We have created a series of professional development animations and explanations for each drama technique used in the programme, to help you use them easily and effectively in your classroom. For more information on how to use Storyteller, see our Getting Started page.
Drama activities offer rich opportunities to explore the motivations and experiences of characters in depth, allowing the children to ‘walk in a character’s shoes’. As there is no text barrier, drama techniques are very inclusive - they allow children of all reading and writing abilities to participate to a high level. Connecting emotion to language creates a context that helps children make meaning from words. And they provide scaffolding that supports their literacy as well as social and emotional development. This methodology has been proven to greatly improve writing and performance skills.
But let’s not forget that drama is also fun, engaging and meaningful in and of itself.
We will start with Role-play, as it is the basis for all drama activities. Role-play simply means adopting the role of someone else and putting that character into action.
Children can suspend disbelief by stepping into the shoes of anyone in the past, present or future and travel to any location in the world or beyond; exploring all kinds of moral, emotional or intellectual issues.
Role-play without words is also known as Mime. And role-play in action is also known as Improvisation.
5 Great reasons to use Role Play!
- It's a great way for children to learn the power of specific and vivid details of a character or setting.
- It’s a powerful and enjoyable way to explore the why, who and where of a situation.
- It helps children connect with a variety of experiences they might not have otherwise.
- Acting out small role-plays can help with larger school productions.
- All this provides a great stimulus for writing.
[Most of the stories have a Role-play activity, including Three Billy Goats Gruff, Tin Soldier and Persephone.]
Conscience Alley is a useful technique for exploring any kind of decision, problem or dilemma faced by a character. It is most suitable for use in year three and above, though not exclusively.
Set up two lines of children facing each other. Have one child in role as a particular character walk down the middle of the alley between the lines. Children voice the character’s thoughts, both for and against a particular decision they are facing.
5 Great reasons to use Conscience Alley!
- Explore dilemmas and consider the positives and negatives surrounding an issue.
- Improves empathy and understanding of a different perspective.
- Teaches the importance of listening to both sides of an argument.
- It is a great precursor to debating.
- This all leads to better, more considered self-expression and writing.
[Several of the stories have a Conscience Alley activity, including The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Golden Arm.]
Freeze Frame, sometimes known as Tableau or Still Image is a drama technique used to help focus on an important moment in the story. It is most effective when used with Thought Tracking - when the child speaks their character’s thoughts aloud to show what they are thinking at that 'frozen' moment in time.
Have the children pick a character from a particularly memorable point in the story and make still images with their bodies to represent that moment. Ask them to describe what character their image represents, how they are feeling, and what part of the story it came from.
5 Great reasons to Freeze Frame!
- It is really helpful for understanding sequencing and narrative structure.
- Explore how a character develops and changes through a story.
- It’s a great opportunity for meaningful discussion before the freeze frame occurs.
- A great way to deepen the understanding of the story, which leads directly to better writing or performance.
- A series of freeze frames tells a simple story.
[Several of the stories have a Freeze Frame activity, including Sleeping Beauty and King Vikram’s Riddle.]
Hot seating is a very effective drama technique to help explore and develop character.
Choose a child to play a character from the story. They sit on a chair in front of the group and the group asks them questions about their thoughts, feelings, motivations and behaviour.
You might find that initially using simple props like a crown, cape or glasses can help children feel more confident and relaxed in the role.
5 Great reasons to use Hot Seating!
- It helps the children understand a character’s motivations.
- Great practise for speaking and listening.
- A safe way to develop emotional intelligence.
- Improves confidence in their drama performance.
- All this leads to better writing.
[Several of the stories have a Hot Seating activity, including Rapunzel and Clever Gretchen.]
This is a useful and easy exercise to examine and challenge beliefs and attitudes. It gives children the opportunity to share their opinions in an organised, democratic and non-judgemental setting. It allows them to hear different points of view, justify their beliefs and develop well-informed opinions. You can tailor the activity to the needs and abilities of your class.
Create a series of controversial statements about an issue together. Have the children imagine a line running along the floor of the class. They stand at one end of the line if they strongly agree with the statement, at the other if they strongly disagree, or anywhere along the line that reflects their view.
