Drama inspired storytelling activities

I attended another workshop at Adhyayan who work with schools in India. This one was called Storytelling and Literacy and it was heaps of fun. Like the ones I participated in earlier this year, this one was also led by two drama students who are studying in the UK: Leah & Anthi. Here’s a list of some newish activities I experienced at this workshop:

Warmers & energisers 

  • Gossip: Find out three things from your partner and share it with the rest of the group as if you really like them or you don’t like them or you are telling a secret or gossiping etc.
  • Honey I love you: Students stand in a circle with one person in the middle. The person in the middle must go around saying “Honey, I love, will you please please smile?” The student who this is said to must reply “Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile!” However, no one is allowed to show their teeth so students must fold their lips over their teeth as they says these sentences. If a student slips up and shows his or her teeth, s/he becomes the person in the middle of the circle.
  • Walking around – variation 1: Ask students to walk around the space with purpose. Caution them about forming a circle which is a natural tendency in this activity. They should try to fill up all the space that’s available. Announce a letter such as ‘B’ and ask students to stand still and become starting with ‘b’. Quickly ask those with quirky looking gestures what they’ve become.
  • Walking around – variation 2: Ask students to walk around the space with purpose. When you clap your hands once, they should jump. Do this several times before you introduce two claps when they need to bundle themselves into a ball on the floor. At three claps, they need to become their favourite character from a book. Combine these different claps to get students energised.
  • Name in the cauldron: A variation of name in the bucket. Students stand in a circle and imagine a great big bubbling cauldron at its centre. Students should chuck their name into the cauldron with a lot of energy.
  • Hypnotic finger: Students play this game in pairs. One of the students holds a finger in front of her partner’s eyes and the other follows the finger as if hypnotised. Students take turns, moving around the room.
  • Prop charades: Students use mystery objects in different ways and their peers guess what these objects might be.
  • Mirror game variation 1: Students stand in a circle with one person in the centre. Students then copy everything this person does. .
  • Mirror game variation 2: Students pair off and mirror their partner’s actions.
  • Mad libs: Ask students to write 1. the name of a girl 2. a boy’s name 3. a place 4. a place 5. an article of clothing 6. some more clothes 7. a number.  And here’s the mad lib: 1. ________ met __________. They had their first date at 3. ____________ They got married at 4. __________ She wore 5. _____________ He wore 6. _______________. They had 7. _____________ babies.
  • Running dictation with Shakespeare: Students work in groups to run to a short text from Shakespeare stuck on the wall, memorise a line from it and run back to their teams and tell them what it is. This could be a lead-in to a task that involves analysing or responding to a Shakespearean text.
  • Back to back drawing: Ask students to sit back to back and provide one of them a line drawing and ask them to describe it to their partner who has to draw it. Use this activity to elicit the importance of detail in storytelling. Here’s my drawing – my partner wasn’t familiar with the words fireplace or mantelpiece but we managed 🙂

Cat drawing.jpg

Expectations 

  • Hi-five hands: Give students chart paper and ask them to use a pen to stencil out one of their hands. They should then cut it out and write their expectations on it. Revisit these hands periodically and ask students to hi-five their hands when the expectation is met.

Storytelling

  • Using interactive stories to engage children: I ask a lot of questions during storytelling but I can’t recall asking students perform actions and make noises as they listen along. Leah used the story of Anansi the Spider and the Tiger. Each time she would say Anansi, she would get us make little spiders with our hands and when she’d say tiger, she’d get us to growl and make a tiger face.
  • Draw your favourite part of a story: After you finish telling the story, ask students to draw their favourite part. Mine was when Anansi tricks a snake into tying himself to a bamboo.

dav

  • Story sequences: Ask students to then stand in the sequence of the story with the picture they’ve drawn.
  • The girl on the hill: Get students to stand or sit in a circle and tell them about a girl who really wanted to fly so she climbed a hill and found a lot of feathers there. Students must work in pairs to construct a frame that explains what happens next. They mustn’t move when they present this frame to their peers. Students then guess what the story behind this image might be.
  • Guild of archaeologists: Tell the students that they are Egyptologists on a dig in the desert and that they uncover a mysterious tomb. Show them an object (anything will do but Leah had a little plastic plate that was painted black. She held it gingerly and said it was found in the tomb. She then passed it around asking students to guess what it was by saying “I think it’s the Pharoah’s heart …” and holding it as if it were a heart.
  • And then what happened: Students sit in a circle and co-construct a story by asking each other “and then what happened?”
  • Prop game: Pass around a box of mystery objects and ask students to come up with as many creative uses for it as they can.  This could be limited by lexical sets. For example, imagine this stapler as different objects related to sports
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter: Read the poem out to the students with a lot of drama. Then give a stanza to pairs of students and ask them to create an image that represents these lines. They can use a little bit of movement if they need to (this is called image theatre by the way).
  • Music & art-based prompt: Play some instrumental music and ask students to draw or sketch as they listen to it. Then ask them to summarize their art work by jotting down a feeling. Ask students who’ve written down similar feelings to get together. Ask them to now write down the name of an object. Groups need to write a short story using the five words. Ask each group to pick a storyteller to narrate their stories to the rest of the students using interactive storytelling techniques.
  • Imaginary friend: Ask students if they had an imaginary friend when they were growing up. Get them to draw their imaginary friends and ask them to share stories about their imaginary friends. You can also get them to enact how they play with their imaginary friends. Here’s my imaginary friend:

dav

  • The key: Tell students to imagine that they are going about their business when they discover a mysterious key in an envelope (Leah told us a longer story – I can’t remember it but it ended with a key in an envelope). Students now need to write a story narrating what happens next. They should focus on the ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this mystery key.
  • Shakespeare’s couplets: Take two lines from different Shakespearean plays and cut them out so that you have one line to give to each student. Students mingle and find their partner (for example “Double, double toil and trouble” and “Fire burn and cauldron bubble”). Students then present the scene where their only lines of dialogue are the ones they’ve been given. They must however plant the scene in a non-Shakespearean setting. For instance, these lines from Macbeth could be uttered by a couple of tired cooks.

Coolers

  • Soundscape: Get all the students to lie flat on the ground with their heads in the centre of the circle with the feet. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that they are in a forest. Ask them to make the sounds of the forest. Then lead them out to a beach and have them create the sounds they would hear near the sea. If you’re doing this with a group of teachers, you could have them imagine the sounds of their current and their ideal classroom.

Leah was also kind enough to recommend Games for Actors and Non-actors by Augusto Boal, a companion piece to Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and is based around a school of thought called the Theatre of the Oppressed. I had a look at the book and I don’t think I’ll get around to trying out all the activities in this lifetime!

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