bully. Let partners share their ideas. Have some or all partners share their moment. Have them think what words might make a situation worse and what words might help diffuse the situation or cause it to stop.

Activity idea #2 The Bystander

Change the label of the Role on the Wall from BULLY to BYSTANDER.

  1. Ask the partners to come up with a bullying event this Bystander observed. Explain that their job is now going to be as an assistant to the Bystander in aiding the target and getting the bullying to stop.
  2. Give each set of partners three sticky notes of different colors.
    1. The first color: Students write the bullying event that is happening and describe how close the Bystander stands to the event.
    2. The second color: Students write words the Bystander could say to the Bully or to the Target to help the situation.
    3. The third color: Students write what the Bystander should do next.
  3. The partners come forward and stick the notes onto the body of the ROLE.
  4. Have three students come forward, with each reading all of the notes of one of the colors.
  5. Conduct a discussion (not a lecture…and keep your ideas to a minimum) about what they heard and how a Bystander can be a Hero or can be part of the Bullying event if they do nothing. Hear what the students think about this. Again, discuss which lines escalate and which can calm a situation.
  6. Have one partner become the Bully and the other the Bystander. Have them create a scene where the Bystander (either during or after a bullying event) comes forward and speaks to the Bully. The Bully might also speak to the Bystander. As they plan ask the following:
    • How close is the Bystander standing to the Bully?
    • How is the Bully feeling? The Bystander?
    • What is the event that is taking place?
    • What are the words the Bystander speaks?
    • How do they want to end their scene?
    • Use ideas from our Bystander on the Wall!
  1. (An alternate idea to use: Give each pair of partners three random sticky notes on which to base their scene.)
  2. Have the partners switch roles and plan a second scene. If time permits, have the students share their scenes.
  3. Continue the class discussion about the role and responsibility of the Bystander.

The above activities give students distance and a framework in which to express their ideas. You, as the teacher, will learn about their thoughts on Bullies and Bystanders. This also provides material to move deeper into longer scenes regarding bullying incidents and how Bystanders can become Heroes.

by Karen Erickson

Karen Erickson

Related Posts

Excitement is in the Air!

Membership Trial Plan

If it has been a while since you have visited OneStopDRAMAShop.com, there are some exciting new changes I would love to share with you.

First Ron, Adam, and I have been joined by two new folks who are assisting in getting material together to share with you. We welcome Samantha Webster and Danielle Kerr to the team, and they are incredible supports to the work we are doing here.

So, we have been doing… a lot!  You may have met them as part of our inaugural Spice It Up! Conference.

I am so excited about our new poetry collection and accompanying lesson plan/activity ideas:

Poetry and Drama: Combining Art Forms

As an alternative to stories, we now offer an original collection of poems. This colorful and humorous collection includes topics that vary from animal adventures to anti-bullying to the frustrations of family.

These poems provide rich opportunities for students to practice skills like imitation, collaboration, and transformation while continuing to hone their body, mind, and voice. Throughout, there is an emphasis on narrative skills and reader’s theater techniques.

Our collection also provides opportunities for you as the instructor to integrate additional academic subjects, including Language Arts, Social Sciences and Character Education. We have poems tailored to each grade level from K-7, as well as customized journal pages to help your students reflect on and solidify what they learned in drama.

In addition, these poems were created so that you can teach Reader’s Theater, choral reading, and—my personal favorite—the 10 different ways to teach the narrative device: the narrator. Select your favorites for academic and drama study and have some fun with the learning with these often amusing poems.



I am also excited about our new collection of integrated lessons that will soon be going onto the website thanks to Samantha!

We have lessons addressing the American Revolution, The Pioneer Movement, The Human Body, Ecosystems, Langston Hughes and the Great Migration, the impact of setting on Little Red Riding Hood, as well as integrated lessons addressing writing skills. And these aren’t all…there are just too many to mention and there are many more to come!



