Sixth Grade Lessons

Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade No Prior Drama 

Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade With Prior Drama

Purchase Lesson Sequence Outline only
Purchase or download individual lessons below

These year-long planning guides map a year of drama teaching.  We put these lessons in a recommended delivery order below, but you may revise, rearrange, and adapt as you see fit.  These sequences are not a mandate; rather, they are intended to provide you with assistance as you build a curriculum for your classroom.

NOTE ON LESSON SEQUENCES:  We have included two lesson sequences, one for students with prior drama instruction, and one for students without prior drama experience.  For classes without prior experience, download our Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade No Prior Drama, and begin at Week One.  For classes with prior experience, download our Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade With Prior Drama, and use that document as your guide for which lessons to teach. 

NOTE ON ACTIVITIES: You might notice that in this lesson sequence, some of the materials are activities rather than lessons. At this grade level, class periods usually get shorter, so teachers might not always have time for a complete lesson. Activities give teachers a little more flexibility, so they can target a focus skill of their choosing and get whatever they need out of each class period. Each lesson or activity in the sequence builds off of the previous one, providing the skill work needed for the next step in the sequence and ensuring scaffolded student improvement.  

NOTE ON FLEX WEEKS: What we know for certain about the school year is that it never goes quite as planned. Therefore, we adapted our curriculum to allow for wiggle room! A flex week is extra time built into a curriculum sequence to allow for class periods lost to fire drills, assemblies, snow days etc. If you find yourself with extra time, we have also provided a link to our lesson library, where you can find additional lessons for the Sixth Grade not included in our curriculum sequence.

Week 1 1. Book, Stick, Chair, Person1
2.    Yes It Is!2
3.    Transforming Three Objects Into Story2
4. Concentration and Partner Work1
5.    Statue Maker Redesign1
Week 2 6. The Circus 2
7.  The Tightrope   2
8.    Liar's Club1, 3, 4
Week 39. Body Objects with "BJ's Journey"2, 11, 12
10. Body Objects with "The Dreamer" Story  2, 11 ,12
11.    Bound North Blues2, 4, 6
Week 4 12.    Vocal Environment2, 3, 4, 6
13.    I Was Courageous2, 3, 4, 6
Week 5 14.  Team Juggling1, 3, 4
15. Refrigerator1, 3, 4
16.  Tableau1, 3, 4
17.  Tableau Stories1, 3, 4
18.  Journal Writing and Assessment1, 3, 4
Week 6 19. Pass the Word 4, 6
20.  Sound Catch4, 6
21.  Introducing Gibberish4, 6
22.  Gibberish Interviews4, 6
Week 7 23.  Three Scenes from a Book4, 6, 8
24.  The Sacred Scarab4, 6, 8
Week 825.  Open Scenes2, 5, 4, 7
26.  Elevator2, 5, 4, 7
Week 9 27.  Emotion Stories2, 8, 5
28.  Creating Mood 2, 8, 5
Week 10 29. Flex Week (Additional Lessons available here)
Week 11 30. Animal Shapes2, 8, 11, 12
31. How the World Was Formed on Turtle's Back 2, 8, 11, 12
Week 12 32. Read short play and Identify Story Elements (Tales Retold or a play of your choosing) 7, 8, 11, 12
33. Assessment on Dramatic Story Elements7, 8, 11, 12
Week 1334. Crossing the Road - Conflict Relay5, 7, 8
35. Action and Reaction5, 7, 8
36. Señor Coyote Acts as Judge5, 7, 8
Week 14 37. Reader's Theater with Poetry7, 9, 13
Week 15 38. One Person Monologue6, 10, 13
Week 1639. Two Character Dialogue6, 10, 13
Week 1740. Final Performances or Flex Week (Additional Lessons available here) 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 13
41. Final Assessment on Collaboration, Planning, Imagination, Story Elements, Narrator Skills 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 13


Sixth Grade Drama Curriculum
CURRICULUM MENU  About this Curriculum Guide for Sixth Grade Students Each of these lessons has been tested in the classroom and taught successfully for many years.  These lessons are intended as an extension to the foundational Introductory Lessons which have the background and ...
6th Grade Drama Objectives & Standards
Sixth Grade Drama Objectives  Drama Objectives Alignment to National Standards These objectives cover essential learning in the art form for eleven to twelve-year-old students.   This first PDF download above (appears below for subscribers) contains objectives used in our Sixth ...
Sixth Grade Lessons
Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade No Prior Drama  Recommended Lesson Sequence for Sixth Grade With Prior Drama Purchase Lesson Sequence Outline only
Purchase or download individual lessons below These year-long planning guides map a year of drama teaching. We ...
Sixth Grade Vocabulary
Vocabulary List for the Sixth Grade This PDF document contains definitions in student language for the vocabulary words listed in each lesson.  These classroom-tested definitions are used when introducing these concepts in the classroom.  Of course, many of the words ...

