The following discussion is an "intro" to a "Drama Manual" or sorts. This entire forum is the rest of the manual! Your thoughts are welcome.
Drama in the Rotation Model
The "Drama Workshop" in the Rotation Model is considered one of the four "original core workshops." Other "core" workshops include: Art, Video, and Bible Games.
One reason drama is considered a "core workshop" is because drama is a familiar teaching technique and can work well with just about any Bible lesson.
Sunday Schools have always incorporated skits and costumes, but in the WoRM, we take it a few steps further.
We outfit an entire room with drama decor and props, and devote an entire lesson plan to teaching the Bible story through dramatic techniques. (The traditional model usually just snuck a quickie drama into the lesson plan, "...3 minute scripts and box of bathrobes.") Importantly, in Rotation we recruit a teacher who likes teaching through drama and isn't a stick-in-the-mude. Then we ask them to stay-put in that workshop each week as new groups come in. That ensures that their command of the drama lesson gets better each week.
Many Rotation drama lesson plans follow a familiar "script and costume" approach. But as the following brief article suggests, in Rotation we strive to move beyond that.
Whether you're teaching in Rotation or a Traditional Model, the following is sure to help.
The Drama Workshop: More than just scripts and costumes!
Do you automatically think "script and costumes" when you think of teaching a Bible story through Drama? Most of us do. it's a time-honored approach that has its time and place in our lessons. It's an easy concept to pull off if you have a kid-friendly script, props, scenery, and a little bit of staging. (In fact, you'll see a lot of those types of drama lessons and scripts here at Rotation.org.)
But drama in the classroom can mean a whole lot more than standing in costumes and reading a script! And drama can be used in more than one part of your lesson plan.
When looking at your lesson, ask these questions:
- How can we dramatize the class introductions and opening?
- How can we dramatize the Bible reading and discussion?
- How can we move beyond costumes and scripts when dramatizing the story?
- And how can we use drama to reflect or pray?
Dramatizing a Bible story can involve many things: acting in character, using props as you talk, using fun voices and motions, conducting a "show" or interview, or simply altering how we read a passage, or changing the scene or cast of who's in the story.
Do you automatically think "just re-tell Bible story" when you think drama?
There's a time and place to "play it straight" and just do the story. But often, the real insights (and memorable fun) are found when you invite the kids to re-imagine parts of the story.
Change the WAY you present the drama.
Instead of kids reciting lines on a 'stage,' use other forms of presentation, such as, a shadow drama, or "radio broadcast." These tweaks often take the pressure off kids to perform in an overly wordy or visible way. Feels more like "play" than "a play."
Change the characters. What happens if the person playing Peter on the boat now has to do it as if they were The Hulk? How would you retell the story if the Good Samaritan was Lebron James, or _____?
Change the scene. What happens when the man is let down through the school cafeteria roof? What would the principal and students say?
Experiment with different character responses/choices during the story. What would God have said if Adam and Eve had stood up and confessed their sin in the Garden?
Experiment with different endings. Imagine Superman arriving at the cross offering to help, what would Jesus say?
Your main drama activity does NOT have to be a recitation of the story.
It can be a drama (or play-acting) about some aspect of the story.
For example, after your dramatic Bible study, your main dramatic activity can be setting up a "gameshow" or "interview show" or "news broadcast" ABOUT SOMETHING IN THE STORY, and not merely repeating the story itself.
"We're standing here in the school cafeteria where Jesus has just healed a 5th grader lowered down through the roof, ...and here comes the principal... sir, sir, can I ask you a few questions?"
"CNN reporting from the frontlines where Goliath has just come out and challenged Israel to a battle, ...Goliath, may I have a word with you?"
In this broadcast example it's often good to have a teacher or assistant be the interviewer. Prior to the newsbroadcast, the characters are assigned and they prepare some questions and responses that might be interesting. Let them write-out key lines on cards or a flipchart cue-card. You can even have fun "commercial breaks" in the middle of your show to "sell a product" (such as, "Today's Manna, for that worn out spirit. "Now in super-size.")
Studying stewardship and the Parable of the Talents? Do "The Price is Wrong" gameshow with things you don't want to win.
A few more drama ideas:
- A Talk Show host interviewing people from the story.
- Pantomine a "Silent Movie" version of the story as its read by others, or played from a video tape.
- Play a movie for the class, but only let the actors see the screen. Tell them to try and act it out as they see it. This is a lot of fun, and very memorable.
- Shadow puppets moving behind the screen to narration.
- Shadow actors backlit behind a white cloth (with others doing the reading and SFX).
- A News Reporter Interviewing people at the Scene of the Story
- Record a Radio broadcast from Jericho reporting the arrival of Jesus. You can do this fully scripted, OR... have only the dramatic reporter using simple lines that cue the other players to act and say things, such as, "I can hear the crowd start to mumur." And... "now they're starting to accuse Zaccheus of being a bad guy." The kids respond to the narration and do their own sound effects. Record using a laptop with a built-in microphone. Play back for fun and great discussion.
- A "dance version" of the story where people dance through their part.
- A mixed up characters version, where each person has a secret identity that they must act like and modify their scripted lines to match their character (you're a cop, you're afraid, you're an alien, you're a talking monkey)
- A "frozen statues version" of the story where the kids form the scene then someone reads it.
- Ninja Movie version of Mary and Joseph coming to 'extract' Jesus from the Temple
- The Hulk tries to walk on water with Jesus.
- The Avengers show up at the cross to try and rescue Jesus, but Jesus explains why he is doing it.
- Iron Man offers to help Jesus but Jesus says...
- Interviewing the "bad guys" in the story is always interesting.
- Play the audio from a movie but have kids in character acting out the audio. Sometimes I'll even have the kids stand in front of the screen while the movie is projected over them so they can watch it.
Play acting requires a lot of teacher energy and fast thinking, -and that's why the selection of a gregarious teacher who loves doing voices (and is a bit goofy) is key to making the drama workshop work. A sedate teacher who can't get out of their own chair doesn't belong in the drama workshop.
Leading these types of drama requires some IMPROVISATIONAL SKILLS on the part of the teacher ("think fast" skills) and some practice on the part of the kids. This is why you want to leave plenty of time in your drama lesson for preparation. Often, the teacher will show the kids how they might act. The more they do it, and sometimes the more silly, --the more they'll drop their guard and get into it. (We're not goofing around, we're creating a deep memory of the story through "play.")
Use kids' natural competitiveness and creativity to spur each other towards better "performances." For example, have two groups do two different versions of "The 5th Grader Let Down Through the Roof." The second group will naturally want to try harder.
Change the way you do your drama from rotation to rotation. Some kids fear speaking in public or acting. Mix it up.
Videotaping your skits is a great way to get the kids to rise to the task and perform on cue. And it's okay if they get it wrong the first time. Doing it a second time with improvements is a great way to learn, and will give the teacher plenty to point out and discuss.
It's always great to have a couple of Senior High "hams" helping in the Drama Workshop. In fact, you could say it's REQUIRED. They will be great at providing suggestions, setting the tone (helping kids come out of their shell), working in small groups on scenes to be presented, and acting with the kids (which can help move the scenes along and be quite entertaining).
-from a set of Drama Ideas provided by Neil MacQueen