When each statement is read out, the children move to the position on the line that best represents their view. First, ask the children at the extreme ends why they strongly agree or disagree. Encourage the other children to listen carefully, and not judge. Move along the line until you have heard a good spectrum of views.
Give the children the chance to move to a new position on the line if they change their minds, or feel differently about the statement after the discussion.
- All people should care for their parents when they get old.
- All children should have anything they want.
- Old people should live in nursing homes.
[Examples from Granddad and the Laundry Basket story. Year 6.]
Mantle of the Expert is not a drama convention so much as an approach to the curriculum. It was developed by Dorothy Heathcote through work with children and teachers. She says:
"Mantle of the Expert" is the antithesis of a fragmented and fact-driven curriculum, the antithesis of the drive to acquire ever more decontextualised skills.
Knowledge becomes information, evidence, source material, specification, records, guidelines, regulations, theories, formulas, and artifacts, all of which are to be interrogated. This is an active, urgent, purposeful view of learning, in which knowledge is to be operated on, not merely to be taken in.
Mantle of the Expert involves the creation of a fictional world where students assume the roles of experts in a particular field. It gives children a fictional "frame" within which they can take responsibility for a situation.
While the focus is on the enquiry process, it can often lead to real outcomes such as writing letters, printing leaflets or selling products. The teacher's role is to guide the drama, stepping in and out of role as necessary, providing encouragement and motivation to the "experts".
[The King’s New Garden has a Mantle of the Expert activity.]
Marking the Moment is a drama technique used to highlight a key moment from a scene or story. It can be done in a number of ways, such as Freeze Framing, narration or the use of music, but is frequently acted out in slow motion.
[A number of the stories have a Marking the Moment activity, including The Tin Soldier and Theseus and the Minotaur.]
Mime is where a scene or piece is performed in complete silence using only gestures and facial expressions. Actions need to be more exaggerated than normal, so the audience can understand clearly what is being shown. Mime is an important drama technique to help develop the ability to get thoughts and feelings across without using words. It also helps take the pressure off from having to speak and act at the same time.
5 Great reasons to use Mime!
- Helps children become aware of the expressiveness of their bodies.
- It helps them become less self-conscious and feel more comfortable with their bodies.
- Broadens awareness of how we "speak with our bodies" every day.
- Helps children understand body language, so they can interact and communicate more effectively.
- Acting without the requirement to speak can be very liberating.
[Several of the stories have a Mime activity, including The Goat and the Lion and Anancie and the Drum of Common Sense.]
Narration is a technique where one or more performers speak directly to the audience to tell a story, give information or comment on the action of the scene or the motivations of characters. Characters may narrate, or a performer who is not involved in the action can carry out the role of "narrator".
This strategy can be used to represent a real or fictional character or to help a class develop their own character
The outline of a body is drawn on a large sheet of paper, which is later stuck onto the wall. This can be done by carefully drawing around one of the children or drawing a smaller version on a flip chart or interactive whiteboard.
In the space around the outline children write all the things they know about the character. In the space within the outline they write words to describe how the character is feeling at a particular time or about their character’s personality.
The role on the wall can be kept as a "living commentary" on the character and can be re-visited to add things to or see if children’s perception has changed. It is a good way of sharing information, developing empathy and deepening thinking and works well alongside hotseating.
[Several of the stories have a Role on the Wall activity, including Clever Gretchen and Anlabe.]
A still image is where the children create a scene using their bodies. Still images and freeze frames are both a form of tableau. With freeze-frame, the action in a play or scene is frozen, as in a photograph or video frame. Still images, on the other hand, require individuals or groups to invent body-shapes or postures, rather than freeze existing action. Groups can tell a story through a series of prepared still-images and the still images can also be brought to life through improvisation.
Storytelling is one of the most fundamental ways we communicate and one of the simplest and most compelling forms of drama.
Giving children the tools to become a storyteller, is a powerful way for them to examine the specific techniques needed to be able “tell a good story”, whether spoken or written. It also gives them a context to explore structure, language and even the role that punctuation plays in helping to engage a listener or reader.
In oral storytelling there is no script. The teller visualises the scene and describes these images to the listener, leading them through the story via ‘sign-posts’ or ‘plot points’. These are the key points in the story that can’t be changed, but all of the other details around them can be. [NB. In the transcripts in the Essentials info tab, we have transcribed the storyteller’s words; they are not scripts from which the storyteller spoke!]