Story Selection for Great Classrooms

Classroom management and student engagement often begin with selecting the right story for your class.  In my curriculum, younger students start out by playing the major characters all together. Then, as a next step, I place them in groups where they learn how to divide the roles amongst themselves – See Negotiation Strategies. Because of this, it is crucial to carefully select the best stories for each stage of development. This article covers stories where students must negotiate roles within their groups.  Here are a few of my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours, and please send us the titles of your favorite drama stories!

How do we select stories and plays for drama that capture the interest of every student? First, we must ensure the story is age appropriate, and that it has the right number of characters to foster great collaboration. Taking that into account, I have also found that some students are unwilling to take on roles that make them uncomfortable.   When they feel uncomfortable they are more apt to act out, be uncooperative, and provide difficulties for their group or the class. This leads to complex management issues both in the drama and the classroom.

To avoid this, here’s what I suggest:

Choose a story with more active than passive characters.   Young actors like to play active characters.  Active characters are instrumental to the plot and are involved in the conflict. They are often the protagonist, the antagonist or a character that is instrumental in resolving the conflict/problem.  The key word here is “action.”  The active characters are moving the plot along – taking some type of action. 

There are stories without a great deal of action, making all characters more passive, like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, and there are stories with all active characters like Who’s In Rabbit’s House? by Verna Aardema.  However, many stories have both active and some passive characters like The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  In the last example, the prince is a passive character who has little to do with the action, and the princess and the dragon are much more active.  When there is a mixture of active and passive roles like this, sometimes the more aggressive or confident students prevent others from taking the active roles. Students who get cast in a passive role when they desire an active role are more likely to be disruptive.

Two solutions: one, select stories that have only active characters; and two, since this is not always possible, ask students who have traditionally played an active role to take on a passive role.

I might say something like:

“All actors who played ______________ in our last drama, I am going to ask you today to play __________ when your group meets to decide roles.  Raise your hand if you played _______________ in that drama. Keep your hand up if you agree to take on the role of _____________ today. That’s perfect and thank you.” 

Doing this before groups gather is called a “contract,” and heads off any potential management issues that could arise within the group.

Choose a story with neutral characters.  Neutral character stories are ones where you don’t have to worry about roles being determined by gender, ethnicity, or physical traits.  In the classroom it is important to provide stories with roles that everyone feels comfortable playing.  This way there is joy in the playing, which will always foster greater engagement.  If you have noticed that students are stuck in casting each other or themselves based on traditional roles, then you might select animal stories such as fables or fantasy stories that have nonhuman characters. These stories are excellent options because they provide ample roles that are both active and neutral.

You might also build instructional strategies into your curriculum to help them make less obvious casting choices.  Begin with something like Jack and the Beanstalk, and discuss – don’t lecture – on how actors who are small might take on the giant, for instance.  Use instruction, examples, and modeling to move your class away from typecasting each other or themselves.

Choose stories everyone can play.  Actors who have physical and mental challenges also enjoy participating in active roles.  Some students in the class might not be aware of this.  Use instructional brainstorming with the group to generate ideas of how to incorporate everyone.  In one class I had a young lady who could not speak and was in a wheel chair often operated by as assistant.  For one drama, she chose to be the major central character.  Her teammates were able, with her permission, to move her chair.  They became her voice when needed, and she used simple hand movements, vocal sounds, and facial expressions to communicate, as her team accompanied her around the playing space. This opened a world of possibilities for her throughout the semester.  Don’t let challenges create barriers.  Removing barriers for one individual creates a safe place for everyone.

Choose a story without a horrible villain or bully.  Students love to read and listen to stories with a character “they love to hate.”  But when it comes time to play the role, they shy away.  There can be many reasons for this:  they don’t feel safe among their classmates, they are not ready to utter mean words to someone else, the role feels too close to something in their personal life, or the character is too scary. Often, after introducing a story, I discuss the characters and see if there are those willing to take on the darker roles.  I also might put up a “role on the wall” (a large outline of the character no wants to play) and suggest that groups use that image to represent the character. That way, students can take turns being the voice of the character, and no one has to play the role.

