Viewpoints of Space—Gesture


Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of behavioral and expressive gestures by participating in a game of charades that tests their ability to communicate differences in physical gesture.



  • TH:Re8.1.I.c. Justify personal aesthetics, preferences, and beliefs through participation in and observation of a drama/theatre work.
  • TH:Pr5.1.I.a. Practice various acting techniques to expand skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.




Step 1: Ask students to find a person with shoes most similar to their own. Assign students to work with partners based on having similar shoes. (This could really be anything, just an opportunity to get students working with new people).


Once in partnerships, one student becomes the sculptor and one is the model. In response to a stimulus word, sculptors will use their hands to model the statue. They touch the statues’ bodies, achieving the desired effect down to the smallest detail.


Explain the rules: sculptors cannot use their own bodies to show the image or expression they want to see reproduced. Students should complete the exercise without talking. The goal is “for the sculptor and the statue to understand each other, so that the sculptor’s gestures, seen and felt, may be easily translated by the statue” (“The Modelling Sequence” from Games for Actors and Non-actors by Boal).



  • Find a part of your model’s body that you haven’t sculpted yet. Think of a more interesting pose!
  • Remember, no talking! How can you make your gesture more specific to help your partner know what you’re thinking?


When the students are finished, encourage them to look around the room and see how different sculptors and statues interpreted the stimulus word.


Discussion questions:

  1. What differences or similarities do you observe in your classmates’ response to [the word]?
  2. How do different responses benefit theatre work?


At the end of this phase, partners switch roles as the sculptors and statues. Now, in this second phase, sculptors must move away from their statues, while still continuing to make the same sculpting gestures without touching their models. “The statues, who previously ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ these gestures, still ‘see’ them, but not longer ‘feel’ them; they must continue to respond as if they were feeling them.”


Expressive words to sculpt:

  • Welcome
  • Peace
  • Agony
  • Confidence



  • Don’t allow yourself to get closer to your statue.
  • Do not make ‘symbolic’ gestures like motioning your statue to move a certain way or telling them ‘No, that’s not it’. You must make realistic sculpting gestures.
  • Try something new. Help your statue ‘see’ the gesture you’re imaging.
  • Oops! Remember you cannot speak out loud during this exercise.


Again, when students are finished, invite them to look around the room and observe each other’s work.


Step 2: Have the students return to their seats. Ask them the following discussion questions:


(Goal: to discuss how we use movement and gestures to communicate with one another.)


  1. Which role was more challenging: the sculptor or the statue? Why do you think so?
  2. How did you adapt your gestures to be more successful?
  3. When might you use gestures and poses like this in theatre?
  4. How would communicating your personal interpretation of something be important in theatre work?


Now that we have practiced creating gestures, let’s talk about two different types of the viewpoint ‘gesture’. I strongly encourage you to take notes on this because I won’t be handing you the definition otherwise today.


“Gesture is ‘shape’ with a beginning, middle, and end. Gestures can be made with your hands, arms, legs, head, mouth, eyes, feet, stomach, or any other combination of body parts.”


Explain to the class that there are behavioral gestures and expressive gestures. Behavioral gestures are what we see every day, like in the grocery store or school: scratching, pointing, waving, sniffing.

            Write these behavioral gestures on the board under the label ‘Behavioral’.


Behavioral gestures can further be broken down into private and public gestures, differentiating between the actions we perform by ourselves or in front of others.

            Saluting and bowing would be public, behavioral gestures. You wouldn’t bow or salute by yourself in private.

            What would a private gesture be?


Expressive gestures show an inner emotional state, like a desire, idea, or value. It is abstract and symbolic. You do not normally see expressive gestures in public places. It stands for emotions like joy, grief, or anger. We have discussed how themes are abstract concepts like greed, fear, love, etc. Expressive gestures are the gestures that can help us communicate abstract ideas and concepts non-verbally.


Ask: “What are some emotions, ideas, or values you can think of that we might use for expressive gestures?”

            Write students responses on the board underneath the label ‘Expressive’.


Ask: “Were the gestures you sculpted more behavioral or expressive gestures? Why do you think so?


Step 3: Let’s practice creating gestures with different parts of our bodies. Everyone please find your own space in the room where you will not bump into others. Everyone stand and face forward, ready to work.


Select a word from off of the Expressive list on the board. Choose different body parts and have the students practice making gestures with that body part in response to the Expressive word. For example

  • Practice expressive gestures for ‘freedom’ using just your shoulders and back.
  • Practice expressive gestures for ‘pain’ using just your head and eyes.
  • Explore expressive gestures for ‘happiness’ using your arms and hands.
  • Explore expressive gestures for ‘exhaustion’ using just your legs and feet.



  • Try not to use your other body parts!
  • Keep on exploring. Try something new.
  • Remember: gesture is a shape with a beginning, middle, and end. If you’re stuck, think of some of the shapes we practiced two days ago.
  • Try not to use behavioral gestures! Remember expressive gestures are abstract, symbolic, and represent an inner state or emotion.


Have the students return to their seats. Ask,

  1. What were some of the physical choices you made for those expressive words? What did you do? How did that feel?


Step 4: We will end class today playing a game of charades that will test your ability to create the viewpoint of the day: gestures.


Divide the class into two teams. They will play two games of charades in two rounds each. The first game is of behavioral words and the second game is of expressive words.


In the first round, the game is like Catchphrase, in that the team tries to guess the word based off of verbal clues (without using the word itself). In the second round, the team has to guess the word from gestures only, like charades. The same words are used in the second round as the first round so that students are familiar with the words.


Have students perform on volunteer basis. If necessary, ask students to come up based on the order they are sitting in. Set the timer for 1 minute each round. At the end of a round, count how many words the team guessed correctly and tally their points on the whiteboard.


Step 5: Distribute copies of the rubric (or project a digital copy) for them to reference. Give the foundational instructions and scaffolding for the unit assessment:


We have been practicing using physical viewpoints to create theatre in response to words, paintings, pictures, music, and so forth. For your final project for this unit, you and your group will create a short theatre scene using physical viewpoints in response to an object. These objects may be everyday items, but try to challenge yourself to see them in new ways. We have been talking about all the different perspectives and interpretations people bring to theatre work. See how you can bring a unique perspective to your assigned object.


Put the students in groups of about 6-7. Have them select their object out of a bag, without looking.


  1. Write all group members’ names on the paper.
  2. Make observations as a group about their object: shape, color, size, line, etc. What does it look like?
  3. List 4-5 themes or interpretations from your object. What does it mean?
  4. Select the one theme your group is most interested in working on for your final performance.



Students will be given up to 5 participation points for being engaged and on task during the class discussion and charades game. They will get an additional 5 points for turning in the Objects worksheet. Students will be docked 2 points if the themes they write down are not abstract ideas but are instead settings, nouns, or literal things. (For example, road trip does not work as a theme) Proficiency will be 8/10 points.

Teacher Note: Make sure to write down any students that may need participation points dropped that day. (Playing on phone after they were asked not to, distracting others from working, etc.) Make sure to give feedback about their choice of theme on the object worksheet. Do they have a solid theme that is based in abstract ideas?