Non-verbal: Do and think

Aboriginal ways of learning

8 ways symbols for Non-verbal, Deconstruct Reconstruct, Learning Maps
Image: Non-verbal, Deconstruct Reconstruct, Learning Maps

Playbuilding phases


Syllabus outcomes

5.1.2, 5.1.4

Teaching strategies

In the class yarning circle, explain that an important part of the playbuilding process is getting up on our feet to explore ideas through improvisation. The group devising process will not move forward if we spend too long talking about ideas, instead of doing. Communicating without words, or practising deep thinking without requiring action, is also an important way of Aboriginal learning and knowing.

First ask students to suggest ways in which they communicate non-verbally every day. Responses may include:

  • body language
  • gestures
  • facial expressions
  • watching/observing
  • hands-on activities
  • drawing
  • writing/texting
  • emojis.

Next ask students to brainstorm ways in which they communicate non-verbally as theatre makers.

Responses may include:

  • body language
  • gestures
  • facial expressions
  • movement/stillness
  • mime
  • tableaux
  • symbol
  • lighting
  • sound
  • music/sound effects
  • costume
  • use of space
  • focus.

Remind students of the task requirements that their final performance must include some use of movement and image to communicate dramatic meaning non-verbally.

Students spend the exploration phase of the playbuilding process using mainly non-verbal communication to explore ideas from their active improvisation list.

Students can use some of the following as focus to explore and reflect on these ideas in an active way:

  • tableaux
  • movement (with music or sound)
  • symbolic prop
  • using bodies as props (actor becomes)
  • space and levels
  • slow-motion/pace
  • exaggerated gesture/facial expression.

Students share work with teacher/class and discuss the possibilities created by focusing on non-verbal communication. For example, it allows performers and audience to see ideas in a new light, allows them to express things they can’t put into words, encourages creative risk, helps them generate material quickly and discount any ideas that are not working.

Throughout this phase, students can use class and teacher feedback about improvised material to select different moments to connect or reconstruct into longer ‘moving images’ in response to their chosen place.

During this exploration phase, students should also use their logbooks to visually map their ideas and the ways they might use the elements of drama. When students are engaged in these non-verbal planning activities, acknowledge that this way of drawing or imagining different pathways before deciding on final path is also an Aboriginal way of learning.

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