With the new school year in full swing and half term on its way, the autumn term can be a difficult one for students and teachers alike. The introductory first few weeks are over – when new students and teachers are getting to know each other – friendship groups are formed and any potential problems between students will have started to show themselves.

Without the pressure of exams and deadlines that will come later in the year, now can be the time to really concentrate on forming good relationships between your students, ironing out any problems and making sure that your lessons are productive for all involved. The drama studio is the perfect setting to do this, as most students view it as a more comfortable environment to the usual chair, desk and whiteboard layout of most classrooms.

As a drama teacher, you’re in the perfect position to be able to help all manner of students through your lessons. Shy students can be encouraged out of their shell, talkative ones can channel all their energy and imagination into their improvisations and the more problematic students can be encouraged to release their emotions and frustrations in a safe, supervised environment. You can also work on forming a close bond between all students in a class by encouraging a supportive, judgement-free environment where everyone can feel safe and comfortable enough to do the silly exercises as well as the more serious and emotionally challenging ones.

To help, we’ve put together a list of games and exercises that are good for breaking the ice in awkward classes and encouraging students to work together and have fun. But first, here are a few pointers on how to make your drama studio a more comfortable environment for your students:

  • Have an area near the entrance where students can leave their bags, coats and shoes. That way the workspace will be clear of potentially dangerous clutter and students will feel unencumbered and comfortable
  • Push any desks to the side of the room and place the chairs in an inward-facing circle. This will encourage students to concentrate on and listen to each other more, as everyone can see each other (and they’ll know that you can see them!)
  • If possible, dim the lights slightly to create a more relaxed environment.
  • Have an area – perhaps at the back of the room – that is left clear and use this as a stage for students to perform their finished pieces.

The Exercises

2 Truths 1 lie

Rules: Keep the class in a group or split them into pairs. Each person will say three things about themselves- two of them will be truths and one will be a lie. The other person in the pair (or the rest of the class) will need to guess which is a lie.

Great for: Team work, getting to know one another, creating a relaxed environment and spontaneity.

Sit, Lie, Stand

Rules: Split the class into groups of three and give them a scenario (e.g. waiting for a train). Explain that at any one time during the improvisation one of them must be standing, one must be sitting and the other must be lying down.

Each of them must do all three positions before the end of the scene, but no one can be doing the same position at the same time. If one student changes their position, the other two must as well.

Encourage them not to rush the scene, they don’t need to change position quickly and the more natural they make it look the better.

Great for: Concentration, improvisation, character development, teamwork.

Pass the word

Rules: This is a great warm up activity for the beginning of the lesson. When students are sat in the circle, say a word or phrase and ‘pass’ it to the student next to you. The aim is for them to pass the same word around the circle, but each must say it in a completely new way.

They can use a different tone of voice, action or speed, but each way must infer a different meaning. You can use a mundane word like ‘bye’ or a more interesting phrase like ‘what’s that?’ but encourage students to use physical gestures and actions if they need to.

Great for: Characterisation, independence, spontaneity, vocal tone, confidence.

Secret Leader

Rules: Another good warm up game. Again, sit students in a circle and explain the aims of the exercise. A secret leader will start a movement, gesture or noise and the rest of the group will mirror them without the detective knowing who is starting it. The leader can change what they’re doing as much as they like but they can’t let the detective see them doing it. Nominate the detective and send them out of the circle while you choose the leader.

Bring the detective back to stand in the centre of the circle where they should try and identify the leader. The students should use their initiative to help cover up the leader, but if they’re younger or haven’t played the game before then explain a few basic pointers like not to stare at the leader and to keep the movements fluid and flowing.

Great for: Teamwork, concentration, creating a relaxed environment, confidence and fun.

The Traffic Light game

Rules: A good game for getting students ‘in the zone’ before an intense lesson. Students must walk around in their neutral position using as much of the space as possible. Encourage them to walk around all of the space, without walking in a circle or following anyone else, whilst clearing their mind of thought. Explain that you will call out these commands:

  • Red= sit on floor
  • Amber= stand still
  • Green= start walking (or running if they’re already walking when you shout green)

Change the order and speed of the commands to really get students listening, or add variations like ‘traffic jam’, at which point students should cluster in a group in the middle of the room.

You can even shout out different emotions such as ‘happy’, and they must change their neutral walk to correspond with the emotion you’ve shouted.

Great for: Spatial awareness, characterisation, improving listening skills, concentration.

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