Drama Games in the Classroom

by Julie Meighan
(Cork Ireland)

The Use of Drama Games in the Classroom

Today I'm going to talk about the use of Drama games in the primary classroom. Drama games are a perfect tool to use in any classroom as they can be adapted to suit multiple learning styles, ability levels and age groups. They are extremely simple to use and they cover a variety of educational goals. The games can include activities that explore creative drama, mime, movement, voice and storytelling to name but a few. They not only help improve self confidence, build trust and develop creativity but they can have a profound effect on literary development, academic success and social interaction. Games can be fun, challenging and rewarding not only for the students but the teachers themselves.

The following are some warm up Drama games that I found work very effectively in the primary classroom.

Game: Octopus

• Age: 4 years +
• Minimum number of participants: 3
• Resources needed: Clear space.
• Other Benefits: This game can be used to work on co-operation and teamwork skills.
• Instructions: One child is chosen or volunteers to be the octopus and stands in the middle of the clear space. The rest of the children should line up along one side of the space. When the octopus shouts out “Octopus!” the other children have to run past the octopus and try to reach the other side without being caught. Children that are caught become part of the octopus’s arms. They are not allowed to let go of each others hands. Only the children at the ends of the octopus’s arms can catch people. As the game progresses, the octopus becomes longer and longer. The game becomes more difficult, as more and more children become part of the octopus’s arms. It ends when all the children are caught.

Game: Prison Break

• Age: 4 years +
• Minimum number of participants: 3
• Resources needed: Clear space.
• Other Benefits: This is a warm up game that children really enjoy. It also can be used to improve listening and co-ordination skills.
• Instructions: Children all line up on one side of the clear space. One student is chosen, or volunteers, to be the guard on duty and stands in the centre of the room. The rest of the children are prisoners. When the guard shouts out “Prison break!” all the prisoners must run to the other side of the space. If the guard catches a prisoner they also become a guard. Eventually there will be more guards then prisoners. The last prisoner becomes the first guard on duty for the next game.

Game: Fruit Basket

• Age: 4 years+
• Minimum number of participants: 7
• Resources needed: Clear space and a chair for each student – if you do not have chairs you can use sheets of paper or cushions.
• Other Benefits: This is a well-known game which can also be used very effectively as a listening game or an observation game.
• Instructions: All the children sit in circle on a chair or a cushion. The teacher chooses three different fruits and goes around the circle giving each person the name of a fruit, in a particular order, for example, apple, orange, banana. A child is then chosen, or volunteers, to go into the centre of the circle. His/Her chair is taken away. The child in the centre calls out the name of one of the three fruits. If the child in the centre says apple then all the apples change place, if s/he says banana, all the bananas change place and if s/he says orange, all the oranges change places. If s/he says fruit basket then everyone changes places. The child who is left without a chair goes into the centre for the next round.
• Variations: There are lots of variations to this game and you can change the names to go with a specific theme. Fruit basket – apple, orange, and banana –could be replaced by: Barnyard – chicken, pig and cow, Zoo – elephant, giraffe and tiger, Circus – clown, ringmaster and acrobat, Ocean – fish, mermaid and shark.

Advice for teachers

Start with very simple games. Games that they might already know like ”What is the time Mr Wolf?”. Once you have build a sense of trust and teamwork begin focus on more complex and exploratory games or games that require some personal involvement.

Never ask a group of students to play a game that would not play yourself.

Watch the language used. Avoiding terms like ‘play’ or ‘games’ and focus more on words like ‘explore’, ‘challenge’ and ‘participate’.

Be very clear with your instructions. Ask for feedback from the students to make sure they understand what is involved and what is required of each participant.

Be enthusiastic as the students will be drawn to energy and will get excited about the prospect of participating in the activity.

Give a demonstration wherever possible.

Involve yourself in the game. Don’t give them instructions and go sit in a corner of the room watching or correcting.

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