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Reply to "Drama Workshop ~ What is it? and How-to?"

The following is another "sort of" manual for the Drama Workshop. It is similar in some ways to Amy Crane's seminal manual above, but also has some different tips and ideas in it.



The Drama Workshop in the Rotation Model

What is it
How do you set it up
What can you do in it
by Neil MacQueen (2008)

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.

There are a couple of reasons why drama is considered a "core workshop." The Bible itself is a drama and lends itself to being dramatized. And drama is a familiar and traditional teaching technique that works well with just about any Bible lesson.

Sunday Schools have always incorporated skits and costumes, but the Workshop Rotation Model takes 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-mud. 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.



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!  

 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?
  • 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.

You often see Bible dramas that "play it straight" and "just re-tell Bible story," but often in the Drama Workshop, the teaching insights are more ripe when you change the story, play with it, and re-imagine it in different ways. 

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.


Ways to Reimagine 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," or "Readers Theater."  These tweaks often take the pressure off kids to perform in an overly wordy or visible way. Feels more like "play" than "a play."

 Invent characters or change the story's point of view.  What if you put "Loud Mouth Larry the Disciple" on the boat with Jesus. What if you told the story of the Good Samaritan from the point of view of the innkeeper or Priest? 

  Change the scene. What happens when the man is let down through the school cafeteria roof? ...and his "disability" is that he's socially awkward.  What would the principal and students say?

 Imagine new dialog from characters in the story.  For example, what did the other 9 lepers say to defend themselves for not thanking Jesus?  What would God have said if Adam and Eve had stood up and confessed their sin in the Garden? What would the Priest say to the other priests after he stopped to help the man on the Jericho road.

 Experiment with different endings. What would Jesus have said if  a crowd of pro-Jesus soldiers appeared, or some angels debated and showed up to take him down off the cross?  What excuses could Mary Magdalene have given for not going to the tomb? What would God and Moses talked about if Moses had given up and decided to leave the Ten Commandment tablets on top of Mt. Sinai?  What if Joseph's brothers had never bothered to ask for forgiveness, ...what would Joseph have done then?


Your main drama activity does NOT have to (and probably should not) be a recitation of the entire 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 a repetition of 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.")

You are interviewing the sheep who just came from the green pastures and dark valleys of Psalm 23.

You are interviewing the people in the crowd watching Jesus enter Jerusalem, or die on the cross.


DRAMA WORKSHOP TIPS:

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).

(This post originally had a list of drama ideas here. They have been moved to the "MORE IDEAS topic over here.)


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