Self-contained Drama Lessons


Students are placed in groups of 4 or 5. There are a couple of actors and a couple of sound creators. If you have a couple of percussion instruments, simple sounds hand a couple out to each group. They can also make sounds by clapping, using voice (but no words) and any other way they can think – it’s open ended.

The group creates a scene where the sound makers lead the action by making offers through sound. Before anyone is on stage, clues as to setting will be made by the sounds created (beach, city, office etc). Actors enter and begin a scene – reacting to the sounds made.

Encourage them to make sure there is a problem (possibly created / shown via sound) and aim to resolve it. There should be sounds at all times.


This is suitable for Year 2 up. It can take a bit for kids to get the process.  It’s a lesson in knowing when to step forward and when to hang back and wait for their moment. A couple of tries and they usually get it. It is really relevant – especially in improvising (that’s the take away for older kids) and younger students practise their listening skills.

Students are placed in quite large groups. (6 – 8). I stand in the centre of the room and have each group (usually only 4) at each corner, so I can see this evolve. I also make fabrics and boxes (crates) available to use at their discretion. They all sit back and wait for the first description – the aim is to build onto the picture as I give more info. This means some kids will hang back and wait for a suitable point to jump up and in.

Read each description. then count down slowly (10 – 1) to signal how long they have. At one, I usually ring and bell or another noise maker. Pause – make comments, then continue with the next. Keep the pace – shouldn’t be a long activity but a quick thinking one.

          Seaside Picture :  

1)The sun was shining.  2) There were 2 clouds in the sky. 3) At sea was a little red boat.

4) A boy and girl were building a sandcastle on the beach  5) Mum was reading a book on a towel.

6) A child was paddling in the waves  7) A man stood on the rocks fishing

Countryside Picture

1)It was a sunny day   2)There was a car parked by the gate near the field  3)On the hill were two sheep eating grass

4) There was a big shady tree  5) A family was having a picnic   6) A kangaroo jumped past


A setting based activity that leads into scene work where a whole class of thirty can be engaged at the same time. Give each student a number 1 -2 – 3 (randomly). I explain that different parts of the room (use the length of a wall) represents different settings – at the beach, on a boat, in a bank.

I then call a number and setting . 1 – beach, 2 – bank 3 – boat (all called at the same time). Kids race to their part of the room a create a landscape/tableau/frozen picture representing that place. They can be objects or people. Encourage them to think about using space well – no backs to audience, don’t block, use levels, interact with each other.

After a few seconds, call time and look at each set up, make comment (kids stay frozen) , comment on good ideas etc. Replay two more times – changing groups to a new setting.

Once done, each large group splits into two so that there are 6 groups. Each group then chooses one of the settings, and creates a short scene with a clear opening that shows the setting quickly, a conflict and how the problem is solved. Give some rehearsal time and then present tot he class. With capable/older kids I challenge by saying their problem for the scene can’t be a shark attack (beach), bank robbery or man overboard. This gets them think outside the box.

Perform and give feedback.

Scene Starters

This is an easy lesson to run and helps give the teacher an idea of a class’s ability. Most suitable for mid-primary age up. Students are paired up and given two lines of dialogue that they need to use to begin a short scene. Encourage students to move and create a scene from the scene starters.

Scene 1

A: Help me.

B: I can’t.

Scene 2

A: I’m sorry.

B: It’s all your fault.

Scene 3

A: Stop it.

B: Make me.

Scene 4

A: What are you doing?

B: What does it look like?

Scene 5

A: It’s time to go

B: Not yet

Scene 6:

A: I need you.

B: Just a minute.

Art to Tableaux Students sit in a circle (or 3 small circles workd well if sharing crayons). Each has a blank sheet of paper. Play some image evoking music (I like to use the music of ‘Yello”). Have them listen for a minute and then they may begin to draw whatever comes to mind as they listen. Let them create for 5 – 10 minutes: tell them to take their time. Stop students, ask them to return crayons to bucket or put down what they were using. Now there are a copuple of ways to manage this: ask each student to pick up their sheet usng their right hand (this can take a while depending on age) and then pass to the person on their right. Or have everyone stand up, leave their picture and walk to a new spot. Either way they will have a new picture in front of them. Students then continue to add to the picture for a couple minutes, while still listening to the music.  It’s important to ask students to be respectful to other the student’s work.  Depending on how the kid’s attention span and enjoyment level looks, have them do this process a couple of times. Collect up the pictures and pack way crayons. Ask students to form groups 4 or 5. The challenge now is that each group will be given a random picture and they are to work out how they can represent it in tableaux form as best as possible. WHen they have done that, they come and see the teacher to gain another picture – do the same for 3 – 5 pictures. When all groups have prepared and rehearsed, have each group get up and present their scenes. As they do so, hold up the picture that corresp[onds to the tableaux. A fast, varied and fun lesson. The kids love seeing how their pictures brought to life.