Start by watching a story together with your class. The storytellers are fantastic models. Analyse how they express themselves and create a ‘Storyteller’s Checklist’.
5 Great reasons to use Storytelling!
1. Storytelling challenges and expands children’s imaginations
2. A great way to enrich their vocabulary, pronunciation and word recognition
3. An intuitive way to learn story structure, grammar and punctuation
4. A safe way to examine difficult topics
5. Proven to lead to better reading, writing and class motivation.
[Several of the stories explore Storytelling with an activity, including Medio Polito and Po Wan and Kwan Yin.]
This is where a group(s) of children use their bodies to create a scene from the story, which is frozen to become a "living picture". The scene can be brought to life with the addition of dialogue and action (improvisation) or "thought tracking" so that character’s voices can be heard.
Here the teacher simply assumes a role in relation to the pupils. This may be as a leader, a peer, or modeling a character from the story - whatever is useful in the development of the lesson. The teacher may ask questions of the children (also in role) or encourage them to hot-seat her in return.
This allows the teacher to participate in the role play, providing information and guiding the narrative. It offers a focus for children’s questions and arguments, while "leveling" the teacher with the children.
Teacher in Role does not require great acting skills! A role can be adopted quite simply, to communicate the key attitudes and emotions of a particular character. A token piece of costume, a prop or special chair can be useful to denote when the teacher steps into and out of role.
If you are not sure how to begin, try hot-seating first. This will give you valuable experience of assuming a role in relation to the children and responding to their comments and questions.
This is the simple technique of asking a child in character to speak their thoughts, usually in the process of "Freeze-framing". It is usually done by the teacher gently tapping the child on the shoulder to indicate it is their turn to speak.
Visualisation is using our imagination to picture a scene, setting or environment. To translate words into mental pictures, allowing us to become lost in the visual world of a story.
Have the class close their eyes, either on the carpet, in their chairs or somewhere comfortable. Now ask the children questions relating to the story or piece of work you want them to visualize. These questions will guide them through the scene and act as prompts that will fuel their imagination and help them develop clearer pictures in their minds.
It’s important to watch a story first, as the children will automatically begin to paint mental pictures of the story. This will give you a strong starting point and help the children add detail and colour to the images already there.
5 Great reasons to use visualization!
- A great way to expand children’s imaginations
- Increases children’s ability to explore their own experiences and imaginary worlds
- A great way to use their senses to enhance their descriptions
- Increases confidence in their own creative skills
- An important way to foster greater comprehension when reading and listening
The children write from the perspective of a character or person other than themselves [e.g. a diary, letter, secret journal, newspaper article etc.] This works particularly well as an extension activity to other drama techniques, for example after Hot Seating a character.
This gives children the opportunity to deepen their understanding of a story, issue or situation. It encourages them to consider things like appropriate tone, style and vocabulary, other people’s point of view and the motivation behind particular courses of action.
[This technique can be used after many of the drama activities and with any of the stories.]
WRITING FRAMES AND FACT FILES
These writing frames were created to give you a quick summary of the conventions of the various writing genres you are required to teach. There is a Writing Frame and Fact File for each genre.
Each Writing Frame is a blank template for you to photocopy for the children to work on. Giving them some physical starters can offer much more encouragement than a blank page!
The Fact Files are brief summaries of the conventions, annotated on the writing frame. You can print these, or bring them up on the whiteboard.
We use a log book to write down important information that happened on a journey.
Each log entry will need
- the date, the ship and the crew
- Information about who, what, where and when
What happened first? What happened next? Remember to include lots of detail and adjectives.
A log would be more formal in style than a diary, but they are very similar.
We use a diary to write down our personal thoughts and experiences.
Each diary entry will need
- The date
- Information about who, what, where and when?
The tone of a diary is usually conversational and informal. It is written in the first person and usually in the past tense (what has happened) - I went to... I saw... I felt....
Use a diary entry to express how you feel about something and what you hope might happen or look forward to.
Instructions tell the reader how to do something such as prepare a recipe, build a model, put furniture together, play a game or get from one place to another.
There are many types of instruction but they all share some important features.
