I think we’ll all admit, Schooling from Home is HARD (for students, parents and teachers alike).
For obvious reasons, Speech and Drama teachers don’t usually teach remotely as giving feedback on vocal technique, facial expression, posture and body language becomes both difficult to judge and difficult to relay when you’re teaching from behind a screen.
While everyone is struggling, teaching practical/performance subjects, such as Speech and Drama, has its own set of unique challenges. Take my student body as an example, I teach approximately 80 students between the ages of 3-17 across 12 grade levels.
While there are certain challenges that are universal, each age group and grade has its own set of problems. For the littlest ones, entertainment is the name of the game, while for my teenagers it’s a battle to maintain motivation now that examinations are based on predicted grades rather than usual assessments.
When creating activities and resources, three things have become important:
All activities must be equipment free or use only items children will have around the house (cardboard, blank paper, favourite books, movies etc)
Skill building activities that can be used as part of quality family time are the most popular.
Choice is paramount. At a time when so much of the child’s freedom has been stripped away, giving them a chance to regain some control is empowering.
On my Facebook Page, I’ve been sharing some of the ways that I’m coping with these new challenges at different grade levels, but today, I want to share with you one of my most successful activities from quarantine so far: Speech and Drama Dojo Bingo.
Over the Easter holidays, I wanted a way to keep my younger pupils entertained and learning.
Enter Speech and Drama Dojo Bingo
Dojo Bingo filled all of the above criteria for creating activities and resources without becoming overwhelming for parents and children.
Today, I wanted to share/explain the 9 Dojo Bingo challenges I set to keep my students learning and engaged:
Dress up as your favourite character and recreate a scene from the movie/TV show they’re in.
TV and Films have become quarantine staples for a lot of families, so using them as the foundation of Speech and Drama learning has been super effective (as you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of scenes from Frozen).
This is a great activity to get kids thinking about the importance of inflection (in the videos I’ve seen, even my youngest pupils know that the WAY they deliver the words is more important than the WORDS they deliver in the scene).
Through reenacting their favourite scene, they subconsciously pay attention to the pitch, pace, pause and emphasis used, a skill which will come in incredibly useful when they come back to in-person classes.
Mime your favourite animal and see if your family can guess.
Mime is a great tool for opening up the body and exploring the ways movement can create/change a character. This activity is very versatile, it could be something you do every morning (using a different animal as inspiration each day) or you can turn it into a family game of charades!
If you want to take it a step further, you can also add emotions to you mime, for example ‘sleepy dog’, ‘playful dog’, ‘defensive dog’ etc which will develop facial expression too!
Write and perform an acrostic poem using the letters of your name.
Not only is the writing of this poem a great vocabulary building exercise, but the performance of the poem encourages vocal word painting.
As acrostic poems don’t (usually) rhyme, it’s up to the performer to create vocal variation and interest in their poem. (For example, if Sam’s first descriptor is ‘Sleepy’, stretching the word and emphasising the vowel sounds will be important tools for creating that sleepy tone. Later in the poem, if she’s also ‘Musical’, creating a sing-song effect through compound inflections and changes in pitch would be more effective).
Write a short story/comic strip explaining what happened AFTER your favourite movie ended.
When performing a prose extract or drama scene, it’s important for children to develop contextual knowledge and then use that to inform their performance. Sometimes, this knowledge will be available in the original text itself. However, on other occasions, creating their own inner world and backstory will be necessary.
This story activity encourages students to think about their favourite characters and the way the plot may develop after the camera stops rolling. This will open up their imagination and allow them to practice their world building and character development skills.
Read a book to a family member.
Prepared prose reading practice is a great way to develop Speech and Drama technique. Especially in younger pupils, using a familiar story allows them the opportunity to think less about the words and more about the world, characters and tone.
It can also be a great foundation for sight reading at later grades, encouraging children to look up from the page and engage the audience in their performance.
You can also use this activity as an opportunity to experiment with different voices/accents to represent different characters.
Create a playlist consisting of 5 songs that represent your favourite book or character.
I use this one with older Primary School children (the ones who are past drawing and want something more ‘grown up’). This can be a great tool for developing tonal awareness, encouraging children to think about the personality and mood of a character or explore the way a plot progresses. When completing/assigning this activity, make sure you’re asking them ‘why’. Why did you choose that song? Why does that link to this character/story?
Create a movie poster for your favourite poem.
Having children think about the characters and worlds created in their favourite poems can be a great help with comprehension and understanding (especially in younger pupils). After all, the point of Speech and Drama is not to become a really amazing memoriser, but to become a storyteller! For this activity, parents have said younger children have particularly enjoyed creating their posters on the computer, which broadens the scope of this activity.
Have a concert/talent show with your family.
This activity gives students an opportunity to share their talents with their family. Children can recite a poem, perform a scene from a book/film or read a passage from one of their favourite stories.
In the age of distance learning, this is a wonderful way of giving children immediate, positive feedback on their performance (applause never goes amiss) and to involve the whole family in their Speech and Drama education.
Create a mask based on one of your family members.
I turn this one into a game for the whole family (it can even be done with grandparents/extended family via Zoom/Skype etc).
Gather the family together and see if they can guess who the different masks are meant to be. If you get the whole family involved, this can be great fun!
To develop it further, the mask’s creator can use body language/voices to mimic the person’s character.
I hope you’re found my thoughts on enhancing distance learning helpful.
You can access the Dojo Bingo grid here , or use/adapt the activities individually.
If you are interested in accessing larger scale projects, I share fortnightly ‘Skill Building Projects’ through my newsletter which you can sign up to here, next week’s is to create and perform a Puppet Show. These projects incorporate a selection of different exercises to develop a broader range of speech, drama and literacy skills.