Drama

NESA syllabus and support materials – units of work, student work samples and advice on programming

Australian curriculum work samples – portfolios of student work

Programming drama

The following resources may assist with the programming of drama for Kindergarten to Year 6 classes.

Early Stage 1

  • lots of teacher involvement in drama
  • high level of teacher direction in structuring what’s going on
  • mostly short-term activities
  • lots of whole-class work
  • lots of spontaneous imaginative dramatic play

Examples

Improvisation:

  • lots of whole-class dramatic play structured by teacher

Mime:

  • enacting simple activities, songs and texts

Movement:

  • moving in response to stories and music

Storytelling:

  • listening and responding to stories read aloud
  • simple retelling

Reader’s theatre:

  • enacting simple texts
  • teacher often as narrator

Script:

  • teacher often as scribe records class stories and ideas in drama

Puppetry:

  • lots of dramatic play using puppets

Stage 1

  • still lots of teacher involvement in drama
  • teacher direction in structuring what’s going on
  • longer activities, some ongoing
  • whole-class and small-group work
  • topics, issues and themes often linked to personal experience

Examples

Improvisation:

  • whole-class and small-group improvisations structured by teacher
  • simple role-play
  • simple play building structured by teacher

Mime:

  • enacting simple activities, songs and texts movement
  • simple depictions
  • simple movement sequences

Storytelling:

  • listening to stories read aloud
  • simple storytelling in pairs and small groups

Reader’s theatre:

  • enacting simple texts
  • teacher and student narrators

Script:

  • simple outlines of ideas and scenes

Puppetry:

  • role-play, storytelling and simple playbuilding using variety of puppets

Stage 2

  • some teacher involvement in drama
  • less teacher direction in structuring what’s going on; students are doing more of this on their own
  • more ongoing activities showing development over a period of time
  • whole-class and small-group work
  • varied topics, issues and themes

Examples

Improvisation:

  • whole-class and small-group improvisations with minimal structuring from teacher
  • extended role-play in more challenging situations
  • more student-devised playbuilding with less guidance from teacher

Mime:

  • extended mime sequences based on varied sources

Movement:

  • extended depiction work, often in combination with other forms
  • extended movement sequences

Storytelling:

  • use of storytelling in combination with other forms
  • more student-devised stories

Readers’ theatre:

  • enacting more complex texts
  • student narrators

Script:

  • Reading and discussing others’ scripts
  • Writing and performing playbuilt scripts

Puppetry:

  • any of the above using puppets

Stage 3

  • less teacher involvement in drama
  • minimal teacher direction in structuring what’s going on; students are doing this with greater independence
  • more ongoing activities showing development over a period of time
  • whole-class and small-group work
  • more challenging topics, issues

Examples

Improvisation:

  • whole-class and small-group improvisations with less structuring from teacher
  • varied role-play activities
  • playbuilding with less guidance from teacher and some student-devised playbuilding

Mime:

  • longer mime sequences based on varied sources

Movement:

  • depiction sequences
  • longer movement sequences

Storytelling:

  • storytelling of known texts from different points of view
  • some student-devised stories

Readers’ theatre:

  • enacting variety of texts
  • student narrators

Script:

  • reading and discussing others’ scripts
  • using conventions of script to record and develop drama work

Puppetry:

  • any of the above using puppets

Ways into drama through literature

A drama class can begin with a close examination of a written text. The literacy levels in the class will partly determine the choice of text type, and how it is used. In Early Stage 1, the class may begin with the spoken word (for example the reading of a picture book or nursery rhyme), whilst older more experienced students could base their drama on poems, short stories or extracts from the newspaper. Picture books, where communication depends on the combination of picture and words, may be used in younger classes. In Stage 3 a play script might be explored.

Extracts from letters, journals, lists and posters

Stage

Extracts

Early stage 1

Create a short letter asking for help by a well-known character from a story for example:

Dear Detectives
My little girl is missing. She went into the woods to take some food to my mother. She was wearing a red cloak. Can you help me?
Mrs Hood

Students, in role as the detectives, hot seat the teacher as Mrs Hood, and elicit help from them. What could have happened? How can the child be saved?

Stage 1

Create a shopping list for a birthday party.

The class decides whose party it is, and how they could prepare for it. Do this in several stages: (

  1. decide on a present, and draw it
  2. in pairs, practice receiving the gifts
  3. Sit at the party table and mime serving and eating food suggested by the group

Stage 2

Read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

In pairs the students draw what they think the wild thing looks like. Show and discuss these and choose one. Attach this to a poster drawn up by the teacher: "Wanted. Reward for the capture of the Wild Thing". Ask for suggestions about how to hunt for the Wild Thing. Implement some, moving around the room. Capture the Wild Thing (another teacher or child) and discuss what to do with it. Should it be released?