In my work, I introduce a process of collaboration that allows young people to work as a team to select their own characters in a manner that is fair, fast, and collegial. I observe the groups as they participate in that process of negotiation and note who selects which character.  This process allows me to plan and select stories more thoughtfully.

Choose carefully any written story that students will dramatize. Your students might not receive many opportunities to act out stories, so make each selection as memorable as possible.  Each story should be dramatic, with vibrant characters that everyone wants to play.  Select a story for its content, message, dynamics, and quality. Enacted stories that are most memorable and have the greatest impact on student learning are ones about interpersonal interaction, connections to the broader world, and the power of human choice.  All stories are not equal; good stories will support your teaching, the quality of your program, and the atmosphere of your classroom.

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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 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

Plot Boosters

Plot Boosters

Use this list of plot boosters to develop original stories for your drama work! These ideas can support the plot by moving the story along, giving the reader/viewer new information, showing character changes, foreshadowing, providing irony, creating cause and effect, and supporting the message and/or theme of the story. 

SPICE it Up! – Reinvigorate Your Curriculum with Drama Integration

Announcing’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 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

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

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    Karen in workshop

    5th Grade Lessons

    Recommended Lesson Sequence for Fifth Grade 

    The lessons suggested for our Fifth Grade Curriculum are put in a recommended delivery order below, but you may revise, rearrange, and adapt as you see fit.  This year-long planning guide maps a year of drama teaching based on the lessons in this guide.  This sequence is not a mandate; rather, it is intended to provide you with assistance as you select the lessons for your classroom.

    NOTE: this sequence is for classes with PRIOR drama instruction.  For classes without prior experience, begin with our foundational Introductory Lessons.  If teachers, in grades that precede yours, are already teaching drama, you don’t need to teach those foundational lessons, just begin with this new set of lessons.

    September1. Crazy Shapes & Transform the Chair    1
    2. Statue Maker with Nursery Rhymes    1
    3. Creating Tableaux & Pictures in a Gallery1, 2
    October4.  Emotion Emotion  2, 3
    5.  Tableau Stories  2, 3
    November6. Three Scenes From a Book    3
    7.  Pantomime with a Prop  3, 4
    December8.  And That's a Blue Day  3, 5
    9.   This Morning I Felt 3, 5
    January10. Good News, Bad News 6, 7
    11.  Jabberwocky6, 7
    February12.  Painting Stories8
    March13.  Landforms (Three-Day Unit)8
    April14.  Art Print Lesson10
    May15.  Journey to Another Culture (Six-Day Unit)8, 9, 11

    Fifth Grade Drama Curriculum
    CURRICULUM MENUAbout this Curriculum Guide for Fifth Grade StudentsEach of these lessons has been tested in the classroom and taught successfully for many years.  These lessons are intended as an extension to the foundational Introductory Lessons which have the background and methodology needed to ...
    5th Grade Drama Objectives & Standards
    Fifth Grade Drama Objectives  Drama Objectives Alignment to National Standards These objectives cover essential learning in the art form for nine- to ten-year-old students.   This first PDF download above (appears below for subscribers) contains objectives used in our Fifth Grade Curriculum in a ...
    5th Grade Lessons
    Recommended Lesson Sequence for Fifth Grade The lessons suggested for our Fifth Grade Curriculum are put in a recommended delivery order below, but you may revise, rearrange, and adapt as you see fit. This year-long planning guide maps a ...
    Fifth Grade Vocabulary
    Vocabulary for the Fifth Grade This PDF document contains definitions in student language for the vocabulary words listed in each lesson.  These classroom-tested definitions are used when introducing these concepts in the classroom.  Of course, many of the words here may have additional ...

    Back to School using DRAMA

    back to school using drama

    School is starting soon, or for some of you, it has already begun.  Don’t forget to plan drama into your weekly routine – plan to go back to school using drama.  This article provides some ideas to help you kick off the year.  Also, don’t forget to share with us the first drama lesson you use to begin the year.  We all want to learn from each other.  We will post it here: Creative classroom management can lead to creative thinkers.

    I’ve answered this question many times throughout the years:

    What way do you recommend introducing drama during the first month of school?

    Start by Selecting the introductory activity

    Select an opening activity that-

    1. sets a routine,
    2. introduces grade level appropriate vocabulary,
    3. shares beginning classroom protocols and expectations, and
    4. introduces the notion that your classroom will be a creative place where content will be introduced through active learning and smiles.

