Drama in early childhood immerses children in a story in order to teach them something. They get to feel like they are creating a story with you. They may already know the story, but they experience it through all of their senses in totally different ways. They are not passively listening to a story, they are active and engaged. You are creating an amazing opportunity for them to be creative, to problem-solve, to flex their empathy muscles, to learn many things without having to sit still and listen.
When you want to do a full-fledged drama like this, without just sitting and reading the book to your kids, it can be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I keep control? How do I keep the story moving? Here is an outline of only six steps that can help you create a story drama with your classroom. Fill it out and you will find that the drama kind of creates itself. Remember, it can be a bit “messy”, and may seem a bit more chaotic than your typical classroom activity, but that is really okay – you can always bring it back when it gets to be too much. And you are teaching children that it is good and right to EXPERIENCE learning with our whole selves!
Credit goes to Lucy School Arts Integration training for the inspiration for this outline.
Drama Outline (see below for complete explanations)
Title of the story
- Learning Objective: What am I hoping to teach through drama?
2. Introduction and Storytelling: What do they need to know to “set the stage”
3. Outline your story ———- 4. Drama for each bullet of the outline
(it helps to put those in columns next to each other)
5. Closing: How will I bring it all together and calm them at the end? How will they know the drama time is ending?
6. Materials Needed: What props do I need for the drama********************************************Six Steps Explained:
1. Learning Objective : What are you hoping to focus on/teach through the story? – examples can be as simple as “developmentally appropriate gross motor movements”, “exploring West African culture,” “identifying the main character in a story”, or as complex as “giving language and expression to strong emotions”. For younger children, this may just be a general theme. There can also be a main learning objective such as “Exploring Big Emotions” and sub-learning objectives like “practicing counting and colors.”
- Introduction and Storytelling : It is sometimes helpful to give an overview of the story so that kids know where they are going and don’t have a lot of uncertainty. Sometimes, you want them to feel like they are creating the story, so you just give them a little information to “set the stage”, create the scene for them using sensory experiences and teacher in role. An example from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are – “Now, today, we are going to tell a story together about a little boy named Max. Max was a little bit wild. Have you ever been wild? What kinds of things do you do when you are wild? What sometimes happens when we get too wild in the classroom? Well, one day Max was feeling wild.” This tells about the main character and gives them a little information about the “problem” to work with.
- Outline of the Story: Break your story into small parts. Example from Where The Wild Things Are: Max is wild; Max’s mom sends him to his room; Max’s room becomes a jungle; A boat takes Max; Max meets the Wild Things; Max has fun and then becomes frustrated with the Wild Things; Max Returns. It is often helpful to position the outline and the dramatizations in two columns right next to each other.
- Dramatization: Look at the outline and decide where children can best participate in problem solving, gross motor, sensory experiences, call and response, song, acting out a character, etc.
1. Max is wild 1. Teacher can be Max and kids send her to her room when she is wild
2. Max’s Room 2. Jungle music, kids act like jungle animals
3. Boat 3. Spray bottle; bring out a parachute for water; pretend row boat
4. Max + Wild Things 4. Kids imagine how they look, act, sound as wild things
5. Max frustrated 5. Freeze dance or dance to drum until kids are tired and “sent to bed without dinner”
6. Max Returns 6. Music of mother singing; pretend to repair with mother; eat a cracker for “dinner that is still hot”
- Closing: A peaceful closing to calm silliness or big activities is often helpful. This can include integrating a taste/snack, a pretend nap, or a soft song. Then ending of Where the Wild Things Are could be a soft song and saying “Max hears his mother’s soft singing from far across the ocean. Do you hear it? Let’s sail away from this wild place.” Act out sailing or rowing your boat and then “come back” into the room. You can use a cracker as the “dinner” that was still waiting for Max. You can turn up the music and say that Max’s mom is singing to him and all is forgiven as the kids pretend to be Max drifting off to sleep. “When I turn back on the lights, you are not going to be Max anymore, we are going to stand up and rub off our wild thing selves, our max selves, and we will back in our own classroom).
- Materials Needed: What props, music, sound effects, technology, costumes, etc. are needed? I find that I often use scarves to become a character, a spray bottle of water for rain, an ice pack (for cold things/weather) or a curler (for hot things/weather), and different fabrics for water or wind.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are,. Harper Collins, 1984.