Script Interpretation and Script Writing This lesson needs a couple of sessions. Good for Grade 4 and up. Show students a short script that has no defined characters, setting or plot:

A: Do you need help?

B: I really want to do this on my own.

C: This is taking ages!

A: Let me see.

B: No, you don’t get it.

C: I’m so bored.

As a class, discuss what could be going on. Break down the characters by what they are saying. B seems to be doing something that may be difficult. A is being helpful. C is annoyed with having to wait. Perhaps they are off to do something? B is holding them up? Ask for volunteers for A, B, and C. Tell them the situation is that A, B and C are friedns who have gone on a camping trip. B has brought along a new tent and wants to show the others how easy it is to put up. They then read (don’t worry about actions) the script with this in mind. Have the rest of the class imagine the scene. It’s amazing how quickly the scene makes sense. if students don’t read with the right, expression, you may need to help them along. New volunteers. Try again (using the same script), but this time B is tying up a shoelace. A – Mum B – young child C – older brother – finishing maths homework  A – Friend B- kid doing homework C – little sister Through these examples, students should gain a good understanding that when given a basic script, they can create their own sceen by deciding the characters, plot and reading (interpretaing) the script in a certain way. Students then form groups of 3. Each group is given a script. They then go and discuss possibilities. This time, however, once they have decided what the scene is, they will continue on with the script (maybe 3 or 4 lines for each charcter) to develop the story and make it clear to the audience what is happening. Possible scripts (can write your won)

Script A

A: Have you got it?

B: I said I did didn’t I?

C: Ssssh! I think I hear something!

A: We just have to get on with it.

B: Okay, you go first.

C: No, no, wait!

Script B

A: Are you ready?

B: I think so.

C: It’s terrible.

A: What do you mean?

B: It’s fine. Don’t listen to him/her.

C: Yeah, I’m sure no one will notice.

Banana Custard Teach student a simple scene (model each part, showing movement and where they should be on stage): A: Hi Mum , what are you making? B: Banana Custard. A: Can I have some? B: Sure A takes some and eats it, falls down to the floor. B: Oh, no, what’s happened? I better call the ambulance. Ring Ring C: Ring Ring, Hello B: Hello, my son/daughter just had some banana custard an then fainted. Please come and help. C: Oh, no! I’ll be right there. Wee ah Wee ah Weeah (the siren) Okay so what’s the problem? B: Well, she/he ate banana custard and now look at her/him! C: Checks pulse. I’m sorry he/she is dead. The end Replay with different kids using different emotions: angry, sad, happy, excited, bored, confused, gibberish etc

Five Improvisations Session – Actors Workshop –       Students pair up and are given an improvisation scenario. They must decide characters and plot and rehearse a short piece in just two minutes. When two minutes are up, students find a new partner and are given a new scenario (the whole class has the same scenario) and has two minutes, again, to prepare. This is repeated so that the students have been involved in 5 improvisations. In a shorter session, you may only be able to do 3. I have found 3 improvisations and time to perform fits into a 50 minute session. Students then form an audience and each student gets up, chooses the improvisation that worked the best for them and presents it to the class with the corresponding partner. Feedback as appropriate – all have a chance to share their favourite piece. Kids love it!!

Possible scenes:

1. A and B walk into a shop. Both want the same item and there is only one left. What happens?

2. A and B are siblings and they are playing at the park. They soon realise they have lost their little brother, who they were supposed to be watching. They blame each other.

3. A finds a dog on her way home and brings her home.  A tries to convince B (mother/father) to keep the dog.

4. A and B are playing a board game. A accuses B of cheating. An argument develops.

5. A is a teacher who is trying to teach B their multiplication tables, but B only wants to talk to A about TV shows.

The Restaurant Groups of 3 are all given the same scenario – they are to prepare a short scene where one is the waiter and the other two are customers. They need to decide what kind of restaurant, character traits, relationship between the customers and reason they are out for dinner. They are given about 5 minutes to begin planning and rehearsing. It may be helpful to have this written up for them to follow:

The Restaurant Scene

  1. In your restaurant scene decide who will be the waiter and who will be the two customers. These are the set characters – nothing different.
  2. Decide what type of restaurant it will be  – fast food (cheap), casual, Chinese, Mexican, fine dining etc.
  3. Give the restaurant a name – can’t be anything that is already known.
  4. Work  out the reason the customers are eating out. Is it a special occasion? Is it a Tuesday night ? Why are they eating out and how do they know each other?
  5. Decide what type of waiter you have – friendly, annoyed, first time on the job, funny, bored….
  6. Begin rehearsing your short scene.