    Kindergarten and First Grade (sometimes Second Grade)

    For these grades I encourage getting into enacted story as soon as possible.  I love to do it from the very beginning.

    First I set a routine by having the students form a seated circle where they will remain for this first lesson.

    Next I introduce what drama is, saying, “Drama is where we learn to act out stories and if all goes well today we will act out our first story.”

    Then  I introduce vocabulary:  the actor’s tools (mind, body, and voice),  imagination, listening, and concentration.

    Now I set a management strategy:  with students still in the circle, I use my signaling device (tambourine) to set a listening game around two sounds – one to stand and one to sit down.    We all chant the following:

                   We stand up and wiggle around (we all stand and wiggle)

                   We freeze when we hear this sound (one beat of signaling device everyone freezes)

                   Two beats and we all sit quietly down (two beats of signaling device everyone sits quietly down)

    Students wiggle, dance, turn around, or any chosen movement each time you repeat the chant.

    After several times, checking to see if everyone is following, listening, and concentrating, I introduce the story.  The story I created for this first day of drama is Henry’s Magic Hat.” The story and entire lesson can be found among the lessons and stories available on line at 

    Lastly, don’t forget reflection!  So important.

    With this lesson, I have introduced the art form, set a management signal, introduce beginning vocabulary, establish a routine, and allow students to experience the joy of acting out a story.


    Second Grade to High School (Sometimes First Grade)

    The lesson I use for my first day is Book, Stick, Chair, Person which can be found in its entirety among the lessons at or a shorter description of just the activity can be found among the activities– I recommend downloading the full the lesson.  It is an easy getting started lesson as the students bring their chairs to a circle and there is little movement.  I often just use the stick, chair and person, leaving off the book for time.   Again, this activity/lesson sets a routine, establishes some protocols for behavior, introduces beginning vocabulary, and instills a sense of fun in the art form.

    Brief lesson synopsis:  Students sit in chairs in a circle.  An object (stick/ruler) is passed around the circle and students transform the object, in their imagination, into another object of similar size and shape.  They announce the new object. (This is not a guessing game.)  Next they pass the object again but this time imitate using the object as if it really were that object.  Then a chair is added.  Students combine the chair and stick together to create a more complex object or idea.  Lastly a third “object” is added – a person who is also transformed into an object with the chair and the stick.  This lesson can be done in one sitting, or each step can be done at a separate time.

    However, the real secret is in the evaluative information you can gather of drama skills, creative thinking, interpersonal behaviors, and confidence levels of students through this lesson using careful observation.    Here are things I can uncover through this lesson:

    1. Confidence Levels: who passes?  2nd graders will have many ideas and be more open and eager to participate than older students who often shut down in front of peers.  I allow the students to pass and see what happens as they gain confidence in their ideas with each pass of the object or turn they take. (Note:  once I say students may pass I can’t go back on my word in any way!)
    2. Interpersonal Skills: will students select someone from across the circle from them or will they pass because they do not want to select a “certain person?” (Note:  boys usually sit on one side of the circle and girls on the other – so when they have to choose someone directly across from themselves, this causes a dilemma.  They will often pass.  (Note:  again don’t go back on your word about letting them pass.  This is all part of the information/evaluation gathering.  The next weeks will see them working together – trust me on that.)
    3. Creative Thinking: will students turn the chair over to create different designs or will they just leave it as you demonstrated with the chair in the upright chair position?  Really creative students will NEED to turn that chair over at some point.
    4. Drama Ready: do any of the students turn their scene into a story?  These are also creative students who are ready to do enacted story.
    5. Confidence Building: because I don’t tell students in advance that we are going to use a chair and act as if the idea just came to me, and because the chair is too heavy to pass, I place it in the center of the circle.  Now students must enter the circle to demonstrate their idea with the chair or the chair and person.  This is a way to get the students to focus on their idea without thinking about the fact they are in front of their peers “performing.”  This will open your next lessons up to even more “performing” because they have been up once, they didn’t fall through the center of the earth, it was fun, and therefore they are more willing to give it another try.
    6. Interpersonal: this lesson reveals how respectful students are to one another.  In the final stage of this lesson, one student actually takes on the roles of “playwright” and “director.”  They come up with an idea and must give directions to another classmate to carry out the idea.  How they speak to their partner and if they thank their partner when the moment is concluded, all tell you about the interpersonal nature of your group.  (Note:  Remember to thank your partner after demonstrating the activity for the class so you are sure to model the behavior.)

