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Drama Activities for Children

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By Beverly S. Krueger

Children can begin developing their acting skills at home by using any of the following activities to sharpen their imaginations.

Pantomime

Pantomime is the acting out of a story or event without speaking. Hand gestures, facial expressions and body movements are used to convey the action and ideas in the story.
Pantomime suggestions:

  • Opening a birthday present that they've always wanted.
  • Eating a bowl full of something really disgusting.
  • Taking the dog for a walk.
  • A monkey eating a banana.

Pretend Play

Remember back to your days playing cowboys and Indians or house? Providing children a large box of props and costume pieces encourages pretend play. Swords, crowns, doctor's equipment, skirts, hats, towels and sheets, handbags, old shoes and boots, belts, costume jewelry all could be welcome additions to a child's prop box.

Acting out a Favorite Story

Ask your children to create their own performance of a favorite fairy tale or children's book. Stories like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" are easy to act out. Your children will once again turn to their prop box for props and costumes for their production.

Improvisation

In improvisation actors must spontaneously act out a scene with little or no preparation time. If you've ever watched Whose Line is It Anyway?" the comedy improvisation show on ABC, you'll know just how funny improv can get.
Improv Ideas:

  • Mirror - two kids attempt to follow each other's movements, one being the mirror image of the other.
  • Christmas Shopping - Two performers act out the interactions of a married couple as they attempt to find a Christmas present for their son or daughter.
  • Foreign film subtitles - Several performers act out a scene from a movie they all know well, but do so in a foreign language (this can be gibberish that sounds like Chinese or French or some other language.) One performer is the translator and must translate all the lines.
  • Musical Comedy - Actors engage in a conversation in which they try to sing lines from popular songs whenever possible. For example one actor could start by singing, The hills are alive with the sound of music. While the next responds, "That may be true, but they're alive with other things, too. I just saw the itsby bitsy spider go up the waterspout."

Stage Directions

  • Apron - The part of a stage in a theater extending in front of the curtain.
  • Stage Right - The area of the stage to the right of center stage when facing the audience.
  • Stage Left - The area of the stage to the left of center stage when facing the audience.
  • Upstage - The rear part of a stage, away from the audience.
  • Downstage - The front half of a stage.
  • Center Stage - The center of a theater stage.
  • Pit - The section directly in front of and below the stage of a theater, in which the musicians sit.

Websites

  • New Teaching Tools Make Drama Activities Accessible to Participants with Disabilities
    Award-winning Wild Swan Theater announces the availability of Dramatically Able, a teacher's handbook and video tape that will help teachers and youth leaders make drama accessible to children and adolescents with disabilities.
  • Kids 4 Broadway Free Activities
    Warm-up activities for young actors.
  • Start with the Arts Creative Drama Activities
    Puppet Interview
  • Creative Drama and Theatre Education Resource Site
    Loads of information to help you start a drama program with a group of children. Includes lots of activities and information on finding plays for performance.
  • Creative Dramatics
    Workshop materials for teaching creative dramatics to children.
  • Drama Teacher's Resource Room
    Includes a lesson plans section and other resources.
  • Special Makeup Effects
    This site has explanations of various types of make-up for the stage with images and step-by-step guidelines.
  • The Backstage Information Guides
    Information includes safety procedures, lighting guide, sound guide, stage management guide, and a glossary of terminology.
  • Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms
    A very thorough listing of terms associated with the dramatic arts.
  • Method Acting Procedures
    This page will lead interested individuals to descriptions of various techniques and procedures of so-called "method" acting.
  • Acting Workshop Online
    This is the place for beginning actors and actresses to learn about acting and the acting business.
  • Samuel French
    Samuel French seeks out the world's best plays and makes them available to the widest range of producing groups. Sources of Samuel French's plays range from Broadway and England's West End to publication of unsolicited scripts submitted by unpublished authors.
  • Drama Education
    Lots of activities, lesson plans and articles about drama education.
  • Can Teach - Drama
    Lesson plans and resources for teaching drama.
  • Teach-it's Drama Library
    This site offers articles covering various aspects of drama education.
  • Dramania!
    Activities for one person, two people, or lots of people.
  • Drama Workshop: Ideas for Teaching Drama
    This site contains my own collection of ideas I have used for teaching drama both in Theatre Workshop contexts for Youth Theatre Groups and for developing spoken language skills with students across a variety of age and ability ranges. Andrew McCann
  • Drama Play and Creative Movement Skills Activities
    Preschool through Kindergarten level dramatic play activities.
  • Improvisation Unit
    • LESSON 1: Intro to improv.
    • LESSON 2: Improv for vocal responses.
    • LESSON 3: Improv for movement.
    • LESSON 4: Improv for character study.
    • LESSON 5: Improv for sensory awareness.
    • LESSON 6: Improv scenes.
  • Improvisation Unit
    • LESSON 1: Building Trust
    • LESSON 2: The Ideas
    • LESSON 3: Working Together
    • LESSON 4: Expression Through Movement
    • LESSON 5: Quick Reactions
    • LESSON 6: Finding a Through-Line
    • LESSON 7: Introduction to Objectives
    • LESSON 8: Performing an Improvisation
  • Improv Wiki
    The improv wiki is and always will be a haphazard collection of people's ideas, observations, and prejudices about improv. You are invited to extend, improve, edit, monkey with, change, tweak, radically revise, and especially add to this wiki. Please give us your improv experience, ideas, and imagination whenever you feel the inspiration.
  • Learn Improv
    Warm-ups, exercises and structures for learning how to do improv.
  • HighschoolDrama.com - Drama One Notes and Exercises
    According to Robert Cohen, many young actors wish to leap into the classics, and into the extremes of farce and tragedy, well before they have even begun to master the basics of talking, listening, tactical interplay, physicalizing, building scenes and making good choices. The fundamentals should be set down first. These following lessons hold true for Shakespearean acting, comedy and/or television. If one gets a good handle on these basic fundamentals, he or she will be able to move into more advanced acting problems with confidence.
  • Steve the Mime Guy's Unique World
    Information about the different types of mimes and how to perform them.
  • Theatre on a Shoestring
    Information for creating your own dramatic productions on a shoestring budget. Ideas for costuming, directing, make-up, set design and more.

Theater and Drama Resources

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