After 5 minutes, each group is given an aspect they must incorporate into the scene (encourage them not to share what they have been given with others) : – The waiter doesn’t speak English – A mouse runs along the floor during the scene – how does everyone react? – The scene must be performed as a mime. – The customers are discussing something highly private but keep getting interrupted by the waiter. – One of the customers is a spoilt brat. – One of the customers keeps changing their mind. – The scene must be done in song. – No questions may be asked during the scene. Students present their scenes. Give feedback on characters and situation and ask audience if they could work out what they had been given to incorporate into their scene.

Mime Circle – Class begins with Mime Circle warm up. – Students then form groups based on the coloured sticker on the card they were given. – They share all the tasks/mimes given and then choose two from all the cards to incorporate into a group mime. – Present and reflect.

Prop Circle – Place a number of everyday props in the middle of the circle. – One by one students enter the circle (where there is a neutral actor) and states their relationship in first line “Hi, Dad….” and then uses one the props as something else to create a scene. – This promotes lateral thinking and spontaneous creativity.

Landscape/Setting Lesson

This is a great lesson as it’s fast moving, include everyone at all times either as performer or audience and teaches patience and creativity. Halve the class and have them on either side of the space in a line. Let them choose a name for their group (here I will call them A and B).

1. Have group A step forward into the performance space (facing Group B) one at a time building a machine. Each student steps forward with a repetitive movement and complementary sound that matches this part of the machine, Encourage each kid entering to find a way to connect, use levels, work with others to create this machine. When the last person has joined, all say first two lines of “Twinkle, Twinkle little star”. Group B applauds, Group A sits down. Then Group B have their go.

2. Do this a couple more times (both sides) but each group is given an emotion and they build the machine based on this emotion. End again using the rhyme to highest the need for a tight ending.

3. Now move to setting – ask for possibilities from the other group. Park, kitchen, cinema, hospital etc. Each group builds this setting one person at a time entering and stating what they are “I am a tree”. Encourage them to use the offers given. End with the rhyme

4. Finally ask Group A to separate to either side of the performance space. They will now move into the space in action, using voice, being characters, objects, parts of the setting, nature to show a moving landscape of a setting. Beach and City are good examples to begin. Students can move into the space, interact with each other, leave the space and come back as something else. encourage them to bring it to an end.

Comic Strip Ritual – Brainstorm with the class as many rituals you can think of. – Discuss what makes a ritual, and how rituals differ in different cultures even within the same country. – In groups student are given a ritual.  They then must choose the 6 most important aspects or possible representations and create a comic strip performance (Tableaux).  For example they may be given “A Wedding” – they may show the ceremony, dinner, cutting the cake, first dance etc. Depending on age, students may want to explore  a different culture’s wedding ritual (especially if a student in that group has had that experience).

Over the Wall

Teach students the mime skill: wall.

Key things for the kids to think about are:

–          Tension in hand when placed on wall, relaxed when pull away (this helps create the illusion)

–          Don’t cross hands over

–          Keep hands in position and move body along, then move hands

–          Keep eye focus on the wall – can’t see through

–          Fingers slightly apart Important to model or show a clip of the skill. Students practice in their own space.

In groups, students will prepare a short piece called “Over the Wall’.  They are to synchronise movements as they walk up to a wall, explore it, find the top, pull it down and then step over the wall. Once over, they ‘see something’ – their expression should give clues as to what…. They then become whatever is over the wall (as a group) – a circus, candyland, footy game, aliens…….limited only by their imagination.

Bus Stop Ritual Mime – This is a good one to model before unleashing on the kids (good for middle primary up) – Set up a row of four or five chairs. Ask a couple of volunteers to join you. Explain to them that they are sitting at a bus stop. They don’t know each other, but are all waiting for the same bus. Setting established.

– Ask the class for a typical activity someone might do while waiting for the bus (talk of phone, play with DS, read paper/book, look at watch, text, eat etc). Choose three of those (as there are three demonstrating the scene).

– Model to the other two how each action will be performed – slowly, with purpose, have them copy.

– Explain that they will now perform. You shall lead – they will sit still until they see you move into the first action. The aim is to move simulatneously and therefore, slowly.

– All three actions are performed with moments of stillness between. – It ends with standing up and walking away (as if onto bus).

– It is surprising how quickly and effectively a performance piece can be created!

– Now the students do their own – in groups of 6 ish. Each comes up with a movement (encourage one or two to be standing) and then the group works out the best order, a leader and rehearses the piece.

