So as I was getting ready to leave my classroom last Friday, I was thinking about some things I could share on my blog over winter break. One of the first things that came to mind was Drama Time, our weekly drama activity where we work on addressing the social and emotional needs of our students. I attended a training on this from the people at Red Kite (a play designed specifically for kids with autism) who had been doing drama with some students for several years and saw lots of great gains. A lot of the ideas I will be sharing, came from them. I have adapted them or added to them with some games of my own to meet my students' needs.
Scheduling: When scheduling drama time each year, we try and find a consistent 30 or 45 minute hole in our schedule, and put drama time in that slot. This year, we are doing it every Monday afternoon. We do drama time in a separate room in our school so that we have space to spread out (the whole activity takes place while sitting in a circle on the floor).
Structure: Once we all get to the room and are sitting in a circle, we start with a warm-up (more about that later). Below is a picture of our schedule for drama time. The drama games we play each week change, but we always start with our warm-up and end with the game "Go to Sleep." We follow the schedule below to keep drama time some-what predictable and routine. As we finish each activity, we take it off the schedule and out it in the finished envelope at the bottom. This isn't posted to the wall or anything fancy (since we aren't in our classroom). Instead, we just bring it with us and set it on the floor in the middle of our circle.
Start-Up: When I first started drama time, we only had "Warm-Up" and "Go to Sleep" on our schedule (and drama time only lasted about 5-7 minutes). My initial goal for my students was to stay seated on their carpet square the whole time and participate at a minimal level. We slowly increased our expectations of how much they should be participating (over the course of several weeks). Once most of the kids could participate in these two activities, we slowly added one game at a time to our schedule (over another several weeks). By the end of the school year, we were able to complete a drama time with several activities. Since I have my students for several years, we are able to continue building this activity each year. As we get new students, they still participate in the whole activity, they just aren't expected to participate at the same level as other students. For instance, new students may be allowed to begin by only mimicking hand motions in a song, while the older students need to sing and do the movements.
So today, I will talk about our "Warm Up" and the game "Go to Sleep."
Warm-Up: We start each drama time by singing a brief little song about drama time. The warm up is meant to focus on warming up students Minds, Bodies and Voices. Warming up their mind as they listen and follow the directions, body by doing simple stretching activities, and voices by repeating simple expressions.
Here are some examples:
*We reach up to the sky and say "hello sky" then reach down to the ground and say "hello ground" several times.
*We shake our heads up and down and say "yes, please;" shake our heads side to side and say "no, thank you;" shrug our shoulders and say "I don't know." Then we will go around the circle and ask the kids a yes/no questions (i.e. "Do you want a high 5") and the kids have to answer "yes, please" or "no thank you" and use the head movement at the same time.
*We have the kids choose different body parts to move/warm-up (i.e. "shake your hands"). We have kids shake their hands "high" "low" "fast" "slow" "in front" and "behind" to work on these different terms.
*We run in place, do jumping jacks, etc. as well.
Once kids (and teachers) are all warmed up, we all put on our "students ready to work face" and sit quietly back down into our circle. As I said before, we follow the warm up with a variety of other games (which I will share more with you later in the week). But, we always finish with the game "Go to Sleep."
Go To Sleep: For this game, students pretend to sleep. Teachers tell them what they are supposed to act like when they wake up. This is a great game to work on acting out different emotions. Once my students got comfortable with playing this game, I let them take turns being "in charge." They love it!
1. A teacher starts by saying "Go to sleep."
2. We turn off the lights and have all the kids pretend to be sleeping. (You do not need to worry about the lights if it bothers your students...you can play the whole game with lights on as well).
3. A teacher says , "When you wake up, you will be a ______). 3.....2.....1.....Wake up! (turn on the lights)
4. All the kids wake-up and pretend to be whatever the teacher specified.
5. After 10-20 seconds the teacher says, "Go to sleep" and turns off the lights. All kids fall back to the ground and pretend to sleep. The game continues in this way until you want to be done. The last round, we always say, "When you wake up, you will be students ready to work. 3....2....1....Wake-Up." Then students quietly clean up their carpet squares and line-up at the door.
When starting Go to Sleep with my students, I used visuals to help them know what they were supposed to be pretending to be. Here are some examples of what my kids are when they "wake up" from the game. Now, I am able to verbally just say something like "Santa" and my kids are able to act it out!
Go to sleep is also a fabulous game to whip out when students are getting a little rowdy. Say the room is getting a little crazy during a transition or a party. All you have to do is say, "Go to sleep" and all your students instantly drop to the ground or put their heads down on their desk. A little peace and quiet for you and a great way to get your kids re-focused on the next activity (i.e. "when you wake up, you will all be sitting quietly at your desk and take out your notebooks....3...2....1...wake up!)