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Some drama in the teen classroom

July 24, 2018 by cymaster

The holiday season is only a month away, just the right time to start preparing a play or short performance in class. And if you are not planning to prepare a Christmas show, why not boost your students' motivation and enthusiasm in the classroom with some fun drama activities?

Preparing a play might sound like a challenging project, but it takes no more effort than keeping your students interested in an average lesson. Let's face it, teachers are a bit like stage directors working with actors. You need to know the plot, the lines, you need to have the right decorations and props. All you need is some practise and the right resources and you can start experimenting with role plays.

Once your students are familiar with the basics of role play and drama, it is time for a bigger performance. It will definitely motivate the active and more extrovert students, but you will see that students who seem shy and quiet will also take on responsibilities on stage and behind the scenes. Let's see why you should bring some drama to your teaching.

Illustration from The Green Room by Robert Campbell. Illustrated by Valentina Russello. © Helbling Languages

The main objectives of using drama techniques in the classroom

  • Simply to have fun.
  • To get students out of their comfort zones and get them to use language in dialogues.
  • To contextualise language
  • To bring communication, literature and language learning closer to them.
  • To practise public speaking.

Prepare to put on a school play with your teenage students

Go to the theatre

The magic of watching a real play cannot compare to anything else. Choose a matinee or organise an evening in the theatre. This experience will stay with your students for many years. Discuss the performance before and after you see it, and discuss the programme of the theatre you are going to visit. Introduce your students to the world of plays, operas and musicals.

Watch a film adaptation

Hopefully you are able to visit a theatre at least once every year, but if you cannot manage, you can always choose a film adaptation of a play or watch a film about the theatre or famous playwrights. Here are our favourite plays. Please check the PG rating of the films and decide if they are suitable for your classes.

  • Romeo + Juliet
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Macbeth
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
The Green Room scene p19
Illustration from The Green Room by Robert Campbell. Illustrated by Valentina Russello.  © Helbling Languages

Role play

Role play is a popular and motivating activity in the language class. Here are some ideas and resources you can use while reading.

Read our interview with Robert Campbell, the author of The Green Roomthe Level 4 Blue Reader.

Karaoke acting

Try karaoke acting with some famous plays or films adaptations. Choose a five-minute scene, watch it several times with subtitles, and ask your students to work in pairs or groups. They can memorise the lines, set up the scene, and act it in front of the screen pretending to be the actors.

Book dramatisations

Book dramatisations can help you bring stories closer to your students as these activities will make it easier for your students to connect with the texts. It is important that your students are familiar with with the plot and the characters. They can rely on the dialogues in the text or create their own dialogues based on their knowledge of the story. When you discuss and then actively work on a text, you will have a deeper understanding of it and can reflect on it in various contexts.

Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Choose a chapter from a story everyone has read.
  2. Discuss the story. Use our Book Club Role Cards from our Book Club Starter Kit to find focus points.
  3. Prepare a simple story line.
  4. Choose the characters and have at least one narrator.
  5. Simply improvise first, then discuss the results.

Check out the BBC Dramatisations website.

If you are planning on directing a sketch or a play, use our tips below. You will find a collection of resources in our photocopiable resource book, Get on Stage!, written by Herbert Puchta, Günter Gerngross and Matthew Devitt.

Here are some physical warm up games from the resource book.

Get on Stage!


Short and medium-length sketches give you the opportunity to prepare about 10-minute performances with 10-15 students. In Get on Stage! you will find a detailed plans and scripts for 13 sketches.

A play

After a sketch it is just one step towards a medium-length or full-length play. Work with the drama teacher in your school, start a project together and give yourselves a realistic production deadline.

Here's the quick reference guide from Get on Stage! to give you reference points. You also need to consider the length of the performance, the number of characters and the level of the text.

Quick reference guide from Get on Stage! © Helbling Languages

To help you get started with a serious play, download our Shakespeare worksheet that will help you practising a scene from Twelfth Night.

Prepare the stage set and props

You can create your own stage set and props, but you can also make it very simple, especially for a classroom sketch, and use photos on the IWB as a background or draw your own stage set on a whiteboard. You can also use everyday objects in the classroom and ask your students to identify them as props.

Which classic novels can be suitable for book dramatisations? Here are our favourite picks. Which books would you add to our list?

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