Danielle is also busy pulling together video snippets of classroom techniques you find throughout our lessons. These short video segments will demonstrate drama in action in classrooms. Hopefully you will find these to be informative and fun. Also, we hope you have techniques to share and that you will send us your short videos, which will help all of us build safe and productive classrooms that include drama.

SPICE it Up! – Reinvigorate Your Curriculum with Drama Integration

Announcing Onestopdramashop.com’s Inaugural Online Conference

We are thrilled to announce that our first ever SPICE It Up! Conference is happening this summer from August 12-13, 2022. We wanted to create a space for our teachers to deepen their knowledge of Arts Integration and expand their teaching strategies with the help of experts in the field. Speakers include Pam Bowell, internationally renowned author of Planning Process Drama, award winning drama teacher Greg Eskridge, and OneStopDRAMAShop executive director and founder Karen L. Erickson.  SPICE It Up!  will also feature a keynote speech from Nicole Upton, Executive Director of Ingenuity.  Join us for presentations, Q&As, and interactive activities with professionals at the forefront of Drama Education and Arts Integration.  Visit SPICE.OneStopDRAMAShop.com to read more about the presenters and agenda for this workshop.

So, what does SPICE stand for anyway?

S – Share strategies with fellow educators
P – Play with different teaching methods
I – Imagine new pathways for learning
C – Create a personalized curriculum
E – Engage with new material

We want to provide an opportunity for educators to work towards all these goals and walk away with renewed confidence in their curriculum before the new school year!

You can now register for our SPICE It Up! Conference happening August 12-13, 2022.  We are offering a 30% early bird discount now through July 15th.  Register early for $35 and save.  If you would like to receive updates on the Conference, please sign up for our mailing list here

    Your Name (required)

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    Subject: SPICE it Up! conference: Keep me informed!

    Any other requests?


    Karen in workshop

    Working with Books – A Sick Day

    A new feature, Working with Books, encourages you to look at your bookshelves and find the perfect new or classic book with which to build a classroom drama.  I will begin with my favorites, but I encourage you to send me titles and your notes if you have built a drama with your recommendation and we will share your ideas in hopes everyone can build a powerful classroom library suitable for drama.

    This month’s book, a 5 star recommendation for drama:

     A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead;  with many purchasing choices.

    “Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor.”  Macmillan Publishers

    Age recommendation: Pre K – 2nd Grade (4-7 year olds)

    Themes:  Friendship, Animals, Being Sick, Interacting with Friends, Zoos, Careers/Jobs

    Drama Skills you might address:  Transformation, Working with Space, Dialogue, Playing Animals Upright, Imitating Actions

    Curricular Connections:  Science, Language Arts, Social/Emotional Learning


    I highly recommend this book as it provides many connections and options for drama and presents ideas for curricular connections and drama skills you might want to teach or reinforce.  

    This book works beautifully with teacher in role as Amos McGee, the animals’ friend.  You might want a pair of old glasses or a hat of some type and introduce costume piece to the students letting them know when you put it on you are Amos from the story and when you take it off, you are the teacher again.

    Begin with 1-2 warmups:  With students in their own personal space, have them transform into the different animals (elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinoceros, and owl) from the book.  Give them time to walk, sleep, eat, run (or fly), and drink water as their animal.  Just give them time to experience the animal.  Having photos of the real animals is a great idea here, integrate with science by discussing the animal’s habitats, food preferences, and how then sleep, hunt, or live.

    Next, have them imitate the activities found in the story:  playing chess, racing, sitting shyly, blowing nose in a handkerchief, listening to stories.  Have them imitate the activities first as themselves –a human, then as the corresponding animal.

    Read the book and discuss the message, setting, and ideas of the author.  (Sometimes I do this first and have them list the animals and the activities….both ways work well.)

    Next, play the story with everyone (still in personal space) being each of the animals as you play in role as Amos and act as the narrator/storyteller.  (Note:  keep your signaling device handy so you can continue to manage the group as you play out the book.)

