What is Creative Drama?
There are many opinions on what creative drama is and should be, and my definition here should is just one. In essence, creative drama is dramatic activities which have the experience of the participants as the goal. This differs from theatre classes in which preparation for a performance is the objective. Creative drama is usually reserved for children four to nine years old - ages or stages of development when participants can benefit from dramatic experience if there is no pressure to perform. Creative drama can include dramatic play, story enactment, imagination journeys, theatre games, music, and dance. "Let's pretend" is the norm in creative drama class, not just a child's game. Because the emphasis in creative drama is process rather than product, teachers have the freedom to take as much time as needed with their classes. When a student in a creative drama class prefers to watch instead of participate, because of shyness or fear, a teacher can allow it. When I was teaching a creative drama class for four and five year-olds one summer, a girl named Melissa was reluctant to join in acting out stories. The cooperating teacher and I let her watch the other children instead. Melissa was always interested in the actions of her classmates, and she would participate in the art activities and games which didn't make her feel like she was in the spotlight. Because she was given the time she needed to overcome her inhibitions, Melissa learned that she was "safe" in class. Towards the end of the summer, Melissa began joining in on the stories the class created with exuberance. She even played the part of the evil queen on sharing day, when the parents came to watch a class. This freedom applies also in the opposite situation, when members of the class are extremely willing and skilled at dramatic activity. The teacher can become a participant and let the children lead the activities rather than being guided through them. Creative drama can help children learn about emotions, problem solving, and relating to other people. Through their experiences with drama, students develop their imaginations and their confidence. One of the most special things about creative drama is that there are no "wrong" answers - through pretending, animals can talk, kids can travel to outer space or the jungle, and the sky can be green while the grass is blue. Use the ideas in this section to work magic in your classroom.
Resources for Creative Drama
Things to use for inspiration during a creative drama class:
Fairy/Folk Tales/Tall Tales and Myths
There are an incredible number of books containing collections of these stories. Some feature tales from a particular country, religion, or ethnic group, while others are grouped by subject (women, animals, nature). When choosing ones to use in class, look for simple plots, dynamic characters, and a straightforward message. Ideally, the tales should be told, rather than read aloud, (besides giving a better sense of the dramatic to the listeners, there are also no pictures that you have to show) so learn them well. Children enjoy acting out stories with humorous people or situations, and usually are willing to play inanimate objects that relate to the plot. Dont be afraid to stretch the boundaries of the story add in extra family members, duplicate protagonists/antagonists, herds of animals instead of one so that every child in the class has a role to play. With well-known stories (Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk), the class can use their familiarity with the plot to create new ideas, by modernizing the story, or placing characters from several different stories into one.
The (Color) Fairy Book, (Series) Lang, Andrew, Ed. : There are twelve books in this series, each named with a different color (i.e. Blue, Pink, Yellow, Lilac). Includes some stories of Hans Christen Anderson and the Brothers Grimm along with many little known fairy tales. Especially recommended are The Princess in the Chest (Pink) and The Raspberry Worm (Lilac).
The Wonder Child and Other Jewish Fairy Tales, Selected and Retold by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush: Contains folk tales from Jewish culture in the Middle East and in Europe. Some of the stories have biblical characters, and some have simple people who have supernatural things happen to them.
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, Virginia Hamilton: The book is divided into four sections by subject matter one section has stories of slaves gaining their freedom through cleverness or magic in the American South. They are written in an easily read vernacular of those who told the stories.
Daulaires Book of Greek Myths, Ingri and Edgar Parin Daulaire: This book covers much of the Greek mythology in a manner that is easy for children to grasp. There are stories about all the major gods and goddesses, the demigods, and the titans. Some of the tales contain violent acts, but in the theatre of Ancient Greece, violence was never shown onstage. This could create an interesting challenge for an older group of students.
Poems provide a unique opportunity for a creative drama class, as they can be "acted out" instantaneously or after planning. Because poetry is often written in first person, it is easy for the participants to put themselves into the actions or emotions expressed in the poem. When selecting poetry to use in class, look for a variety of styles, but keep in mind that the language should be direct enough for the participants to comprehend. Do not be afraid to use poems that are "silly", most children delight in the absurd.
Shel Silverstein: A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Falling Up
Jack Prelutsky: A Pizza as Big as the Sun, New Kid on the Block, The Dragons are Singing Tonight, and Something Big has Been Here
A. A. Milne: Now We are Six, and When we were very young
A good childrens book can provide enough activities for an entire creative drama class period. You can create a warm-up, a game, and an art project based on the theme of the book in addition to drama experiences. The most important factor in choosing books for this purpose is the teachers or leaders interest if a particular book gives you many exciting ideas, then that is the one you should use.
Sample lesson plan for Wacky Wednesday.
Last Updated: 05/26/99
©1999, Janine Moyer Buesgen