Annette is a language and drama teacher with a master's degree in education.
This lesson plan is focused on 8-10 year old students with limited or no prior knowledge of drama, but it can easily be adapted by changing the storyline and characters to make it suitable for older pupils. I found that futuristic stories with lots of technology worked really well with older students.
It will be ideal if students can be dressed in comfortable clothes so they can sit and roll on the floor— if they would prefer to do so. It can, however, work successfully in school attire, as all the activities can be done standing up.
Time: Flexible can be from 30 minutes to an hour. During a 30 minute session you will only be able to complete the characterisation. Leave the ending than for a next session.
GROUP SIZE: A group of 10 to 15 is the ideal, but with a leader/teacher who is confident and who knows the group well, it can work with a group of up to 30.
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Unknown/ No prior knowledge necessary
SKILLS TAUGHT: Characterisation, Listening and Creativity
GOAL: To create and portray different characters and write an ending to the story.
RESOURCES: Body and voice
Rules and Objectives Explained to Pupils
INTRODUCTION AND GREETING: If you are working with a new group in a workshop, it is always a good idea to introduce yourself with a bit of background information. If time permits you can add a warm-up exercise here. If it is a new group, who doesn't know each other, a name game will be a good idea. Stick to whole group activities with the leader/ teacher in charge if it is a large group of young students. Working in pairs is not always successful with younger students in a big group. They can't focus that well if not actively engaged with an activity and start playing or fighting.
WORKSHOP OBJECTIVES: To learn about characterisation (what is it?), improve listening skills and creativity.
RULES: Explain that respect is the ultimate rule. Ask them to put their hands up if they want to speak. Explain that you will clap your hands/ use a bell or any other sound to get the group quiet. Practice this a few times to allow them to get used to the idea.
WHAT CHILDREN WILL DO – Practice the characters and complete the ending.
Tell the story of a beautiful forest with friendly proud trees, pretty flowers, lively birds and a group of wonderful musicians. They all lived happily and peacefully until one day the mean giants showed up.
The giants were so big they were even bigger than the trees. They were so used to everybody being scared of them and they believed they can do whatever they want without thinking of the damage they are doing. The flowers and the trees had to bend and duck to stay out of their way and when they heard the beautiful music they were quiet for a bit and seemed to listen to the beautiful music, but it wasn't too long before they grabbed the instruments from the musicians and started playing. Because they didn't know how to play it sounded awful.
Everyone in the forest held their breath as they didn't know what will happen now, but the strangest thing happened.... The giants got very sad and started crying................................
Before we work on an ending to the story we are going to create some of the characters:
How do they move? What sound or sounds do they make? Each tree must be different – think of a tired tree, old one, baby tree etc. Show happy trees and then show scared trees. Depending on the time, you can add more emotions to this section.
How do they move? What sounds do they make? Each flower must be different – think of a tired flower, old one, baby flower, small flower, big flower etc. Show happy flowers and then show scared flowers. Again you can add more emotions here.
How do they move? What sounds do they make? Each bird must be different – think of a tired bird, old one, baby bird, small or big bird etc. Show happy birds and then show scared birds.
What instrument do they play? How do they play it? Sound it makes.
How do they move? Their language? Make them different – old, young, slow, quick, etc
Angry giants? Sad giants?
Divide into 3 groups. Represent all characters. Plan ending. Rehearse and if time permits perform.
Use With Special Needs Students
This activity can be used very successfully with with special needs students. If you have physically disabled students, you can adapt the movements so those who can't move can use facial expressions to show their emotions.
The giants are bullies and if bullying is a problem in the school or for some of the students the discussion afterwards can focus on bullying. To get the most out of the discussion it is necessary for the students to act out the story. You can than ask them if they felt sorry for the giants when they started crying. Many of my students actually replied that they felt a bit sorry for them. The answers can initiate a discussion about how bullies are actually unhappy people.
I had many positive discussion sessions from this very basic story. When we had enough time we tried various different endings or sometimes after the discussion session the students wanted to rewrite the ending.
Flower in the Forest
Feedback and Reflection
If the students have a drama diary they can be asked to write a paragraph/ few sentences on what they enjoyed or not enjoyed during the lesson. Those who don't like to write can draw pictures of the trees, flowers and so on. Also ask them to think of improvements to make the lesson more useful.
Some of my groups mentioned that they would have liked a few props, such as pieces of cloth to create the trees or some object to use as pretend-instruments. This can be very useful for students that are not too comfortable with miming.
If there is enough times the pupils can have a class discussion where the teacher or a capable pupil can write down all the suggestions as well as everything the pupils found enjoyable and not enjoyable.
As a homework project they can be asked to draw a picture of the forest or create their own story based on the characters in the original story.
Name Game Activity
Annette Hendley (author) from London, United Kingdom on March 04, 2013:
I think it is a problem in most schools in the world. No wonder the kids sit and sleep in the class. Too much focus on academic achievement and no development of the child. I can go on about this forever, because I have a massive issue with rigid curricula. Thanks for your great comment.
Laura Tykarski from Pittsburgh PA on March 04, 2013:
This would enhance any curriculum. I am going to date myself and go "hippy" but its so cool. If given an opportunity to implement this every school district should consider it. Self-expression and creatively is not something I think is spot-lighted enough within American schools.