They stand in groups. The teacher shouts “Frog in the Tree”, so they put their hands on their shoulders. Then , the teacher shouts “Frog in the Pond”, so they sit on the floor. When they hear “FROG IN SPAAAACE !” open their arms to the heavens. The teacher speeds up, throws in some extra gestures to confuse. As children make mistakes, they step out of the group and sit down.
For the second piece of work this morning, the children break into groups of four. Each group is assigned one of the Seven Deadly Sins. There is a moment of confusion, as we explain in terms appropriate for 8-year-olds the possible meanings of Envy, Avarice and Lust ( when you really want a PSP5, apparently ). Five minutes of tightly-focussed noise, energy, negotiation, as the children prepare short improvised scenes. Then they perform, and we see what life in SlothTown could look like, what happens when anger takes over in the playground, how far people will go to acquire their PSP5, all seen through the eyes of Year 4. At the end of each short scene, the children watching feed back what skills the group used effectively ( “ They projected their voices well.” “They didn’t give their backs to the audience.”), and things they might improve, in a brief coaching session.
This is Drama class, one of the new subjects introduced in school since September. It’s noisy, physically active, and, from the smiles on the faces of the children, it’s fun. And if it looks a lot like play, that’s exactly what it is : structured and creative play.
In the words of Ms. Parisa Salahshourian, the Year 3 and 4 Drama teacher, “Drama builds self-confidence and teamwork, it gives children practical skills for presenting information in public” As children develop in confidence and ability, it can also be a great tool to develop empathy, to encourage children to imagine and explore what living an entirely different kind of life, being an entirely different type of person, might be like for a brief safe moment.
At the moment, children are working in class with a series of games designed to improve character energy, teamwork and concentration, and then activities prepared around the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing, including hotseating, an activity professional theatre groups use where an actor sits on a chair at the centre of the group, and answers questions as a character they represent.
Children have also been doing Drama homework this term, related to a class activity, making one-minute videos shared back with their teacher on Seesaw.
Some of this activity will feed back into the Christmas Concert, where the after-school Drama Club will present a short version of the classic “A Christmas Carol”. The concert itself will be, I’m afraid, by invitation only, as we have to guarantee social distancing; but we’re aiming, within a limited range of options, to showcase the music produced in school by children across all age ranges, under the guidance of Miss Leonie, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Sánchez, and Alba. Meanwhile, rumours are emerging from the Art Department about this year’s Christmas display in the school Entrance Hall. It seems that the traditional table we use may not be big enough….