Discipline through Drama Integration
Teacher Participation in Drama
Signals to Manage Classroom Drama Activity
Discipline and Classroom Management Planning
Set Ground Rules and Expectations
Drama and Dance Discipline and Classroom Management
Rules are not worth much without consequences
Cornett ( 1999) writes that drama educator Nellie McCaslin believes what is most important to drama integration are the attributes of any good teacher: a sense of humor, high standards, good behavioral discipline, sympathetic leadership, imagination, respect for the ideas of others, sensitivity to individuals, ability to guide rather than direct, and a focus on sharing, rather than showing. Of course, in the end, the imaginative teacher will create his or her own methods. In addition, classroom teachers who have a background in drama will be able to integrate the behavioral discipline found in this art form more readily (p. 238).
Teacher Participation in Drama
It’s helpful for teachers when integrating drama in classroom management strategies to show drama elements with voice, faces, and body and to model enthusiasm and commitment. Teachers can take a role for students to respond to – become a bystander in the scene and ask for clariﬁcation about what’s happening or be the next-door neighbor or a town ofﬁcial. Heinig (1993) explains that when the teacher assumes a role it can extend belief, stimulate thinking, provoke discussion, direct the problem solving, and break divisions between teacher and students (pp. 265—280). When teachers engage students while “in role,” the goal is to be low key and not overplaying or stereotyping a role. Teachers can assume roles such as: “I don’t know and need help” (helpless character), an authority (boss, expert, chief), second in command (someone sent to give orders for someone else or a messenger only), just one of the group, devil’s advocate (challenger), or antagonist (p. 277). A variety of props can be used, if desired.
When the teacher takes a role, it allows him or her to control the classroom drama by managing the time and direction. The teacher can go into more depth by questioning students and also build relationships because he or she is a part of the drama. A sense of mystery or urgency, belief, and commitment can be engendered by the teacher’s attitude and involvement. (Be sure to tell students when you take a role so that young children, who have particular difﬁculty differentiating between fantasy and reality, will not become confused.)
Signals to Manage Classroom Drama Activity
A teacher who has a habit of using classroom signals is providing students with important structural cues that help them organize their work. Examples are, use “places,” “curtain,” “stop-go,” “home,” or use lights, sounds, or music to start and stop classroom activity. EPR (every pupil response) signals after questions and directions are other important ways to help students learn to control their own actions, as well as learn to direct others.
Discipline and Classroom Management Planning
Inexperienced teachers are often not sure they should plan, direct, or even incorporate discipline attitudes into the classroom using creative drama for fear of stifling their own and the children’s imagination. But groups need organization, people need limits, and creativity needs discipline structure. Heinig, 1993, pp. 25-26
Getting attention, giving directions, dealing with disruptions, handling rule breakers, rearranging desks, and keeping order and control all require planning ahead. Here are some basic pointers.
Set Ground Rules and Expectations
We all need to know the rules and limits in our homes, workplaces, and even in the stores where we shop. When a rule is broken, an effective strategy is to acknowledge the student’s feelings (to help the child save face) and then restate the rule. Next, implement a logical consequence, not an unrelated punishment. Consequences should be made clear at the outset, along with the ground rules (p. 238).
Control the Amount of Space, Time, Group Size, and Speed
For example, “Stay at your desk or in your personal spot, walk in place, I’ll count to five, do this in slow motion.” Larger groups and larger spaces require more planning and controls.
• Give clear directions – Give clear directions without sugar coating. Give expectations in straightforward language. Drama is interesting in and of itself, so students do not need to be cajoled into participating.
• Remove distractions – Remove distractions from desk tops or the area where here the drama will happen before beginning.
• Make transitions – Make transitions by designating groups or rows or by some creative division eye color, patterns of clothes, birthdays
• Ignore some complaints and behaviors – Not everyone can be made happy by all circumstances. Usually children who whine will stop if ignored. Every small infraction isn’t worth the teacher’s attention, and some behaviors are actually done to get attention. Watch for signs of this need, and give attention to those students for positive behaviors on a frequent basis.
• When mistakes happen, acknowledge feelings and failures – Be honest. This helps model for children how to handle problems. It is not a problem to start over with a revised procedure. Let students know drama is an experiment and is not predictable – that’s what makes it fun.
• Proximity and eye contact – Proximity and eye contact are often enough to get students back on task. Circulate as students work and look children directly in the eye.
• When a problem occurs, follow through with the consequences – When a problem occurs, follow through with the consequences you have previously discussed. Don’t threaten, don’t hesitate. Stop the activity to get the attention of the group. Don’t keep going if only part of the class is involved.
