Chaos in Drama Class

Hello Janea,

I am very happy to reach your platform. I am Corine, initially a social worker and a stage director, I am very recently teaching drama in a school – for kids grade 1 to 5. Unfortunately, these kids have focus problems, catching their attention and triggering their interest is very hard. They are used to conventional education ways. I already tried some very simple games suggested on your website but am wondering if you have any suggestions for children with such focus issues – maybe before really beginning DRAMA courses you might suggest to me some exercises and interventions that I can do to trigger their attention, imagination, senses, interests and establish some creative disciplinary chart for the class. Especially given that I am not the conventional type of teacher. Can you help? 🙂 Thousands of thanks!


Dear Corine;

First of all, thank you for devoting your time and energy to teaching drama to kids. The work you are doing is vital to humanity.

That said, almost every beginning drama teacher encounters a classroom management problem. Kids often bring ‘birthday party’ energy to drama class. It’s important to establish clear boundaries and rules from the beginning and to deliver swift consequences the minute a student violates a class agreement. Have you read  ‘Classroom Management Strategies’ on Drama Notebook? It’s packed with ideas for helping you maintain (some semblance) of control over your group.

I also want to make sure that you aren’t in an unrealistic situation. Do you have more than twenty kids in your charge? Are you working in an inner city school or with a whole group of children who have emotional disturbances or learning disorders? If any of these things apply, can you look at recruiting help such as a volunteer or a parent of one of the students?

One more question…are you in a gym or an extra-large space? If so, you may want to ‘shrink’ the space by declaring boundaries. Sometimes children have a Pavlovian response to being in a gym, where they are typically expected to be physically active.

I will tell you that a certain amount of chaos is completely normal, and even warranted in drama class. Students need to feel free to express themselves (within limits) and that often looks like a noisy, active classroom. You may sometimes wonder if you’re teaching them anything. This is normal too for that age group. The solution to this is to lower your expectations. If you are teaching from the heart, which I suspect you are, your love and encouragement and sense of fun is more important for the transformation of the children than maintaining strict order over your classroom.

If you are simply having trouble getting and holding their attention, the problem is probably the way that you set up the rules initially. Again, the ‘Classroom Management Strategies’ tutorial will be extremely beneficial to you.

Are you supposed to put on a performance at the end, and does that have you worried? If so, make sure that you read ‘How to Put on a Show’ in the Teaching Basic Drama section of Drama Notebook. That tutorial explains exactly how to organically create a showcase at the end of a series of workshops that is made up of games and short plays that the students worked on during class. If administrators have asked you to put on a specific play and that feels unrealistic to you, try and go back and change their expectations. Explain that drama class is a process which is different from staging a play. Assure them that there will be a Last Class Celebration to share with parents, etc., but that it will be fairly informal…and extremely beneficial to the students.

Please don’t hesitate to write me again after you look over some of the materials I’ve suggested.