Intro to Children’s Theatre
Students will demonstrate their understanding of why children need their own theatre by writing a self-reflective journal entry.
Theatre for Children by David Wood
Play dough (Recipe at back)
Slips of paper with: “You are 5 years-old today” (numbers should vary from 5-10)
Slips of paper with the 11 common characteristics of a children’s audience.
As children enter the classroom hand them the slips of paper telling them how old they are. When they get in their seats, give them each a bit of play dough. As the play dough is being handed out, talk to the students with baby talk. Ask them how their day was, or how they are feeling that day, in a very patronizing tone. Treat them in the way that children hate to be treated. Once the entire class has received some play-dough, tell them to think of their favorite character from a movie or book (make sure to talk slow). Then invite them to take their play-dough and make it into that character. Tell them they get five minutes. While they work, walk around the classroom and baby them, or start to shape their play-dough for them.
Step Two: When most of the class is finished, or frustrated, break character. Ask them to break character as well. Ask them these questions:
How were you treated?
How did it make you feel?
Have you ever been treated that way before?
What is it like to be a child?
Have someone list the attributes of a child on the board as others call them out. When the list has been completed ask them:
Do you think children are different from adults? How?
Put up the overhead of “How Children Differ” and encourage them to take notes (they will be tested on this material). Go through each of the 10 characteristics and encourage them to give examples of when they have seen this or felt this.
Step Three: Explain to them that because children differ, performing for them is an entirely different experience as well. Ask them:
What are some of the proper theatre conduct “rules”?
In what ways may children bend these rules?
Tell them that they are going to be split into six groups, and will each get a slip of paper with a common characteristic of a children’s audience. Explain to them that each characteristic describes a response of some kind that children will make to what’s going on onstage. Have them create short skits that show: what is going on onstage, and the reaction of the children. They will want to split their group in two: half will be the actors, and half will be the children. Split them up into six groups, and give each group two of the eleven characteristics (accept for the last group, who will only get one). Go around to each group explaining the procedure in further detail on an individual basis. Use pages 21-29 of Theatre for Children as a guide.
Step Four: Have each group come up in order, and write their characteristic on the overhead. Have them announce their characteristic before they perform their skits. Have them each perform their skits. After each performance discuss how that characteristic may affect the production. Ask them questions like:
How should actors respond to that behavior?
Why do you think children behave that way?
Do you feel the same way as children sometimes when you see that on stage?
When every group has performed, have them write down the 11 characteristics in their notes. Encourage them to write down the examples if it helps them remember them.
Step Five: Hand out the “Fairy Tale Assignment” and explain to them the project they will be working on over the next few weeks. They will be re-writing or writing their own fairy tale, and then performing them to elementary school children. Explain to them that for each day of class there is an assignment for the Fairy Tale project. Point out today’s and ask them to go home and think of their favorite fairy tale, or famous story. Ask for examples. Ask them these questions:
What was your favorite story growing up?
What was your favorite movie?
How did this affect you when you were young?
Does it affect you the same way now that you’re older?
Step Six: Have them take out their reflection journals and write about their favorite movie, book, or story when they were little. How did they react to it? Did they respond in the ways that we discussed in class, or not? How do they respond to it now? What did it make them think? Did they learn something new from it? Did it affect them negatively or positively? When they are finished, collect their journals, and invite them to take the play dough home.
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