Learning Materials

Scroll down for materials and plans for three process dramas.

Process or Classroom Drama

Process Drama is an improvisatory form of drama that takes off from the idea of how children play (pretend). Students create characters but they also may take on multiple characters during the course of a drama. Process Drama allows students to consider the perspectives of people in very different circumstances. It brings to life historical and social situations that might seem far removed from their ordinary lives. Process drama has been used across the curriculum.
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Definitions of procedures and concepts:


Process drama is unscripted. This means that students are using language skills (listening and speaking) but not reading and writing (unless the frame specifically calls for it) and not memorization. Because of this, process drama is appropriate for students of all ages.
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Drama frames

Teachers create a series of drama frames or scenarios for students to work with. These frames may explore different aspects of a situation and require students to play different roles.
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Mantel of the expert

This is a powerful concept within process drama. When students take on roles that demand expertise (e.g., students become detectives searching for clues or archeologists examining artifacts), they often “live up” to the demands of the role, reaching deep within themselves for the knowledge and demeanor that would allow them to be convincing. When you align the mantel of the expert with the curriculum, amazing learning can take place. This is one of the most motivational aspects of process drama. When you are making use of this aspect of drama, be sure you consistently address the students appropriately: Professor So and So or Dr. So and So. Ask for their “expert opinions.”
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Student-centered teaching

Teachers can plan drama frames, but students might move the drama to a different place. It is a good idea to go with the direction the students are going, even if this is different from the original plans. As you practice with process drama, you will be more and more able to do this. Remember, process drama is a collaboration of imaginations.
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Teacher in role

The teacher can play a role to establish a frame or a situation. Teacher roles can work really well when the teacher does not take an authority role but instead places students in the position of authority. For instance, the teacher might be a person seeking information that the students (in the roles of experts) might have.
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Younger students will engage in the drama right away, once they figure out what you are doing. Older students may take a little more time, but often will get deeply involved in what you are doing.
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When working with literature, it is helpful to make a list of main characters, minor characters and “could have been there” characters. For instance, all the characters in a story would have relatives who weren’t specifically mentioned but “could have been there.” If a story takes place in a community, then there would be community workers (police, firemen, etc. or the equivalent). It is particularly helpful to have a list of these characters that could have been there because it expands the possibility of character for students. This is especially important if the story has only one or two characters—a classroom of 12 princes and 13 princesses doesn’t work real well for process drama but you can have a collection of all the other characters that would be found in a castle. The neat thing about this process is that students are often attracted to the “could have been there” characters over the main characters.
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Tableau (plural: tableaux)

A still picture created by people. Tell students, “three, two, one, freeze.” Other students can say what they see in the tableau or you can ask the students who have created the tableau to say one by one what their characters are thinking.
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A/B pairs

The teacher can ask students to divide into pairs, each member of the pair having a different role. Students in role have a conversation or interview each other. Roles can be opposites (one leaving, one staying) or they might be a character in a situation being interviewed by a reporter.
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Students can write in character about the situation. For example, they can write a journal entry or a letter. They might write a newspaper story, also, about the events they have studied. This can be a powerful form of writing.

Dramatic genres

Drama frames can include the use of dramatic structures and genres that are familiar to students. For example, students can create talk shows, infomercials, or newscasts about a topic.
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You can create or bring in artifacts (props) that help to get a drama going, such as coded messages, items that would be found as part of a culture, etc. In fact, you could use these as a way to establish the drama (set up the classroom before students get there and allow them to discover what is going on).
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You are not stuck with the time of the story (if you are using literature). In process drama, you can find out what happened to Cinderella five years after she married the prince or you can go back in time to find out what happened to the original mother.
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For more information: process drama is also called “drama in education.” It was created by Dorothy Heathcote in England. There are numerous people who practice this and who write about it. Look for articles and books by Cecily O’Neill, Brian Edmiston, Cris Warner.

Blacksmith's Dilemma

The Blacksmith is based on an African folk tale. The pdf has the tale and the word doc has the drama plan. This folk tale is a really good story because it features a problem that seems unsolvable at first.

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The Irish Potato Famine Drama

In this drama students explore the human side of the potato famine in Ireland: the tragedy of death and the difficult decision to stay or leave. The video gives students enough background information that they can effectively participate in the drama. Included here is a song, No Irish Need Apply, which covers the reception many Irish people got when they came to the U.S. They had a hard time getting jobs and it was common for them to see signs in windows: Help wanted. No Irish need apply. This is an example of drama that is based on social studies but it also includes a literacy element.

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Guido d'Arrezzo

Guido d'Arrezzo wanted to teach his fellow monks how to sing so he invented the basis for solfege and the basis for modern music notation.

Competition between monasteries in Rome, Guido's choir looks like it is going to win.

Printouts of Ut Quaent Laxis (Guido's choir needs these)
Printouts of Guidonian Hand (sneaked to original monastery)

Teacher in Role: discuss the competition and how frustrating it was that Guido's choir won last year. What can we do to win over Guido? Students are members of this monastery's choir.

Move toward hearing Guido's choir and finding out what they are doing (could be spies who do this)

Students become Guido's choir, singing Ut Quaent Laxis--someone can be Guido leading them and reminding them of the syllables in the chant. Need enough so students can really "get" the solfege syllables.

Steal the Guidonian hand (or get it from a renegade choir member).

Back to original monastery--can practice.

Write account of what happened in monastery records. Use Calligraphy to show illuminated manuscript. In groups students can write on "vellum" and can add illuminations to their manuscripts.

Could go to five years later and what is happening now. Are more monasteries using the solfege syllables? What's happening with Guido and his choir?
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Discussion Post

Create your own classroom drama, including procedures you could use and materials (e.g., story or video that helps students enter the world of drama). Try it out on kids if you can.

Video for Classroom Drama with Pam Scheurer