• Repeat offenders or very difficult children should be dealt with privately – Repeat offenders or very difficult children should be dealt with privately as soon after the lesson as possible. Don’t use public humiliation – it is unethical. If offenders must be removed, return them to the activity ASAP. Often a two-minute time out is as effective as removing the child for a whole lesson. Admission back into the group should be contingent on the child agreeing to follow the rules.
• Use drama to teach rules – Ask students to create improvised scenes that show cooperation, active listening, compromise, respect for alternative opinions, and other desirable behaviors. Direct them to make sure their scenes have a beginning, middle, and end. Scenes can be set up by ﬁrst identifying characters, a setting, and a problem situation. Challenge them to think about “What if . . .” situations: what if students read each other’s private journals or what if there was a group project and some people didn’t do their share of the work (p. 239)?
Attention Getters and Signals
This is a composite list generated by classroom teachers
1. Whisper directions.
2. Flick lights.
3. Play a favorite tape or CD.
4. Use chimes, piano chord, or some pleasant sound like a rhythm instrument.
5. Have children repeat what you say. Examples: ‘Jambo Jambo” (“Hello Hello” in Swahili) or use a tongue twister (aluminum linoleum).
6. Ask children to mimic or echo a rhythm pattern, sign, or movement.
7. Start a chain reaction: say to one student “Would you tell the person next to you to. . .
8. Say, “I’m looking for someone who is . . . (fill in a behavior like ‘in a curved shape’).”
9. Write a message in large letters on the chalkboard.
10. Write directions on large cards. Example: “Look at me and smile.”
11. Say, “Let’s listen . . . to hear grass grow, clock tick, or snow fall.”
12. Say, “I’d like to see . . . the color of everyone’s eyes or everyone smile.”
13. Have a secret code word. Examples: foreign language, special vocabulary, or interesting phrase like “chicka boom chicka rucka.”
14. Tell students to close their eyes.
15. Say, “Think what is stopping you from listening right now.”
16. Count aloud backward from 10 (invite students to join in).
17. Agree on a class signal to get everyone’s attention if . . . the ceiling was about to fall in; there was a fire in the wastebasket; etc.
18. Tell a joke or riddle. Knock knocks work.
19. Call students’ names who are looking at you and quiet.
20. Have a nonverbal signal. Examples: touch pocket or ear, hold up two fingers, or thumb up.
21. Give a direction with universal appeal. Example: “Sit down if you ever wanted a two-hour recess,” or “Freeze if you like money,” or “Raise your hand if you’d like some ice cream.”
22. Give points to students who are listening. Use a clipboard, board, or overhead.
23. Write on the board the names of the first five students who are ready.
24. Sit in a particular place or use a particular stance to signal.
25. Be creative! Do something different. Attire can attract attention, e.g., “Did you notice what __ is wearing?”
26. Say, “lf you can hear my voice, ___ (behavior).”
27. Call and response sequences: T = Good Morning/S = Rice Krispies; T = Guaca Guaca/S = Agua Agua. (T = teacher and S = student.)
28. Use a group reinforcer. Example: Use close blanks on the chalkboard and say, “I need to see people ready to earn another letter in ‘ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ’ (letters spell out a goal like ‘extra recess’).”
29. Make up a class chant: “We’re ready, we’re ready as ready can be in just five seconds, chicka rucka chicka bees.”
30. Use actual sign language for directions like sit down and line up.
31. Ask students to close their eyes and imagine the sun setting, the ripples moving out from a stone in a pond, etc. (p. 240)
Encourage students to generate lists of ways to settle arguments and encourage everyone to participate and cooperate. Make this into a verbal activity in which students create a pledge based on the Golden Rule. Use a frame to help structure thinking: “Because I like to, I will. Because I don’t like, I will. Because I want, I will.”
Here is a sixth grade example: We, the sixth grade class of Overlook Elementary:
• Want to have our opinions heard, so we promise to listen to the opinions of others
• We like to be treated with respect, so we will not disrespect each other in this class
• We do not like to he touched in unfriendly ways, so we will not touch anyone with ﬁghting on our minds
• We want to work in groups with our friends, so we will cooperate and get work done while in groups
• We hereby so promise all the above on this day in September
The Goal Is Involvement of All Students
One way to reach this goal is to use the unison strategy. Unison means simultaneous “all-at-once” participation. Time is used effectively and no one is waiting for a turn (waiting creates boredom and mischief making). When all the class participates at the same time, students feel the comfort created by safety in numbers.
Focus on involvement and concentration directly and honestly by asking students what helps them to concentrate and what distracts them. Practice how to show involvement with words and body. Children can reach the state of creative ﬂow in which they are totally involved. (Signs of ﬂow include feeling time goes quickly, children spontaneously adding details to the drama and asking to repeat activities. For example, a class of third graders so enjoyed a narrative pantomime of The Wretched Stone they asked to do it again instead of having recess.) When students ham it up or show off, this shows they are not genuinely involved. Let them know this in a kind way before it happens.
