“Behind the Scenes” of Upper Elementary Drama
Upper Elementary students performed the musical “A Kid’s Life” for their peers, teachers and parents just a few weeks ago. There were many songs, transitions, props, and lines to remember! How did they manage to make all of this happen over the course of 35 minutes?! The answer is a collaborative process of reading and practicing which builds confidence and community.
Learning the Lines
The rehearsal process always begins with the script. Students sit in a circle and read their lines as a group for the first time. This is called a “cold reading” because it’s the first time they’ve used the script. During the cold reading, students become acquainted with the language, characters, and themes within the play.
Owning the Stage
After the cold reading, students stand up while saying their lines and move to the area of the stage that the script calls for. This is called setting the “blocking” of the play. Students also have reminders of stage directions (stage right, stage left, upstage and downstage) in the form of pieces of paper taped to the classroom walls!
Studying and Self-Esteem
Finally, it’s time to work on memorization. To memorize lines, students practice in a similar fashion to the way they practice their spelling words in class. A student finds a partner who reads the “cue line.” Then, the student reads their line aloud while looking at the script. This step is repeated two times. Next, the student covers up their script and says their line again, after their partner gives the cue line. This goes on until students are able to recite most of their lines.
Some students might feel a little nervous about memorizing lines. What if I forget? What will happen? What do I do? We discuss strategies for dealing with nervousness and memorization in class. The best way to deal with nervousness is to be prepared; however, students also have the options of writing their lines down on small index cards, or discreetly giving the teacher a signal to help them remember their lines. The goal of performing is to enhance students’ self-esteem and confidence!
A Lasting Impact
The Upper Elementary students’ Drama experience is one that will prepare them for future endeavors in theater arts. Students emerge with knowledge of basic theatre terminology and traditions, as well as comfort taking the stage with confidence and emotion. In addition, students develop skills applicable to academic and professional settings—including strong memory, responsibility, communication, and social skills. Students gain a sense of community and belonging through many hours of group work and collaboration.