Stage 3

Create an "old" journal page and a map from a group of explorers lost in the Australian outback.

“Thursday 15th January 1840. There is little hope we will survive. We have no more water, and the horses escaped last night. Michael has not returned from his scouting expedition.”

Discuss what the students know about the early explorers. Supplement this with some resources.

In small groups create three depictions of crucial moments in the explorations e.g. planning, losing the way, breaking up the party. Tap in and hear the difficulties at each stage. Follow with a whole class in role discussion, with teacher in a high-status role, planning a search and rescue mission. Should it be done?

Extracts from a newspaper

Stage

Extracts

Early stage 1

Choose a news picture with human figures that will appeal to the group (e.g. a family at the show; a group in flood waters).

Students "sculpt" each other into shapes represented in the picture. When tapped on the shoulder, students say what the character may be thinking

Stage 1

Choose headlines from the paper relevant to the news of the day (e.g. "record crowds attend the show" or similar comments on the Olympic Games or Christmas celebrations etc). Discuss the things that might happen at the event, and who might be there. Students create paper plate masks attached to a stick, which they can use when presenting a news report for television.

Stage 2

A "squib" is a filler sometimes used in newspapers to briefly outline an unusual story. Choose an ambiguous one with "general" characters who are not famous, so there is room for students to be creative.

For example:

“A man has admitted to stealing $6327 from his employer's safe. However he hid the money in the local dump, where it was accidentally destroyed by workers burning off the rubbish. The man was arrested at the scene when he went back to collect the money".

Discuss: What questions is the reader left with? What might be some answers? In small groups, the students decide upon three still images to express the story. Reflect on how the story was "told", comparing and contrasting the interpretations

Stage 3

Discuss a controversial news story or provocative topic, such as the need to quarantine animals during the outbreak of disease, or the possession of drugs by a swimming coach. Decide upon people who would have a vested interest; name fictional characters. Allow the students time for more research if needed. Adopt a high-status role as the Minister for Health, and hear representations from the students in role on both sides of the issue

Extracts from picture books

Stage

Extracts

Early stage 1

Read Sleeping Beauty. Adopt the low-status role of one of the characters who has woken after I00 years. Ask the students (in high-status roles as experts in 2Ist century living) to explain the unusual things seen in this modern world (e.g. a big chopping machine in the sky. What is that called?).

Stage 1

Read Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins. Discuss with the students what is happening (in the subtext, in pictures only) to the fox following her. Have the students form a circle, with joined hands. Have one student adopt the role of Rosie, and one the fox. Whilst the teacher re-reads the text, "Rosie" winds in and out of the circle. The students use their joined arms to allow Rosie to escape appropriately - "over, under, around, past, through". However, they raise their arms or move their bodies to block the fox. Repeat the process several times with several students acting as Rosie and the fox

Stage 2

Read the Great Bear by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder. Stop at the section describing the bear performing:

She lifted her feet and swayed to the sound and some of the crowd clapped and cheered.

Others poked her with sticks and threw stones at her ragged coat. In small groups create still images of this crowd mix. Tap in to hear the thoughts of each person watching the bear

Stage 3

Read The Great Bear by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder and discuss the whole story. Write an in-role description by an animal welfare officer of the condition of the bear. Follow this by a hot seating: the teacher takes on the role of the owner of the bear after the bear's escape, and answers questions put by the welfare officers

Using drama

Drama is an excellent method for analysing the meaning, and exploring the sound and rhythm of poetry. By using the body - feeling it in the bones - students can come to an understanding of the poem's affective qualities. The discussion of how to use the body indirectly promotes an analysis of the meaning.

Extracts from poems

Stage

Extracts

Early stage 1

Use a simple nonsense rhyme and adapt it for reader’s theatre. Discuss the feeling in each line, and how it could be expressed.

Each student can learn one line and speak it when directed by the teacher:

“Mother, Mother, l feel sick, Send for the doctor,
Quick, quick, quick. ln comes the doctor,
ln comes the nurse,
ln comes the lady with the alligator purse.
"It's the end," says the doctor. "It's the end," says the nurse.
“It’s the end,” says the lady with the alligator purse.”

From Far Out, Brussel Sprout in Drama Anytime p.60.

Stage 1

Read a narrative poem or nursery rhyme such as Humpty Dumpty. Extract the main movements (sitting down, falling, breaking, riding, mending, falling apart). Students explore these in pairs in slow motion and at different levels, using freeze part way through the action. Read the poem and use slowed movement to illustrate the actions of the poem.

Stage 2

Prepare strips of material, streamers, and percussion instruments. Read the following extract from Kenneth Slessor's Fixed ldeas.

