Teaching Drama to Mixed Ages


Dear Janea,

I am teaching theater to kindergartner’s after-school in inner city Boston this year. I have them every day for 40 minutes after-school for seven weeks and am having a hard time planning activities. There are 22 of them which makes it difficult to do too much individual activities because students have a hard time holding attention when they are not onstage. They haven’t quite grasped the meaning of being a good audience member yet. I love your site and it has been very helpful. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how to keep engagement but still do some individual work with students. Right now staying in a circle is still a challenge. I will be teaching theater after-school all year. Right now it’s to 4 and 5 year olds and later I will be teaching first and second graders. I find that with the young, young kids I tend to be planning activities that are too advanced for them at the moment. Anyways, let me know if you have any suggestions! Thanks!

Leah Bugden

(Thanks for making this site– I love it!)

Dear Leah,

First I’d like to say that it is natural for kids that age to have short attention spans. For that reason, I have kept my own classes for kindergartners down to 12 max. But if you are assigned to a larger group and cannot do anything about it, I would suggest doing more group activities than individual onstage activities. For example, if you are asking students to do pantomimes, put half the class onstage and have them simultaneously do a pantomime rather than have one student go at a time. When the onstage players have performed their pantomime, you can ask audience members to guess what they were doing and have them point to kids who were making the activity very clear.

Also, whole group movement activities are great for that age group. ‘Become,’ ‘Statue,’ and Guided Imagery Journeys in which all of the kids get to participate (on their feet in their imaginations).

I would also suggest that a staple activity in your class is to read a book and have the kids acting out the action as you read along. This does not mean ‘performing’ the story. It means that each individual student acts out what is happening in the story in the playing space in their imaginations.

Kindergartners also love pretend play. If possible, set up an area like a little grocery store or restaurant and have kids play simple scenes in which they are shopping or are the waiters and diners, busboys, etc.

I had one teacher who worked for me who routinely took the kids through events and scenes all together. For instance, around Thanksgiving, she made all of the kids climb aboard the ‘Mayflower’ with her and pretend they were on stormy seas. Some kids barfed over the edge, but eventually, they hit Plymouth Rock. Once they got off, they gathered wood, built shelters, met the Natives and eventually had a big feast. The entire class plays along and kids can volunteer to play different characters. The tricky part about this one is that you have to come up with the scenarios, but if you are at all a story-teller and have a sense of humor, it can be REALLY fun!

Here are some sample topics:

  • Day at the Beach
  • A Snowy Adventure
  • Birthday Party
  • Day at the Car Wash
  • Lost in the Jungle
  • Election Day

I hope this helps you. Feel free to write again!


Resources: Guided Imagery and JourneysBag of Titles40 Pantomime Activities.