Teaching Drama to Mixed Ages

By May 15, 2015Advice Column, Blog

Dear Janea,

In January I will be teaching a drama class for grades K-5. In the past I taught K-2 or 3-5 – now they are combining all the grades together. Do you have any advice on how to plan out the class so that I have appropriate games for all of the ages?

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

First of all, this is much easier than you would think. Keep in mind that many of the theatre games can be played from age three to ninety! You may need to employ a bit more classroom management, primarily when the younger ones have to sit a bit too long, watching others perform.

Tell your students that theatre is a lot like a family, with grandparents, young children, and everyone in-between. There are often characters of all different ages and backgrounds all in one play. That said, it will be important to keep the older ones engaged and interested, while giving the little ones lots of “fun” time.

To keep things interesting for everyone:

Include a movement game early on in each class, preferably one that encourages group unity or bonding. “Space Walk,” “Leave No Space Empty,” “Group Mirror,” are all great choices.

Do lots of breaking into small groups to create skits. Kids will work together in teams, with the older ones writing and directing the piece, casting the little ones, often in hilarious ways. There are so many “skit” activities on Drama Notebook that you will never run out of ideas, but my favorites are “Mystery Bag Theatre” and “Myths.” When breaking kids into small groups, try to do so organically (not counting off or choosing). There is a whole section about how to break kids into teams in the “Teaching Basic Drama” section of the website. My favorite is “three elbows” game, in which you have kids mill about the space, and when you ring a bell, they must join with two other players to put “three elbows” together. You could start with “two noses,” or “twenty fingers,” and if you need kids in groups of four, call out “eight feet” as the final instruction. Wah-la! You have four kids randomly standing together in a group. Check to make sure that the ages are fairly evenly spread and re-distribute a couple of kids if needed. But the idea is that each group is comprised of a good mix of ages.

You might also give older kids individual “homework” of rehearsing monologues or “magic product commercials.”

I hope this helps you!

Janea

Janea Dahl
Creator and Author at Drama Notebook
Janea has a BA in theatre, and spent twelve years working in professional theatre. She was the founder of The Young Players www.theyoungplayers.com, the largest drama outreach program in her state. For nearly a decade, The Young Players served over a hundred schools, and employed over twenty teaching artists. Thousands of public school children and teens participated in her award-winning workshops each year.
In 2012, Janea sold Young Players to Northwest Children’s Theatre and School to serve teachers full-time on Drama Notebook. Read more
Janea Dahl

About Janea Dahl

Janea has a BA in theatre, and spent twelve years working in professional theatre. She was the founder of The Young Players www.theyoungplayers.com, the largest drama outreach program in her state. For nearly a decade, The Young Players served over a hundred schools, and employed over twenty teaching artists. Thousands of public school children and teens participated in her award-winning workshops each year. In 2012, Janea sold Young Players to Northwest Children’s Theatre and School to serve teachers full-time on Drama Notebook. Read more

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