Students in groups of six, experiment with movements, heights and shapes appropriate to express the feelings. Share these. Reflect with the students:

Frail tinkling rush
Water hair streaming
Prickles and glitters
Cloudy with bristles
River of thought
Swimming the pebbles-
Undo, loosen your bubbles.
What might "loosen your bubbles" mean?

Stage 3

Students read and discuss the following poem.

At what levels are the objects described: which is highest? Which is lowest?

In groups of six, have students explore appropriate movements, use of space and levels, to accompany a reading of the poem by one of their group. Share all of the groups' interpretations, and then discuss the last two lines - do they agree? Extend the activity by writing a poem of "the country at night".

City at Night

Oh what a view, eleven floors up, like a fair
Like Fairyland. Layer on layer and beams of light,
From storeys of windows, stories of neon,
Rocking from harboured ships;
Cars burrow the night,
Planes coming low to land send lights before them,
Whatever in aeons is changeless,
This is a sight Only for twentieth-century eyes.

By Nancy Keesing

Performing drama through literature

Using stories leading to performances

Stage

Stories leading to performances

Early stage 1

Read Mary had a Little Lamb. Using teacher in role, create a spontaneous whole class process drama (creating together – not necessarily leading to a performance) about school. The teacher adopts a low status role as Mary, and questions the students (in role as more experienced school-goers) about why it is wrong to bring a lamb to school. They could "help" her decide how to cope with the lamb at school until Mary’s mother can come to collect the lamb at the end of the day. Where can it stay? What could it eat? How can we keep it quiet?

Stage 1

Read Steven Kellog's "Chicken Little", and explore with the class soundscaping to lift the story off the page. Students can add musical instruments to represent the helicopter crashing, or body percussion for the falling acorn. They can use voice to interpret the character’s emotions. The teacher can conduct an interpretive reading

Stage 2

Students can create a reader’s theatre script from a text such as the Three Billy Goats Gruff, using differently pitched voices for the goats and the troll, and placing their scripts in folders of different symbolic sizes and colours as they begin to interpret the characters (e.g. the troll's script is in a large dark coloured folder; the littlest goat has a small light coloured one).

Stage 3

Compare sections of the novel Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein and the play text of the same name, adapted by Richard Tulloch. Read Chapter 3, and then explore Scene 2 The School Classroom. Discuss the differences in the text types but similarities in story. Have the students in groups of about six, interpret and prepare for presentation small sections of this scene. As this preparation is time consuming, give each group only about half a page. When they are ready, run the prepared sections in chronological order, as one piece

Using random words and noises

Stage

Random words and noises

Early stage 1

Students recall sounds they might hear at the beach. Cue these with questions. What do the waves do? What sound do we hear when we walk on the sand?

With the sounds, create a spontaneous narrative by adding some characters, stringing their words together, and have the whole group enact “their” story with you (e.g. one morning a family woke up early to the sound of the crashing waves). They put on their clothes, picked up their bucket and spade, and went for a walk on the burning sand

Stage 1

Stand the students in a circle. Ask volunteers to give you the names of different jobs that people might do. When a job is nominated, ask students to use their bodies to show how the worker might act (e.g. police direct traffic, arrest robbers, and help lost children).

Once they have enacted several jobs, choose different corners of the room for different workplaces. Give small groups of students different occupations, freeze in their workplaces and "come alive" when the group or teacher visits their corner to see how they work

Stage 2

Tell an "around the room" story one word at a time, to a theme the teacher nominates e.g. on a deserted island. Each student needs to listen to hear what the others have said. Use the completed story as a starting point for small group improvisation e.g. it might be the scene before, or what happened afterward. Prepare these improvisations, use a narrator to tell the story, and illustrate it

Stage 3

The students close their eyes. Create three sounds (e.g. ring a bell, slam a door, cough). Students share with a partner what the sounds made them think about, their associations (e.g. a fire alarm, choking in smoke, escaping). They join another pair, and share the associations in a group of four. Turn some of these associations into a story, and each group act it out for the whole class

Sample units of work

Exploring the worlds of K-6 drama : from Ancient Anna to The Cloth of Dreams
The resources below feature practical ways of delivering drama in the K-6 classroom. They include strategies and activities for drama across stages and in a variety of relevant classroom contexts. They link directly to NSW creative arts K-6 syllabus outcomes.

Early Stage 1

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Resources

The following resources may be useful in the teaching of K–6 drama.

  • Arts: live offers practical classroom resources for the arts
  • Drama NSW supports the teaching of drama in NSW offering professional development, resources and discussions.
  • Seymour Centre offers educational programs for schools and teachers to support drama education.
  • Sydney Theatre Company offers educational programs for schools and teachers to support drama education.
Return to top of page