Whether you’re working in a school or youth theatre, it’s important to get off on the right foot with new students at the start of term. Especially in a youth theatre environment, it’s important that the kids have fun and want to return. How can you create an enjoyable and educational class?
1. Play lots of games.
If your students will be with you all term, you have plenty of time to get into characterisation, vocalisation, staging etc. Day one should just be about having fun. When making theatre with children, the students’ experience should always be the priority. Establish your class as a fun place to be early on and you can use the students’ enthusiasm to easily build on their acting skills over time.
2. Over prepare.
Especially with young kids, it’s important to keep your students engaged in order to maintain control of the group. If they don’t seem to be enjoying a game, be ready to move on to the next. For an hour long session we recommend that you have at least fifteen games ready to draw upon at a moment’s notice. This gives you the potential to change the game every five minutes with three spares. If all goes well you shouldn’t need to use this many, but better safe than sorry!
3. Gauge the group’s energy and don’t be afraid to abandon the plan.
Finding the right balance of energy can be tough at the best of times. On the first day when some students are over excited and others are feeling shy, it can be almost impossible. Make sure you have a lot of games ready to up the energy or bring it down as needed. If your session plan includes a lot of name games but the students are shy, move on and worry about their names later. If you have a lot of high energy games planned but the group are getting tough to manage, pull forward one of you cool down activities to break things up and restore calm.
4. Ensure everything is inclusive.
On the first day, you need your students to really feel like they’ve got something out of the session. If you’re going to be working towards a performance, it may not always be possible for every child to be involved in every activity. Take the opportunity to give everyone an equal chance to have fun. Avoid improvisation games that will leave a large chunk of your students waiting around and getting bored.
5. Know how your activities benefit an actor.
While more of the students are likely to enjoy the game format of the class, there may be some students or parents who question your activities as actor training. Be aware of how each game benefits the students and ensure this is the focus while playing. If you understand the purpose you’re also better suited to explain this to those enquiring and reassure them.
For game ideas, check out our drama games section, updated with a new activity every Wednesday!