Establish the Role of the Audience
When children are proud of their work, they will want to share what they have learned with the whole class. This is a learning opportunity for all, because students see how groups treat the same problems differently. A good strategy is to divide the class in half. One half then gives a presentation while the other half views, interprets, and responds. Then reverse. With small groups, take turns presenting. For example, two groups can present at the same time while the rest of the class is the audience. When students present, the audience needs to be clear about its role, so discuss with students how it is polite to listen attentively, not talk during the presentation, be respectful and responsive, and applaud at the end.
Additional audience engagement happens when the teachers let the audience know they’ll be expected to give feedback to the presenters. Put a list of questions they can choose from to respond at the end. For example, why was the presentation interesting? What was their favorite part? (Be sure to keep the feedback focused on the positive.) To ﬁrm up the role of the audience, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to have everyone role-play as the audience. For example, narrate as students present: “You take your seats. You show that you are excited to see the presentation. At the end you take your seat and reflect about several things you’d liked about the presentation and what you would like to tell the presenter(s) about their fine presentation.”
Using Volunteers and Small Groups
When ﬁrst using drama to enhance a lesson it is best to invite volunteers to participate and not force students. Forcing participation can increase reluctance and be contagious. People usually want to know what they are volunteering for, so tell students what they’re getting into. For example, “I need three people who want to lead a discussion.” While there is not as much control when students work in pairs and small groups, this is a crucial part of dramatic lesson development. Learning to cooperate in group work is also essential in society, and we only learn to work in groups by working in groups.
Create pairs, trios, and quads by counting off or allowing choice based on interests or ability to work together. Instead of “Find a partner,” say “Find a partner that is your same height or find two people you can cooperate with.” Students need to learn to distinguish between those who are friends and those they work well with. Avoid cliques by rotating groups. If learning circles are used, these can be the basis for group work. Another option is to give each child a color or symbol (circle, heart, square, or star) and group by having all of the same symbol work together. Group decision making is encouraged and developed by asking students for their ideas and suggestions. Once they understand the variety of choices in drama, ask them to set time limits and space limits and suggest the amount of discussion needed and whether to present to an audience or not (p. 241).
Discussions and Questioning Strategies
Discussions may take place to clarify key concepts or special language or words, or to stretch thinking. While yes-no, “closed” or “skinny” questions have a place, it is generally preferable to ask open-ended or fat questions that require more thought and more than a one-word answer. Questions that get at universal themes are most likely to engage students in signiﬁcant ways. For example, “What causes people to resent those who are different?” “Why do characters disobey their parents as in Peter Rabbit or Little Red Riding Hood?” Frames can be used to extend thinking as well. For example, ask students to complete these sentence stems related to the subject matter under study: “I wonder . . . “or “What if . . .”
Whole-Group before Individual and Small-Group Assignments
To make sure students understand what is to be done in a small group or individually, it is important to practice an example or two with the whole group. This goes for any teaching, not just integrated drama.
Using Examples Instead of Models
Students need to understand that there are many ways to express feelings and ideas through drama. For example, think of all the ways to use pantomime to show a feeling like greed or shyness. What are all the body parts that could he used and in what was (use the BEST dance elements to help stretch and twist thinking)? What are all the facial expressions that could he used? How could these feelings he shown in pairs or trios? Teachers can form a habit of asking for examples, rather than giving them, and help students do their own thinking.
Descriptive Feedback Stretches Thinking
It is especially important to note unique and different ideas that students devise. Do so by infusing “I statements” and other general teacher habits, but refrain from giving phony praise. Another idea is to ask students to isolate a part of a drama, such as just one movement in a pantomime, and discuss it. For example, ask a student to repeat just the part where she was grasping the beanstalk before beginning to climb it and then ask other students what they see. This habit of doing (showing with hands, face, or posture) and then asking for student observations is a discovery or inductive method that promotes reﬂective thinking about integrated work.
Teach Students How to Structure
Once students have explored the elements of drama, they are ready to use a beginning-middle-end format to make activities into wholes. This entails telling students to construct lesson scenes that have these same three parts that all literature has. Another structure for planning is who? Where? What problems or conﬂict or obstacles? What actions or feelings? A planning sheet with BME can be provided to focus student work. (p. 242)
Starting Lessons with Sound Introductions
By being familiar with curricular material and drama components and preparing discussion questions ahead, teachers make student success more likely. The introduction to a lesson is critical to student motivation and readiness for learning. These strategies are often used in introductions:
• Remove visual or auditory distractions and get attention.
• Use strategies to establish mood and set a climate for creative exploration.
• Build on what students know, what they have studied and experienced.
• Direct students to concentrate and focus, to make us believe, and not be a ham.
