Young children are often natural actors. With a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for self-expression, they are able to immerse themselves in pretend worlds. In a grade school setting, encourage these natural tendencies and help students hone their skills with drama activities or games. Drama games are highly beneficial for students, fostering literacy, increasing sensory awareness, improving memory and developing imagination.
Improvisation activities are an excellent way for children to get warmed up in a drama class. Exercises where all students can participate are a useful way to get even shy students involved. One simple improv game is called "show me." The teacher calls out various scenarios for children, such as "Show me a baseball player," or "Show me taking a picture at the beach." The children then strike an improvisational pose that displays the scene.
Another improvisation game is "What are you doing?" Students form a line and the first student begins pantomiming an activity such as reading a book. The next child asks "What are you doing?" The first person answers with any action other than the one she is doing, for example, "I'm jogging." The second child then begins pantomiming that activity and the pattern repeats down the line.
Physical movement is an important acting skill that children can explore through games. Sensory awareness is improved and increased when children practice moving their bodies strategically. One drama game that helps hone this skill is "Moving vocabulary," a group activity where each child can try moving in a different way. The instructor writes types of movement on cards, such as run, jump, spin or hop. With music playing, each student chooses a movement and then demonstrates her movement for the class. Once every student has had the opportunity to show her movement, the class can be broken into small groups where children use their assigned move to choreograph a dance together as a group.
Having an excellent memory is a requirement for most actors, and primary students can work on this skill using drama memorization games. One such game that not only improve memory skills but also encourages and highlights specific qualities is "Special me." Sitting in a circle, the first student completes the phrase "I am (name) and I am special because..." For example, the student may say, "I am Sarah and I am special because I have a hermit crab." The next student then repeats the details about the previous student and then adds his own, such as, "She is Sarah and she is special because she has a hermit crab; I am James and I am special because I ride a dirt bike." The pattern then continues around the class.
Reader's theater is a key way to improve literacy skills and encourage vocal expression in drama students. In this format, the instructor selects a script with multiple characters or voices that can be read aloud. Highlighting the parts of each script may be helpful so that students can keep track. Since no props or costumes are used in this style of reading, students are dependent on their vocal expression to make the story as dramatic, funny or exciting as they wish. Repetition is important in this format, so students can practice and perfect the way that they want their story to end up. With reader's theater, children learn to use their voice as a tool for dramatic expression.