How to…run an after-school drama group (part 3 of 3)

Recently Foolproof was invited to contribute a series of articles to the Serve Your Local School website. SYLS is aimed primarily at Christians who are interested in helping their local schools with resources and ideas. We were invited to write some “How to…” guides on running an after-school drama club. Here’s part 3 of what we came up with…

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You’ve chosen your script, planned your programme and set a date for your final performance, and now it’s time to actually make it work. Here are some tips:

  • Establish a routine for the club – make sure you leave time for arriving, catching up on the week’s news, going to the toilet, eating snacks etc. We encourage children to take off their shoes as it frees them physically and allows them to be more imaginative.
  • Keep the programme fast-paced and fun. Use a mixture of all together, group and paired work to keep children engaged. Set out your expectations early on and try and create an atmosphere where children can be boisterous and imaginative within a safe, controlled environment.
  • Put together a box of props and costumes that you can use. This feeds the imagination and helps the young people build characters.
  • Using music can significantly improve a mediocre performance – a little background music, or to cover scene changes and create mood. Also music is great for getting children moving, and you can create some simple but effective dramatic effects by using movement and music (it’s a cliche but there’s nothing wrong with pretending to be a tree!).
  • Make notes each week so that you remember what you worked on – people can come up with amazing ideas and scripts only to have forgotten everything the following week!
  • Introduce terms such as ‘rehearsal’, ‘warm-up’, ‘director’, ‘stage-right’, ‘stage-left’ etc. early on as basic stagecraft is also part of the learning process, and adds to the sense of putting on a proper production.
  • Encourage the children to critique one another kindly and constructively. This encourages those who are ‘just watching’ to be more engaged. We usually ask two questions – what did you think was really good about the performance and can you suggest anything that would improve it?
  • When you come to put your performance together, be prepared to be quite directive. Imagination, ideas and creativity is part of the process, but in the end the director needs to make the event happen so that the audience can see and hear what’s going on.
  • The two basic rules of performance are don’t turn your back to the audience and speak loudly. You will have to reinforce this time and again.
  • The two basic rules of performance are don’t turn your back to the audience and speak loudly. You will have to reinforce this time and again. Seriously, time and again.
  • Pray as a team. Even though the content and purpose of the group may not be overtly Christian, it’s important to approach the club with the same attitude as an SU group or similar. Pray for the children as you get to know them, and remember that Creator God loves to see people using their gifts!
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How to…start an after-school drama club (part 1 of 3)

Recently Foolproof was invited to contribute a series of articles to the Serve Your Local School website. SYLS is aimed primarily at Christians who are interested in helping their local schools with resources and ideas. We were invited to write some “How to…” guides on running an after-school drama club. Here’s what we came up with…

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Drama is an excellent medium for engaging young people in thinking about big ideas. At its heart, drama is about telling stories, and through participation children grow in confidence, gain skills in presentation and learn how to use their bodies and voices. It also promotes trust, collaboration and listening skills. If you have some people in your church who are dramatic and confident in working with children, an after-school or lunchtime drama club is a great resource to offer your local primary school. Here are a few things to think about as you get started:

  • Before you approach your local headteacher make sure you are confident of what you are offering. You may want to offer something that has a Christian core, using Bible stories or seasonal material, or you may decide to offer something that is not overtly Christian. In either case the relationships you build with the children, the way you act towards them, and how you work as a team will be key. In our experience, unless you have a sympathetic ‘known’ headteacher, a school is likely to be more comfortable with the idea of non-religious themed drama in the first instance.
  • Make sure you are clear on your Child Protection Policy and that your volunteers are PVG checked.
  • Think about the age group you want to work with. We tend to work with P4 and above, but even within a P4-7 range there is a vast difference in ability and confidence.
  • Many people’s idea of drama is a grand performance of a complex script, and most children will come with high expectations of creating a show stopping production in a matter of weeks! Be realistic about what you, and they, can achieve with limited time and resources.
  • Remember that not all children are skilled readers, and many will prefer to create their own dramas from a story stimulus. By using games and storytelling exercises you can create a club that is fun to attend and produces something decent for parents and others to watch at the end of term.
  • Plan back from the end of term. If you decide to put on a performance for parents gather some people who can help you with welcome, refreshments and chatting to the audience. Think about other events or activities you could invite children and their families along to.
  • Look for other opportunities to serve the school through drama – perhaps you could help lead an assembly or do some work in the classroom alongside RME.