• Stimulate interest. Interest has been found to account for much of the variance in understanding.
• Web, ask questions, and do warm-ups to build interest.
• Make sure students are well prepared in the content. If they are to do a drama about pollution, they need to have background gained from a variety of experiences; they need knowledge to inform the drama.
• Make sure students understand that drama is an enjoyable art form used for serious learning purposes.
At ﬁrst they may not see why social studies time is used for drama, because they may not connect the arts with content. Through discussions and actually reaching the point in drama where they experience empathy and insight, students begin to value this art form. For example, students who had not used drama to learn were silly when ﬁrst pantomiming the Trail of Tears March of the Cherokees. In time, with coaching and teaching about the actual circumstances of the migration, students were able to feel how hopeless, tired, and discouraged many must have been walking hours each day, starving and sick, through bad weather.
Principle: Great Children’s Literature
Since both drama and literature share a focus on tension or conﬂict to propel the story forward there is a natural compatibility. Every genre of children’s literature offers potential material for drama, but biography can be particularly useful because the characters are real people in conﬂict ﬁlled real-life situations like the dilemmas of life and death (p. 243).
Discipline and Classroom Management
Class control during creative movement comes from teaching students the discipline of drama and dance, i.e., how to control their bodies as they move. There is no magic trick or perfect set of techniques to make a class behave perfectly. A lot of management has to do with a kind of presence the teacher exudes – a demeanor that says “I’m in charge but we can work together and enjoy learning.”
Show enthusiasm about teaching. The mood of the day is often set by how the teacher greets the class in the morning. Why not try a bit of sign language or other kinesthetic ways to say “Hello, glad to see you.” Compliment students with descriptive feedback, and ask other students to give each other descriptive feedback to create a positive community feeling. Remember, many students initially feel uncomfortable about performance or dance.
Dance cannot he integrated without movement and noise!
Start with this expectation and make it clear to the principal and other teachers, who may not understand what you are doing. Consider holding lessons out of doors, but let students know drama and dance used to make meaning is not free play or recess.
Structure lessons so that students know what to expect. Chaos derives from loss of clarity about goals and how to achieve them. Don’t think this means a rigid structure, but a general organizational scheme is needed. An enormous variety of strategies and activities can then be selected within the structure. For example, think of all the ways to introduce a lesson – pictures, questions, objects, song, or a movement challenge.
Teach basic ground rules
Teach basic ground rules by explaining, posting them, role playing, and games. One idea is to draw a huge hand on a poster and call it your “Rules of Thumb” or “High Five” rules. Note rules on the hand and use a raised hand as a signal to think about the rules. Here are common rules some teachers use:
1. Follow directions (e.g., obey cues and signals),
2. Respect others (e.g., personal space),
3. Be responsible,
4. Participate actively (enthusiasm), and
5. Concentrate on paying attention (no talking during movement).
Take time to have student’s role play following each rule. Role-play non-examples, or the opposite, so that there is no misunderstanding. It’s easy to practice rules in a game format. For example, play “home base” by telling students the goal is to not be the last one to get in their personal spot when the signal “home base” is given.
Directions can be given in the form of a challenge to create interest (e.g., “Before I count to eight, see if you can get into a perfect circle”). Another helpful habit is to invite students to participate, rather than order them to do so (e.g., “I’d like to invite all of you to try to make a shape on a low level that you think no one else will think of ”).
Teach students how and why to concentrate and focus
The current teacher outrage about the perceived decline of student ability to attend may stem from expecting children to do things they have never been taught. Concentration and focus can be directly taught using games: “Frozen shape” challenges students to make a shape on their spot and hold it for so many counts. Students enjoy trying to increase the hold time each day and graph their efforts, and this can be a chance to compliment original shapes, especially stable ones that have a base and are balanced. Concentration is also helped by removing distractions and limiting the space for dancing (e.g., with masking tape or imaginary lines). (p. 301)
Rules are not worth much without consequences
A hierarchy of consequences, appropriate to the transgressions, should be made clear to students. Students are confused by teachers who are inconsistent and perceive them as unfair. A consequence hierarchy can be as simple as:
1. A warning (verbal or nonverbal),
2. A one-minute time out,
3. A ﬁve-minute time out and conference with the teacher after the lesson, and
4. Loss of a chance to participate in the lesson that day and a phone call to parents
A teacher must be as good as her word and follow through, immediately, when a problem occurs; students will not believe or respect the teacher who continually threatens or warns without taking the promised action. Of course, hitting another child or disrespect for the teacher would call for a high-level consequence right away (number four!) and probably would involve the principal. There is no substitute for good teacher judgment and common sense. Finally, post general consequences, with the understanding among all that a teacher must do what is necessary to ensure the class is learning, and discuss them directly during the same time the ground rules are introduced (usually the ﬁrst week of school).