    Once I have introduced this lesson and gathered information about my new group of students, I can then move forward and select lessons/activities for the next weeks that build interpersonal skills, or creative thinking skills, or confidence building skills, or concentration and imagination skills, or prepare stories for enactment because the group is ready to go in depth in the art form.  This lesson is a good first step in creating a community in your class and giving you direction on how to plan the next steps of your drama curriculum.

    Okay, I have mentioned my two favorite ways to begin the year.  I have more I like to use as well, but “Henry’s Magic Hat“ and Book, Stick, Chair, Person” are both powerful, and simply complex – simple in the doing and leading, complex in what you can learn about your group and in the content about the art form they cover.

    With any activity you choose as the first activity, select it wisely: design it to introduce the art form, set some beginning protocols, challenge the students but not too greatly, provide you with some evaluative opportunities to gather information about your new group, and presents a joyful fun experience for the students. 

    Welcome back to school – don’t forget to go back to school using drama.  May your year be one of the best EVER!

    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson

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    Classroom Management: Respectful Feedback in the Classroom

    respectful feedback in the classroom

    For my next article in the continuing conversation on Classroom Management in Drama, I will address respectful feedback in the classroom.  Teachers have posed many questions to us concerning management techniques.  I will answer this and then request other ideas from this community.  The questions are stated exactly as they have been presented to me.  I will do my best to interpret the questions and provide an answer from my background.   Just send us your ideas and thoughts and we will get the conversation started.  None of us are as smart as all of us, so jump in and share what you know relating to each question presented.  Creative classroom management can lead to creative thinkers.

    Here is our next question about respectful feedback in the classroom:

    How can I teach students to comment on others’ work in a respectful and constructive way?

    Part One: An Introductory Process 

    Reflection—both self-reflection and the ability to respectfully reflect on others’ work—is important in drama. In order to build a kind and caring classroom, think about structuring reflection time as you would structure any other aspect of learning. I have found this structure important to achieving respectful feedback in the classroom.  You might follow a pattern similar to the one I use throughout my curriculum:

    1. In stage one, I ask students a series of questions about the skills introduced in the lesson. For example, I might ask, “What was hardest for you to do today – concentrate or imagine?” or “What was easiest for you to do today – concentrate or imagine?” Students answer by raising their hands.  This sets a routine and establishes reflection as a part of the dramatic process. This stage usually lasts for the first 2-3 lessons.
    2. In stage two, I ask students to comment on the skill(s) being introduced that day and/or on any previously taught skills.  I might prompt, “What do you think you did well today?” or “What would you like to do better the next time we have drama?” I then call on students to give verbal responses and share “why” they responded as they did. This takes reflection a step deeper while also giving me an indicator of the learning: Are students using the drama vocabulary correctly? Do their answers indicate an understanding of the art form? Do they have an accurate picture of their own growth in applying the skill? This reflection period spans 2-3 lessons.
    3. In the third stage, I continue with the reflection process from stage two but I add the praising of others. I ask, “Who can give a word of praise to someone you saw concentrating today?” I follow their response to the question with a, “Why? What did you see them do?” This stage lasts 2-3 lessons, and I pay close attention to see when students move away from only praising friends or classmates of the same gender.  Once they are comfortable with the process, they become more open to sharing praise with those who aren’t close companions.
    4. For stage four, I continue with the process outlined above, but my questions take on the beginning of a rubric. The questions now lay out what would have been seen or heard as achievement indicators for that skill. For example, I could ask, “Who can give someone a word of praise today for concentration? By that, I mean that the person was always focused on the activity, they did not laugh or break character, they did not talk to or look at the audience, and they were always thinking about what they were doing.” This is just a sample and you would add your own indicators of success. During this stage, the students are being prepared for the scoring rubric.
    5. Following on the process outlined above, in stage five, I ask if there was anyone in the class who did not receive a word of praise from a fellow classmate. Several hands usually go up. I ask if there is someone who could give them a word of praise for one of the skills.  Someone always does and everyone feels successful.

    The above process has worked for me. Feel free to try it or to adapt it for your own style. The key is structuring the reflection process for student emotional safety and deeper evaluation of your teaching.

    Some final thoughts:

    During a reflection, I do not ask the students to say negative things or give “constructive” criticism to other actors. There are two reasons for this. First, harmful feelings arise among classmates when they hear anything that sounds negative. Criticism can harm the ensemble feeling being built through drama.

