Drama can be incorporated into EVERY book you read to children, using some of these ideas. Incorporate dramas in small ways and you will build your confidence to try a whole story or even a whole week of dramas!
–Break for Drama – As you are reading a story, you can place the book down, announce that we are going to “try it” – this can include noises, movements, sensory experiences, songs, problem solving, predictions, etc. When you are ready to move on, just pick the book back up, or perhaps ring a little bell to bring the attention back to the story.
–Sensory – Identify any smells, textures, temperatures, etc. explored in the book and think of ways to allow the children to experience. Examples include ice on the cheek, spraying with a water squirter, smelling a spice, bubbles, flashlight, balloons, feeling a soft fabric, etc;
You can even experiment with the “tastes” or “smells” or “movements” of some emotions – lemon on the tongue for a sour experience, salt on the tongue for a sad experience, sugar on the tongue for a sweet experience; contracted body for angry and afraid, open flowing body for joyful and relaxed.
Music and sound effects can also play an important role – some stories have soundtracks on I-Tunes (Gruffalo’s child, Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, Peter and the Wolf, etc.) and some common classical pieces go well with almost any story (ex – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons); There are sound effects on i-tunes that can be a fun way to keep children interested – barking dogs, rain, car horns, etc. You can also have children make these sounds with their bodies.
– Repetition – Select important words and motions, or a sequence of events, that can be repeated as you read through a book.
–Music and song – Identify any songs or music that could go along with a story. If you are reading about insects in spring, have the children dance like butterflies to “Flight of the Butterfly” by Rimsky-Korsakov; If you are reading Make Way for Ducklings, you could act like ducks as you sing along to “Ducks like Rain” by Raffi.
–Voices and facial expressions – Children love it when you use different voices and faces for different characters. Practice using a different voice for one character in the book – maybe even highlight it to remind yourself to use a different voice.
–Simple costumes and props – using a hat or scarf, you can bring attention to one character or theme; props should be primarily non-representational as a way to encourage children’s imaginations and develop pre-literacy skill of understanding that objects can act as symbols that can convey meaning (encoding/decoding)
–Teacher in Role – Children love this most of all! You can tell them you are leaving the room and when you come back you will be someone else with a special story to tell them. Put on a simple costume and come back to read the book. If it’s a pirate book, put on your pirate hat and tell them (in your best pirate accent) it’s a book you wrote about your adventure. Then just read the book as a pirate. Interact with them as a pirate and let them ask you questions about the book or about being a pirate. When you are ready to end the session, let them know that you will turn around, and when you turn back around, you will become their teacher again. You can also ask the assistant or a parent to play along and lead the questioning.
These Resources have additional simple ways to incorporate drama into the books you are reading:
Connors, Abigail. 101 Rhythm Instrument Activities for Young Children. Gryphon House, 2004.
Creative Drama Lesson Plans – http://www.childdrama.com/mainframe.html
Hiatt, Kay. Drama Play: Bringing books to life Through Drama in the Early Years.
Nespeca, Sue McCleaf and Joan B. Reeve. Picture Books Plus: 100 Extension Activities in Art, Drama, Music, Math, and Science . American Library Association. 2003.