– Once done, pay some appropriate music and kids perform 🙂 ]

Chain Mime

Divide the class into 4/5 groups and have them form a line, sitting one behind the other and spread out as much as possible. Then ask all but the first student in the line to turn around. The teacher then mimes a sequence (usually with 3 clear actions) to the leaders of the lines. Repeat to ensure the kids remember. Students then tap the next student in line, who turns around and watches them do the mime. This continues down the line. The last person tries to explain the the class what they believe was the original mime sequence. Possible scenarios: building a campfire changing a flat tyre shopping and standing in line to pay putting up a Christmas tree

In/Out Improvisation

This works best with Grade 4 up, with come coaching and modelling before doing the activity. Each student is given a card with a line that they will say to begin their improvisation. Ask students to look at their card and place it face down, on the other side of the card is a number – these are randomly ordered around the circle. The teacher begins in the centre, asking student number 1 to enter. They model how to keep a scene going, using the first line said by the student to continue the scene.

Here are some suggestions for the cards:

Why are you late?

This place is a mess!

It died.

Have you heard the latest news?

Do you see what’s over there?

I don’ think that’s going to work.

That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I have something terrible to tell you.

We need to rehearse or we will never be ready.

I need to ask you something very important.

Could you please help me set this up?

Just do what I do.

Are you okay?

You look sick.

Mum is not going to be happy.

When do you leave?

Where did I put my sunglasses?

I love your outfit.

Excuse me.

I’d like to buy this.

Do you know the way to the cinema?

Could I please borrow a pencil?

Hey, I saw what you did!

I know what you’re getting for Christmas.

What do you want to do next?

Now, put your shoes on and let’s go.

You’ll need to add milk.

Stand back.

It looks dangerous.

Would you marry me?

Did you know it’s impossible to lick your elbow?

Ouch! Help me! My leg!

I’m so hungry.


Catch this.

Don’t do anything stupid.

Just give me your money.

Blocks of Language

Students get in groups of four. They are given a setting or situation and then rehearse a short scene. Each character is allowed to speak 3 blocks of language. Student A speaks, then B, C, and D, and so on. The block of language can be as long or short as they need to say what they need to say. Once completed, students present the scene. After each group has gone, they are then to go and re-work the exact scene. Except now, they need to reduce each block of language to only three words. Perform these shortened versions. Discuss how they made their choices. Finally they go and re-work the scenes. This time each block can only have one word. So, the entire scene will have 12 words.

Fairytale in a Minute

1. Begin with an active warm up like Knife and Fork. Have the items be fairytale inspired: bowl of porridge, gingerbread man, cinderella’s glass slipper, house made of sticks, table and chair, broken chair, basket of treats, poisoned apple, snowman.

2. Brainstorm fairytales so that you have a list kids know.

3. Students get into groups of 5 and choose one fairytale (good idea to not have any two groups doing the same one) and give them a few minutes to re-create the fairytale where the running time is only 1 minute. This means they have to focus on the most important parts. Keeping it simple is the key.


The superhero theme is great for younger classes in drama. There are lots of different superheroes they can play and they can also create their own based on different powers. This worked really well with Year 2.

Start with a frozen pictures where one is the superhero (they may even have a piece of material they can use as a cape) and the others are those in need of assistance. Have them show us the moment the hero is helping/saving someone.

From this, ask them how they did this……(speed, use of fire? water? super strength?)

I then gave each student a mask cut out of a generic superhero. It was up to them to decide what their super power was and their name. They then introduced themselves to the class.

We spent a couple of lessons on Mission Cards – I would give them the problem. “Ice Woman froze the lake and two men were stuck in the middle. What super power would you need to help?” Each group was given card, and they decided who would play those in need and who would be the superhero. They created a scene, showing the problem and then showed how the superhero came in and saved the ay. Kids LOVED this. It was a great activity encouraging problem solving, role play and creating fun super heroes.

This all led up to the final lesson where I would have the whole class (with me in role) play out the problem.  I told them this would be happening and we brainstormed some possible scenarios (they are often much more creative than I would have been). We ended up doing: bank robbery, sun was stolen, food was stolen, Jack Frost killing fairies The superhero group would enter the class and have toward out what the problem was. They then left the class and discussed their plan of how they would save the day. The class would then replay, this time when the superheroes entered, they wouldn’t just watch, but do what they needed to save the day.

This class ended up doing a Superhero themed assembly. Lots of fun with great messages.


This is a great session to lead into speeches, teach fluency, poetic techniques (onomatopoeia) and have fun with language. It also provides a framework where kids can systematically use techniques and then create their own verbal creation.

Lots of vocal warm ups and then into pairs where they are challenged to represent a pair of words (opposites) physically and verbally – play with pitch, tone, volume, pace. These a quick performances – I like to stand in a circle and have kids present them in pairs around the circle – each word is said 3 time – alternating, with a movement.

Then onto the Bushfire task where they play with canon, echo, unison, cumulative, diminishing, repeating, overlapping and crescendo.

In larger groups, students are asked to create a fire – be the fire, using words in the ways listed above. They also come up with the physical – how will this show this fire (is it positive, out of control, damaging, glorious). This offers kids the opportunity, within framework to create something really special.


Perform and give feedback.


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