    Second, in theater, actors never give corrective notes to each other.  That is the director’s job ONLY. The teacher in the classroom is in the place of the director, so if anything critical must be said, it rests with the teacher (director) to share that thought. I remember once asking a class to reflect and having one student harshly criticize another actor for not being loud enough—but VOICE skills had not been introduced yet. That is when I realized that opening critiques up to fellow actors who don’t have the whole picture regarding the art form can lead to hurt feelings and damaged confidence.

    Asking students to self-reflect on skills they might improve is acceptable, as is asking what aspects of the group, as a whole, might be improved, but individual actor to individual actor critique is not recommended at this stage.  

    Lastly, I rarely give a negative note to anyone. I have found that praise is so powerful that it shapes the work in magical ways.  I remember an acting teacher I had in graduate school who shaped our work through praise and another who only had critical things to say; we were all adults and I saw how the use of praise and criticism shaped our work in different directions. Those instructors informed and changed my thinking on the handling of constructive criticism and feedback.

    I do recommend a combination of Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process and group protocol work for older students, and I will outline that process in the next article. Come back for Part Two!

    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson

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    Drama Stories for Partners

    drama stories for partners

    I remember that when I first began teaching drama, I struggled to find exciting two-person stories to adapt for dramatic use with my teens. Although teachers may be tempted to use large-group activities with early drama students, I have found that partner work can be the best way to introduce core skills, ease students into the art form while making students comfortable and keeping class order.  As a result, I decided to write my own stories! Below, I have shared one of these stories, “Who’s Scared!”  This story is appropriate for students in first grade through high school.  There are many concepts and skills you might teach with this story.  I have suggested emotions, pantomime (imitation), and dialogue.  I have also suggested related standards you might want to address.

    Who’s Scared!

    Two friends met in the park. They had nothing to do when they spied the old house everyone said was haunted. The two friends entered the dark old house. Each said they were unafraid of the dark or the scary stories told by everyone at school. When the wind blew a door shut, they both jumped into the big brown pots sitting on the floor. They laughed as they climbed out of the pots and said they were both just fooling around and not scared at all. One of the friends had a flashlight and led the way up some stairs to the top floor. They smelled something bad as they neared the second floor. They held their noses and continued on into a dark room full of books. One of them found a book of magic that said “DANGER: DO NOT READ.” When they opened the book, a bluish smoke began to curl out of the pages. An evil laugh spiraled up with the smoke and filled the room. The friends slammed the book shut, ran down the stairs and out to the yard, and buried the book forever.

    drama stories for partners

    Drama stories for partners like “Who’s Scared!” can teach a variety of skills. Below are some possible curricular connections along with my recommendations for related warmups from my website.  You can find the warm-up activities and corresponding lessons for those activities on this website.

    EMOTIONS:  In the story, the characters feel confidence, excitement, anxiety, fear, surprise, and more. Using this story for a lesson on emotions in drama would allow your students to explore all of those feelings.

    Related warmups: Pass the Face; Emotion Bubble; Emotional Responses

    Related National Standards: With prompting and support, use movement and gestures to communicate emotions in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). (Th:Pr6.1.1) [you can find more of these in our documents titled “Drama Objectives Alignment to National Standards” within each of the grade level curriculum]

    Related Erickson Curriculum Objective:  Imitate simple emotions through physical movement, facial expression, and posture.

    PANTOMIME: Older students may enjoy using the actions and objects in this story to practice pantomime. How do they hold the dangerous book? What does it look like to climb out of a big pot? This story would be certain to make pantomime fun!

    Related warmups: Pass the Object; Before I Couldn’t but Now I Can

    Related National Standards: Identify ways in which gestures and movement may be used to create or retell a story in guided drama experiences (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). (Th:Cr1.1.1)

    Related Erickson Curriculum Objective:  Analyze movement choices that communicate character, setting, emotions, actions, and reactions.

    DIALOGUE: More advanced students could even engage with this story by writing or improvising their own dialogue! Because students would be working in pairs, both participants would have ample opportunities to imagine and perform the possibilities.

    Related warmups: Introducing Gibberish; Vocal Character Response

    Related National Standards: a. Collaborate with peers to devise meaningful dialogue in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). (Th:Cr2-2) 

    Related Erickson Curriculum Objective:  Use voice to communicate feelings, ideas, and thoughts of a character through dialogue.

    by Karen Erickson

    Karen Erickson