Stand in front of the class and introduce yourself to the students. Include the traditional information you use in an introduction (how long you’ve been teaching, whether you’re married, how many children you have, etc.) as well information about why you’re teaching theatre and how you stay involved in theatre besides just teaching.
STEP 1: Transition Tell the class that they can ask you any question they want to know about you. Obviously you have the choice to answer it or not (do you want them to know how old you are?) and if the question is inappropriate then you can eliminate it as a choice. Encourage them that this is the only time this year you will be talking about yourself, so they should take their chance now.
STEP 2: Instruction Have the students stand in a giant circle so that everyone can see each other. Tell them you will now be playing The Stupid Name Game. The reason it is called that is because it is truly stupid and involves names, but that it will help you and all the students in the class to learn each other’s names in one day. Explain that you will begin the name and then move around the circle to each person in turn. When it is your turn you are to say your name clearly (the one you wish to go by in the class) and then make a “sign” to go along with your name. The “sign” is some kind of physical action or motion that the class will later be able to connect to your spoken name.
To encourage appropriate creativity, suggest that students perform a mannerism that is a part of their personality (twisting hair, biting nails), a motion that shows a hobby or sport (Heisman stance for football, kicking a goal for soccer, playing air guitar for music), a gesture that signifies personality (thumbs-up, a body-builder muscle pose, rabbit ears), or something just plain silly (jumping up and down, giving an air kiss, wiggling ears). You may also want to remind them that you will not allow any gang signs, profane motion, or other inappropriate gestures that may make other class members uncomfortable or offended.
Tell the students that after each person “performs” the entire group will repeat the name out-loud and make the sign three times in a row before moving on to the next person in the circle.
STEP 3: Modeling/Guided Practice Begin The Stupid Name Game. You can get on the students’ cases if they are not repeating the names loudly enough, doing the signs with enough enthusiasm, etc. You may want to have 5-7 students perform in order and then have the entire group say the names of everyone who has performed so far back to you in order to keep reviewing the names that were previously shared.
Depending on the number of students in the class (and how long you draw the game out with repeating names, etc.) the Stupid Name Game can take anywhere from twenty minutes to one hour.
STEP 4: Checking for Understanding After all students have performed in the circle, have the students scatter so that they are at least two people away from who they were previously standing next to. Then ask if any students think they can go around the circle and name everyone in the circle. As incentive, you could have a small reward or candy bar for the student who can name every single person. If no students volunteer to try, then you should try to do it. Hopefully the signs will serve as a clue to those students whose names you cannot remember.
STEP 5: Individual Practice Have students go back to their seats. Have each student pull out a piece of paper to answer the survey questions on. Read out loud the questions on the Theatre Experience Survey slow enough so that each student can answer each question. Collect their surveys when they are finished answering the questions.
STEP 6: Homework Assign students to bring an object from their bedroom at home – something that is unique to them and their interests/personality that is only found in their bedroom (not their locker, book bag, or car).
As a follow-up to this lesson I have the students “perform” an introduction in front of the rest of the students on the second day of class. I write four random quirky things I want to know on the board and also write “personal item”.
Some examples include: Name Sign Favorite Holiday Earliest Childhood Memory Favorite Vacation Ever Worst Scar Hero Favorite Film Worst Job Most Embarrassing Moment Personal Item (let the class see the item and explain why you chose that particular item to show who you are)
This activity reinforces names and gives more information about each individual student as well as helps them to get up and “perform” in front of an audience without feeling threatened.