    Idea:  You might bring in a blanket so the animals will know the space for the bed and not be tempted to get too close.  I also like to use a teddy bear and have it near or on my “bed.” 

    You can continue to have the young actors all be each animal, imitating the actions from their personal space (this can be played with masks on) and speaking from their spot in the room.  It is okay to have them all speak at once, many won’t speak.  You can feed them the lines to speak as you retell the story to them, pausing to give them time to respond.  You can extend the dialogue adding more conversation with the animals if your class is ready to move in that direction.

    The book can be broken into two lessons as well:  the front part of the story is an introduction to animal characters and actions and can be a standalone lesson; the second lesson brings the animals to the bedside of Amos and allows for creative variations in the playing, e.g. all students playing each animal or groups of students playing one animal one at a time. 

    Great extensions are a possibility as well like: What zoo animals would they add to the story and what might Amos be doing with each of those animals?  Then have the students transform into those animals imitating those actions.  Play the story again using their ideas.    This is a great way to encourage creative thinking.  With this simple act, students begin to understand story adaptation and that they can extend or alter stories they play in drama, thus becoming playwrights.


    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson

    Adapting a drama lesson: THE STATUE MAKER

    Adapting a drama lesson-statue maker

    This is the fourth 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 2020 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.

    In this month, I will discuss adapting a drama lesson: The Statue Maker lesson , also known as Concentration and Partner Work Lesson (found in OneStopDRAMAShop.com) adapts really well for on line instruction if you have breakout rooms available. 

    In this lesson, students usually “mold” their partners into images by manipulating and shaping them.  In the “in person classroom” I share with the students that they don’t have to touch their partners or be touched, if they do not wish.  Instead they have the option of showing their partner how to move into the image or they can tell their partner what to do by giving clear instructions verbally.  For the on line work, the latter two options are shared and left up to the statue make and their partner, the clay, to decide which path they will take.   In this way, students can still practice the art of decision making (who will be the statue maker and who will be the clay) and negotiating their decision peacefully which is outlined in the lesson. 

    Additional variances for the on line work: 

    The teacher modeling:  When I model, I ask one student to be my partner and we first do the “Red and Blue” dialogue to determine who is the statue maker and who is the clay arriving at the “ask, don’t tell!” feature.    Next we choose one of the options (showing or verbal instructions).  Then I give a prompt for the content of the statue (e.g. create a statue of something to eat that is good for you,  create a statue of a person showing responsibility,  create a statue of a famous landmark you might see on the East Coast, etc.).  Lastly we model working until the statue is created.  

    I share a step by step process with the students:

    Your 1 minute Challenge:

    • - Decide who the statue maker is and who the clay is:  use the “Ask! Don’t Tell” and the Decision Making Strategy.
    • - Decide together if the statue maker will use showing or verbal instructions to make the statue.
    • - Statue Maker completes the statue based on this prompt ________________.
    • - Switch roles and do it again, if time permits.


    The students are paired or tripled up and sent to breakout rooms to complete the 1-2 minute challenge of making their statues. 

    The students return and share their statues with the entire class.  Explaining to the class what they have made.

    On following days you might want to repeat the activity but this time enlarging the groups and taking it in to the realm of story.

    I begin by discussing the story elements of character and action (as it relates to plot and message).

    Students are grouped into teams of 3-5 depending on their age and social development.  This time when they are sent for their challenge, they are given a small script with blanks to use as a prompt for their statues.  Below are some script ideas:

    • I/we saw someone _______­­______ so I/we did ________ and then I (we) _____________ed to solve the problem. 
    • I/we saw __________ happening so I/we quickly ________ and then did ______________to help the person.
    • Because I felt______________ I sort of accidentally on purpose did ___________ which caused _________________ to happen.  So, I took responsibility and did ____________. 

