Most of our parents are very aware that we spend our Autumn Term focusing on solo work and LAMDA Exams; and of course the Spring Term focuses on group work and public performance. But what about the Summer Term?
We think it’s really important for our students to have a time in the year when they’re not under pressure to prepare for an exam or a public performance. The Summer Term is where we focus on ‘drama for the sake of drama’ and we call it our ‘Building Skills’ term.
This is often the term our students enjoy the most… and even though it might seem as though they are ‘just playing games’, they are actually learning vital skills. During the Summer Term, teachers can use their specialist skills to run mini-courses in a particular area of performance, such as storytelling, puppetry, mime, mask work, physical theatre, stage combat or screen-acting. We also sometimes invite guest teachers in to run courses.
We are aware that during the Summer Term there are more likely to be absences due to school trips and so it’s best to avoid exam and group work. Also many students will be facing school exams, so we find that a more relaxed approach during drama classes is the ideal antidote to exam stress. For those working towards exams, having somewhere to come each week where they are doing something that they really enjoy, means that when they do go back to revision they feel rejuvenated and more likely to absorb information effectively.
Here are some of our favourite games – maybe you can play them with your children at home!
The Puppet Game: perfect for 4-8 year olds
The children are marionettes, and lie on the floor imagining they have strings tied around all the parts of their body. If the teacher (in role as The Puppet Master) pulls an invisible ‘wrist’ string and their arm should lift in the air. When you say ‘drop’ and let go of the string their arm should drop. Go round and do the same with the other arm and both legs. See if they have a tongue string: If you pull it their tongue should poke out. If you wiggle it their tongue should wiggle!
Once the teacher has demonstrated, the children can pair up: one is the puppet and the other is the Puppet Master. Once they’ve each had a go at pulling arm, leg and tongue strings then they should swap over. Now onto advanced puppeteering! Can the Puppet Master get pull their right strings to get their puppet to stand up and dance?
This game helps develop coordination skills and team work. Both participants have to be focused and carefully listen to and watch their partner if the illusion of strings is going to work. The game can be developed into a short performance.
Splat: perfect for 8-12 year olds
Everyone stands in a circle. The teacher says the name of a student who immediately ducks. The two students on either side of them throw and imaginary pie at each other and shout “Splat!”. If the first person doesn’t duck in time, they are out. If they do duck in time then the last person to throw their pie on either side of them is out. Whoever goes out says the next time, and the game continues until there are just two people left. They then fight a Duel! They stand back to back and are given a category of objects, such as ‘Things with Spots’. The teacher calls out items that belong to the category e.g. ladybirds, leopards, dalmations… And with each item the duelling students take a step away from each other. But as soon as an item is called out that doesn’t belong e.g. flamingo, then they have to immediately turn around and splat each other. The last person to splat is out, leaving behind your winner!
This is a great warm up game for the start of a class. It helps a new group of students learn each other’s names, relax and get to know each other. It helps students shake off their school day, and get their minds focused on an hour of drama!
The Hitchhiker Improvisation Game: perfect for 12 years and over
Start by setting up three chairs – two in the front for the driver and passenger, and one behind. The driver and passenger start a short improvisation in which they clearly set up their relationship and destination. Then one of them spots the Hitchhiker, they pull over to pick them up, and the Hitchhiker gets into the back seat of the car. The Hitchhiker must decide on a very strong characteristic (e.g. extremely old age, always on the verge of sneezing, they can see fairies, or maybe they’re addicted to popcorn… ) and as soon as they enter the car the driver and passenger have to try and work out the characteristic and take it on themselves as though it’s infectious… until everyone in the car has the same strong characteristic! At this point the scene ends, everyone rotates round and you start again with a new driver, passenger and hitchhiker!
This game develops spontaneity, listening skills and characterisation. It works best when students make brave choices and commit to them wholeheartedly!