Take a deep breath through the nose, hold it for a count of five, then release the breath explosively through the mouth. Repeat three or four times.
Take a deep breath through the nose, hold it for two seconds then count from one to ten in a whisper.
Practise individual letter sounds using just one breath for each. For example:
T t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t
M m m m m m m m m m m.
This game encourages children to use their mouths well and speak clearly. Tell the children that they have a sweet in their hands. It is a toffee. Get them to open up the wrapper and put it in their mouths (you do this too so they can copy you). Get the children to pretend to eat the sweet and move their mouths and lips to suggest that they are eating it. It could get stuck in their teeth, etc.
Use a variety of tongue twisters to get the children to think more carefully about pronunciation, for example:
she sells sea shells on the sea shore
red lorry, yellow lorry
unique New York.
Get the children to make some up! Once the children can say them get them to repeat them lots of times or vary the speed at which they say them. You can find some more tongue twisters in a book called The works, by Paul Cookson.
Mill around. The leader calls a number, eg: five. The children must run to make circles of five, holding their hands up together. Those left over go on one spot, and can perhaps form another group. The leader then waits until all the groups are ready, then calls another number, eg: two or 25 (if the leader wants groups of seven for the next game, he/she stops with seven, tells groups to keep in their seven and sit down). Emphasise that groups must be mixed, boys and girls, teachers and children, etc.
Share the space
Ask the children to share the drama space equally, without touching the walls. Tell them that, on a given signal, they are to walk through the space, trying to maintain their share of it. Every now and then call “freeze!” and comment on how well the children are managing the activity.
Initially children will automatically circulate in the same direction and gravitate into the centre of the hall. Encourage them to think consciously about the space, to see it out actively, to change direction and walk into space wherever it appears. They will soon become adept at this activity but in the early stages they can, if necessary, reposition themselves in the space after each freeze.
Try the same exercise but ask children to run, look over their left shoulder as they walk backwards, or change speed as and when you signal.
Ask each child to choose someone in the class whom they will keep an equal distance from, or keep as far away as possible from, without letting them know. At the end of the game, tell them to touch the child concerned on the shoulder.
Ask the children, in their own time, to stop and hold eye contact with someone before resuming their movement through space. They must do this three times, at which point they are to find a space, sit down and quietly wait until all of the class has completed the activity.
Tell children they can freeze at will into a shape inspired by a story they have been listening to or by a drama you have recently been working on. As soon as a child does this, count to ten, by which time the rest of the class must freeze in appropriate ways that will complete the picture. Instruct the class that, if more than one child freezes at once, they can choose which picture they wish to attach themselves to.
Ask the children to spread out in space, then call out the names of various types of bean. Each bean must have its own action or gesture, agreed in advance. For example, at the call of “jumping beans”, the children must jump up and down on the spot, at “runner beans”, they run on the spot, at “string beans”, they join hands in a line, and at “baked beans” they huddle together in groups of five or six. Other types of bean might include: broad beans, French beans, coffee beans and jelly beans.
Who’s doing it?
Refining mime skills.
Group co-operation and involvement.
The whole group sits in a large circle on the floor. The leader chooses one volunteer to leave the room. While he/she is away, the leader chooses one of the group to lead the mime. When the first volunteer comes back into the room, the mime leader must begin to mime any action of his or her choice, and the rest of the group must immediately begin to copy the mime leader. He/she can change the mime action at any time, and the rest of the group must follow. The volunteer who left the room must guess who is leading the group in their miming.
A mime game
The following are improvisations which can be done individually or in whatever relationship is desired.
Following a pattern on the floor (real or imaginary):
Get the children to move about the space chanting loudly as they do so, attempting to fill every corner of the room with their voices. Lead them in the chant, which should be simple, such as “Hey, hey, hey …”
Vary the chant.
Ask children to stand still in a space, and conduct the chant, varying the volume by raising or lowering your hand.
Mirroring: mime and movement skills
Ask the children to sit facing a partner and to decide which one of them is A and which is B. Tell them that A is to begin slowly making a pattern in the air using only one arm. B must try to mirror the pattern exactly. When you call “change”, the action must continue uninterrupted, with B this time taking the lead.
Make it clear to children that you should not be able to distinguish the leader from her reflection. The leader, therefore, must not try to trick or lose her partner.
Concentrate on other parts of the body – the face, for example, or the legs.
Children can stand and use any parts of their body.
Children can travel across the floor as they work, always being aware of where other pairs are working and moving.
The leader can make a short sequence of movements and stop, whereupon her partner follows her. In this way, the sequence is repeated afterwards, rather than simultaneously. This allows for the movements to have more pace and variety and calls for the use of memory.
As above, only the leader introduces speech and/or sound with her movements, varying their tone and volume. There need be no logical sequence between one set of movements/words and the next.
Show me: performance skills
Ask the children to choose a partner and to sit in a space, facing one another. When you give the signal, A must start telling B about what he/she did the previous weekend. At any moment, B can say “show me!” whereupon A must get up and perform the action she has just narrated before sitting down once again and continuing the story. You can emphasise that this story can be either true or a complete invention. When you call “change”, B is to take over the narrative from where A has left it and can develop it in any way he/she likes.
The actions need to be performed within the limited space each pair is working in. Depending upon the class, you may wish to subtly contract out certain kinds of action before the game starts!
Begin a sentence “This morning …” and complete it, for example, with the words “ … I had marmalade on my toast”. Each child in the circle must now complete the same sentence in a different way. If any children do not wish to do this, they can say “pass”, whereupon the sentence moves on to the next child without recrimination.
The sentence can begin in any number of ways and children can be encouraged to lie outrageously (in other words, to use their imaginations).
Rounds are useful for recapping on work done in a previous session. You can ask the children to say one thing they remember about the lesson, or about the story of the drama so far.
Games such as “I went to market and bought some …” are a type of round. Children need to recall what everybody else in the circle has bought before adding their own particular purchase to the list. It can be played by passing a basket around the circle.
Gamesters’ handbook (red), by Donna Brandes and Howard Phillips, Stanley Thornes.
100+ ideas for drama, by Anna Scher and Charles Verrall, Heinemann.
On stage – theatre games and activities for kids, by Lisa Bany-Winters, Chicago Review Press.
Dramastarters, by Graham Stoate, Nelson.
Look, listen and trust, by George Rawlins and Julian Rich, Players Press.