A title. How to..?
An introduction.Tell the reader more about what they will be doing.
A list of what you will need.Many instructions involve putting things together like recipes or furniture, so you need to know everything you will need before you start.
Step by step directions in the right order. The steps should be numbered so the reader knows the correct order to do them. They need to be written in the third person i.e. what should another person do?
Instructions need to be clear and to the point. Use direct language (imperative ‘bossy’ verbs) to tell the reader what to do, for example: cut the carrots finely.
Use time openers like first, next, then, after that and finally.
Use adverbs like carefully, slowly or gently.
Diagram. These are often helpful to explain things precisely, where words alone are not always clear.
Handy hints. Remember to, always, never.
We write invitations to ask people to come to an event. This is the kind of information we need to include:
Who is the invitation for
What is the occasion? A birthday, wedding or party?
Where is it? What is the address?
What is the date of the event?
Any other details? Is it a surprise? Is there a special way to dress?
Any other details? Is it a surprise? Is there a special way to dress?
Include the host’s name and address so the guests can let you know if they can come or not.
Invitations can be formal or informal, depending on the event. They often include pictures or decorations to make them look inviting.
We write letters for all sorts of reasons: to tell someone something, to complain, to ask for information, or to apply for something, such as a job. They are written in the first person.
All letters need:
- Your address in the top right hand corner of the page.
- Write the date underneath the address.
- If you don't know the person's name, start the letter with Dear Sir, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir or Madam and finish with Yours faithfully.
- If you do know the person's name, start the letter Dear Mr/Mrs (put the person's surname here) and finish with Yours sincerely or Love from (if you know them really well.)
Formal letters are to people you don't know, for example, an author or to organisations, for example, newspapers or businesses.
Informal letters are to people you do know, for example your Aunty or teacher.
Start with the purpose of your letter, then follow with the details. It is helpful to list the points you want to make before you start writing. Always use clear, simple English.
Finish by saying what you would like to happen next, for example, I hope to hear from you soon.
Newspapers report on news stories from around the world every day. They are written in the past tense because they are reporting on things that have already happened.
Newspapers use headlines to grab your attention. Headlines tell the story in as few words as possible. Some headlines are funny and others are more serious, and they tell the reader what kind of story it’s going to be. You can use alliteration, puns or other exciting language.
The first sentence under the headline sums up what the story is going to be about. They often use the 5 W's, who, what, why, where and when to give the reader as many facts as possible.
Split your report into paragraphs to help the reader clearly understand the information. You can add ‘Sub headings’to your paragraphs.
Your report needs to be written in the past tense, because you are writing about something that has already happened.
Write your report in the third person, because you are writing about somebody else.
Facts and Opinions
Newspaper reports use a mixture of facts and opinions to tell the story.
Report directly from the people involved giving eyewitness accounts or expert opinions. They help give the reader an opinion of the people involved. Remember to use speech marks.
Photos and captions
Pictures add more detail to what you are writing about. Include a caption underneath to explain the photo.
Include information about what will be happening, any further details or expected date.
The structure for writing a play script can vary, particularly in the layout on the page or screen but they usually include:
The characters listed in the margin.
This includes the name of character and the words they say:
Hello dear. How are you?
This includes all the information needed for the scene, such as who is going to be in it and what they are doing:
SCENE 2: The Kitchen, Day
Stage direction (ENTER Martin, laughing)
Play scripts only use direct speech in the present tense and rarely use instructions like “she said” unless a narrator is scripted to say it.
Dialogue is the conversation between two or more characters and monologue is when only one character is speaking. You can write a play script for a short scene or a whole story.
We write posters and leaflets to let people know as much about something as possible, in a small amount of space. They often try to persuade the reader to do something. This is the kind of information we need to include:
They should have a clear, bold heading or slogan that catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more.
They should be filled with facts to tell the reader everything they need to know and persuade them to do something like ‘Buy Now! Or ‘Call this number for more details!’ A leaflet advertising an event or a shop, for example, must include an address and a contact number, website or email address. They often include a special offer or promise.
They need to have an eye-catching layout, attention grabbing pictures and short punchy sentences or phrases. We have included a frame for a Wanted poster, but for most other posters or leaflets a blank page is far more liberating!