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Drama in the Classroom: Tips & Activities

A background of teal theater curtains with a pink box and white text that reads "Teaching Drama in Secondary ELA"

Using theatre in Secondary ELA is a great way to build classroom community, increase public speaking skills, and get students to understand complex texts. Here are some ideas for how to introduce drama in the classroom, from quick, 5-minute games to a class play. 

A stage bathed in purple and blue lights, framed by purple curtains. In the center of the image there is a white, rectangular overlay with pink and black text that reads "Teaching Drama in Secondary ELA"

Improv Games build public speaking skills

In every English class I’ve ever taught, I’ve used improv games to help students build public speaking skills. When I taught ESL in Germany, my students LOVED telling wacky stories in games like “Story, Story, Die!” 

Here are two sets of improv ideas you can use in any class! Improv games are a great way to spend an extra five minutes or what’s left after a fire drill, so you should definitely have a few in your pocket.

Halloween Themed Drama Games

Drama in the ELA Classroom: Improv Games

Drama in the Classroom: Reader’s Theatre and Staged Readings

I have used a lot of Reader’s Theatre and Staged Readings in my classrooms as well. I discuss staged readings in this post: Staged Readings in ELA – A Play in 5 Days! Honestly, this is the only way I teach Shakespeare anymore.

While I lived in Florida, I was an assistant director for a teen Shakespeare company. The director, Michelle Hancock, and I produced several 30-minute abridged Shakespeare plays during this time, and we published those as Shakespeare in 30. These scripts are PERFECT for classrooms and drama clubs because they take less time to “get to the good stuff.”

What’s the good stuff?

Performing Shakespeare.

In 5 days, your students can read, understand, and perform these abridged Shakespeare scripts. They’ll still have the scripts in hand, but they’ll feel comfortable enough to move around and add characterization.

If you’re looking for Tips on Teaching Shakespeare’s Language, we’ve got that, too.

Want to do a whole Class Play? Here’s how…

In 2016, my 9th grade Honors classes put on a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the 7th & 8th-grade classes. I talk about our experience in this blog series and how you can draw in aspects of it even if you can’t do a whole play.

How to Set Up and Cast the Class Play

Building Drama Know-How in ELA

Evaluating Drama in the Classroom

Class Play: A Successful Show

All the resources I used to introduce drama terms, blocking, and more are available in my Intro to Drama Resources Bundle.

Final thoughts:

A group on teens onstage rehearsing a play, below the photo is a blue box with white text that reads "Teaching Drama in Secondary ELA"

Whether you’ve got five minutes for improv games or a whole month to prepare a class play, using theater in the classroom really pays off. You’ll see a huge boost in confidence for your students, and they’ll remember their texts for years to come.

Happy teaching!

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