    The students follow the same process outlined for the first day but now they have two images (or three or four) to create in a sequence that tells the story.  Also, additional time is give 3-4 minutes.

    Once they have completed their statue stories, they return to the class and share their statues as they tell their story. 

    All my lessons are written as a sequence of short steps.  On OneStopDRAMAShop.com you can find this story written out in a lesson plan that you can download and break into your own steps.     The two previous articles in this blog outline several activities that can be done on line as well as for distanced classroom instruction. If you have a favorite lesson you would like me to adapt for our current situation, please write me and let me know.  Glad to assist.


    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson

    Adapting a drama story for remote learners

    Adapting a drama story for remote learners

    Drama in the Age of Covid-19  Number 3

    Adapting a drama story: THE ELVES and the SHOEMAKER

    This is the third blog article written as I pause from my regular 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 2020 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.

    Lessons to Mini Lessons

    Lessons that you find on my web site can be so much shorter than written.  Each lesson is actually broken into steps on the lesson plan.  So, when looking at a lesson you might break it into Mini lessons like this:

    • Mini Lesson Day One: Review and introduction; followed by the warm-up activity, followed by a reflection – 15-20 minutes.
    • Mini Lesson Day Two:  Reflect on day before 3-5 minutes, followed by a quick repeat of the warmup from Day One; followed by the whole or part of the body of the lesson, followed by a quick reflection.  20 minutes
    • Mini Lesson Day Three: Review days one and two; followed by a quick warm up or a repeat of an activity previously completed from the body of the lesson, followed by the final lesson activity, followed by reflection.  20 -25 minutes.  

    Note:  Or you might repeat the Day Three steps over and over until you come to the end of the activity or story.

    Here is an example for adapting a drama story:  The Elves and the Shoemaker.

    Day One Introduction:  I ask them what they know about elves. (Optional:  I read or tell them the story.)  This is followed by everyone making up an elf dance in their “online space” at home or in their own designated area for drama at school.  Students who want to share then share their dances. Lastly, I tell them they must remember their dance for day two (I don’t really care if they change, forget, or make up a new dance but it does give a reason for them to try to memorize and to practice their movement. Two steps in the process of this art form.) They do a final practice followed by reflection on elves, the story, predicting what the story will be about – if I haven’t read or told it to them in advance, and drama skills.    I encourage them to show their parents for one more practice later that night. 

    Day Two:  We warmup with reflecting on what we did Day One and everyone does their elf dance.   I tell or read the story (I always prefer telling as I can alter details…such as, in the original story there are only 3 elves but as I retell it there is a band of many elves.   In their space everyone transforms into the Shoemaker.   As I tell the story again, they imitate the Shoemaker making the shoes, selling the shoes, etc.  He works hard but is still poor.  This is the next step of the story.  We reflect comparing the two characters:  elves and Shoemaker.

    Day Three:  We reflect and warmup with the elf dance.  The students imitate the elves, sneak in and sew the shoes.  Teacher plays in role as the shoemaker, finds the shoes, and sells the shoes to the students who are now townspeople.  Stop here or finish the story where the shoemaker discovers the elves, makes the clothes, the elves find the clothes and do their dance.  End with a reflection of the three days, meaning of the story, and drama skills.

    So, a formerly one day lesson [pre-Covid times] becomes three days.  If one takes the time to reflect about the problem/solution, characters, message, reality and fantasy, or a host of other things....the lesson(s) become richer.  


    All my lessons are written as a sequence of short steps.  On OneStopDRAMAShop.com you can find this story written out in a lesson plan that you can download and break into your own steps.     The two previous articles in this blog outline several activities that can be done on line as well as for distanced classroom instruction. If you have a favorite lesson you would like me to adapt for our current situation, please write me and let me know.  Glad to assist.



    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson

    More on Drama with Remote Learners

    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 OneStopDRAMAShop.com).  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 OneStopDRAMAShop.com) 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