Exploring Stories through Dramatic Activities
* Booth, D. (2005). Story drama: Creating stories through role playing, improvising and reading aloud. Ontario, Canada: Pembroke Publishers.
The Basis of All Drama
-Tension is the secret, the mystery, the surprise, the dangling carrot, the
time frame, and the space limit. We need to apply pressures of some kind
so that the students engaged in the drama will know the urgency of solv-
ing the problem or of making the decision at hand.
When students role-play, they are propelled into dramatic situations
requiring them to think, explore, and interact within a framework of atti-
tudes that may differ from their own. This process helps them gain
insight into the motives and feelings of other people within the drama’s
context. They can be others like themselves, different from themselves,
older, younger, more powerful, a different gender, from another place,
richer or poorer. They can role-play.
Role playing in groups requires each participant to interact with others,
to adjust their in-role responses to the cues of the other players. In doing
so, they can learn to work with and respect the ideas of others, while
negotiating their own responses. What a powerful tool for teaching stu-
dents to listen to one another!
It may be useful to assign a role to a particular student if that student
repeatedly chooses to play the same sort of role, or if it seems advisable
for the student to experience role-playing a type of person unfamiliar to
him or her. Degree of involvement with assigned roles may be lower than
with roles students choose for themselves, though. It is advisable for
teachers to try to strike a balance between the two.
Strategies for Building a Character
Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode note that the experience of drama
requires teachers to use forms and structures that engage both the intel-
lect and the emotions in making and representing collaborative meaning.
Collective Character: The entire class works together to represent the
nature of one character. As the students take turns in speaking the
thoughts and words of the character, the character’s nature will alter, and
students will begin to understand the composite picture they are
- in order to use
power for good, one must destroy the evil or flaws in one’s character.
Although this concept may have been difficult for the students to com-
prehend, what is significant is that through the drama, they could stretch
their intellects and strive for something slightly beyond their grasp.
Games present opportunities for drama. For example, the tribe can chant
while sitting in a circle, with the sound getting louder as the hunter nears
the hunted. The tribe can drum on the floor to accompany the movements
of the players, or use rattles or tambourines. The players can wear masks
or makeup, or you can change the lighting or use a prop. The words of a
game can become the chant the players use to build their drama.
Games can provide students with opportunities to role-play in social
situations and to explore unfamiliar relationships. They give them a
means of practising on their own and within their own social contexts
patterns that will be important in their adult lives. They formalize human
interaction processes. As in drama, the players are constantly reversing
roles: chasing, being chased, leading, following, shouting, listening,
opening the way for understanding social actions and counteractions.
Story tableaux are frozen pictures, or still images, created in response to a
theme, situation, or story. They can crystallize complex or conflicting
moments in the drama, allowing students to focus on one significant
moment. Participants are often able to interpret or read more into this
form of controlled expression. In addition, they learn to contribute to a
group effort and gain experience in telling stories and in presenting situa-
tions from different points of view.
Talking images: Each member of the frozen picture speaks one line and
makes one movement, and as each one takes a turn, those in the picture
and those watching gain insight into the issue being presented in the
Movement and Dance in Drama
Movement in drama offers students an opportunity to explore and
express thoughts and feelings through physical action. It can serve to
increase the student’s willingness to get involved in the drama and to
encourage interaction with other members of the group. Further, by
allowing the students to work creatively and spontaneously, it can
enhance the aesthetic learning experience.
Dance drama is movement with the interpretation of a piece of music, a
series of sounds, a story, or an emotional theme as its objective. The pat-
terns and rhythms of dance blend with the conflict of the drama, so that
the action and feeling of a story are conveyed through movement. Dance
drama emphasizes expression rather than form. It can be simple, with
each student creating a story independently; or more complex, with
groups of students “telling” a story through stylized movement. Dance
drama can be supported by music, sound exploration, an accompanying
text (either read or narrated), a chant, or costume pieces, such as masks or
Through movement in drama, students develop concentration and
physical control; they extend and improve their kinesthetic sense and
spatial awareness. The good “group feeling” generated by movement
activities promotes the trust in and sensitivity to others required for
Movement in drama can be used in these ways:
• as a warm-up or lead-in activity for a lesson
• as a mood setter at the start or finish of a lesson
• within the context of the drama situation
• as a basis or framework on which to build the drama
Mime is dramatic action that depends on gesture and movement rather
than on words. It stresses exploration of ideas without dialogue. Its sim-
plicity permits the emergence of thoughts and emotions that are some-
times difficult to convey in words. As a result, mime encourages free and
spontaneous expression with the students. They act and respond to what
they see, hear, taste, and touch. Mime lends itself equally well to activities
for large or small groups, students working in pairs, or students working
independently. The use of mime in drama moves students into an
“action” mode rather than a “talking” mode, and can reveal specifics
about the drama that could go unnoticed.
Narration and mime
Narration and mime can be used within the drama to build mood, to calm
students down, or to focus the drama. The students may enact the narra-
tive together, each making a personal response. Or, the students may
work in pairs or small groups. The teacher can narrate students through a
series of mime activities, building in opportunities for individual choices
This activity works well with beginning groups and as a warm-up for
experienced groups. Selections may be created to complement a particu-
lar curriculum (e.g., science) or chosen and adapted from stories. The
selections may be edited to stress the physical action, and dialogue may
be added by the students as they extend the mime into drama.
A ritual is a series of actions or activities done in exactly the same way
every time they are performed. In many societies, rituals are believed to
have special power and the way in which they are performed takes on
great symbolic significance. For example, some early clans or tribes used
magic, dancing, masks, or costumes to enhance the power of a ritual. All
these aspects would help make the ritual unique.
- members. As well, for students of drama, rituals offer a tre-
mendous source of material for creative work. Students can create their
own rituals and use these as part of a drama they are creating, or as the
beginning or ending of the drama.
Ways of Working in Drama
Drama should involve as many students as possible. Generally, it is best
if all the students work with you at the same time in setting up the drama
frame and in establishing how the drama can proceed. All variations in
grouping are necessary for drama to develop: the student alone, the small
group, the whole class.
As we grow in our knowledge of conventions, strategies, and tech-
niques useful in our drama practice, we are more able to build drama
experiences that are multi-layered, that move far beyond stereotypical
responses to the events being interpreted and represented. In each
instance, we can choose the strategies that strengthen and enhance the
particular event being explored through drama. We can offer ourselves
and our students alternative ways of being within the drama.
Myungja Anna Koh