Today’s students are visual learners. They look at screens all day long, it makes sense that they are going to be grabbed by a picture instead of something they hear or read. So why not bring the visual experience into the drama classroom?


Exercise: Journal with Instagram.

  • Students take three pictures of themselves every day for a week. The pictures must be taken at different times in the day and in different locations.

  • When they come to class, their job is to look at their pictures (if your class is at the beginning of the day, they look at yesterday’s pictures) and reflect on what they see.

    • What were they thinking when they took the picture?

    • Are they surprised by how they look?

    • Does their outside appearance match their inside feelings? Why or why not?

Take it further: Do this only if your students feel comfortable sharing their photos. Divide your students into groups. Each student picks one of their photos. Each student gives their phone to the person on their left. Each student now has a new picture in front of them. They write a inner monologue (what is the person thinking?) for that picture.

At the end of the week student must submit their pictures in a new format. Here are some examples:

  • Print out the pictures and create a physical collage.

  • Download the pictures to a photo editing site like and create a jpg image to send you.

  • Turn the stills into a video with music, or voice over.

  • Write a scene in which different pictures represent different characters. What happens when six versions of the student get together?

What if I have students who don’t have smart phones? What if my school doesn’t allow phones during school hours?

These questions are going to come up. The use of technology in the classroom is not universal. You can have students look for pictures in magazines that reflect how they’re feeling. You can have students search online in the library on sites like for pictures. You can have them take their self portraits outside of class time and reflect as homework.

Click here for a free Instagram Journaling Reflection exercise.

Click here for the rubric that accompanies the Reflection exercise.


Episode 122: Copyright Cleared Up


Do you  have to pay royalties on a show if there’s no ticket price? Are adaptations are always in the public domain? Craig Mason. Theatrefolk’s own copyright guru clears the air on copyright as it pertains to the drama teacher.

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

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Copyright Law affects all Drama teachers, students and educators. Anyone who has anything to do with a play – be it photocopying the text for class, performing it in front of an audience, or wanting to change the language. All of these actions fall under copyright law.


What is copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of intellectual property rights that protect works of artistic expression

such as art, music, and plays. To qualify for protection, the work has to originate with an author, be original and not a copy. The work must be the product of creative effort, and the author must use skill. That means the play you’re doing is probably protected by copyright.


What does copyright protect?

Reproduction, public performances, publication, adaptation/editing/modification (i.e. derivative works), and translation. You can’t do any of the above without permission. This includes photocopying, performance, cuts for time, gender changes, changes to the text.


When does copyright expire?

70 years (USA) or 50 (Canada) after the death of the author. George Bernard Shaw is free from

copyright in Canada but not in the US.


What’s the Public Domain?

Works in the domain of the public. That’s you! Public Domain works are not protected by

copyright. You can reproduce them, perform them, adapt and translate them.

Download free Public Domain plays on Project Gutenberg. ( [put link in]


What aspects of a play are protected by copyright?

The script, the set design, the choreography and sometimes the lighting design. The choreography you saw in another production is protected by copyright, so create your own.


I don’t have to pay for royalties if I’m not charging admission, right?

Wrong. The script is protected from public performances. This includes any public

performance: a free show, an invited dress, a preview, a competition.


I’m safe if I’m parodying a script aren’t I?

Only if you’re creating an original work of your own. If you’re using text from the original, you

could be considered to be creating a derivative work. And that belongs to the original creator.


Want to share this with your students? Click here for a PDF printable version: Copyright for Drama Teachers Cheat Sheet


Did you know that the Drama Teacher Academy has a full course on Copyright for Drama Teachers? Click here to learn more about how you can join!


You’ve heard the saying. “A Picture is worth a Thousand Words.” Here is an exercise that puts that expression into vivid detail.

Click here to see an Imgur gallery. It shows eight paintings of the same man. They are self-portraits of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; eight years of a man slowly disappearing until the year he forgot to send a picture.

It’s a heartbreaking visualization not only of the self, but of of a disease. It’s an perfect, if terrifying, example of how a disease can be represented artistically.

The pictures tell a story. There are no words and yet we know exactly what’s happening to this man. He is slowly disappearing. He is in despair. The ground he always knew as solid is slipping away.


  1. Save the pictures separately (so that the captions are not visible) then project them on a screen or smart board. Show your students these pictures without telling them what they mean, or even that they’re the same person. Have students write a brief reflection on each photo. What do they see? What words come to mind? What emotions?
  2. After going through all eight slowly, show each picture again. Stop on picture 7. Ask students to take a minute and automatic write the inner thoughts of this person. Think of this portrait as a character. Based on what you see, what’s going on in their mind? Give students two minutes.
  3. Have students share their automatic writing. What thoughts do they identify? How do they interpret this portrait as a character?
  4. Show the pictures again. This time, tell students there’s a story going on here. From the first to the last, think about what the story could be. Divide students into groups. Have students share their views on the pictures and decide on the story being told. What is the story? Give students time to come up with a presentation (either oral, or a series of tableaux).
  5. After students share their versions of the story, discuss them. And then let them know the true story of the eight pictures, that they are self-portraits of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They represent the last eight years of his life up until the year he forgot to send a picture.
  6. Discuss with students what they see in the pictures now that they know the context. What words come to mind?
  7. Explain to students that theatre can also bring stories to life visually. It can visualize concepts, issues, and emotions without being literal.
  8. Give students the following assignment.
    1. Multi-infarct dementia is a disease that affects the brain. The sufferer has a series of small strokes that affects how the brain works. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily shut off. It affects short term memory, causes inappropriate behaviour (like laughing or crying), wandering or getting lost, and difficulty with normal tasks. The symptoms are not always present. In groups you are going to create a one minute presentation that visualizes multi-infarct dementia using children’s games.
    2. In your groups, use a children’s game (e.g. red light / green light, musical chairs) to show multi-infarct dementia.
    3. Remember! The disease affects the brain – the way the game is played will be affected by this.
    4. Don’t focus on the literal. Do not include a description of the disease in your presentation. Focus on the visual.

    Click here for a printable PDF version of this Assignment

  9. After groups have presented, discuss what it was like to visualize a disease without explaining the disease? What was it like to watch the presentations? What was your experience?
  10. Have students write a reflection on the exercise. Is it effective to visualize something on stage without offering a full explanation? Why or why not?

APictureIsWorthAThousandWords - Copy-page-001

21st Century Skills


Drama is one of the few classes that teachers real world skills. This is something that every drama teacher knows well. You know this. Despite resistance you may receive from parents, administrators, or even other teachers – the drama class is a vital and necessary component to a well rounded education.

It’s not computers or television that ruins the lives of students. It’s the square peg in the round hole. It’s testing. It’s the methodology that every single student must conform to one way. Students do not need to learn how to parrot back facts. That is the sole purpose of a test. Teenagers know everything is at the swipe of a finger, so why bother? How soon will it be before today’s visual learners rebel?

Students do need to know how to think on their feet in the 21st century. We have given them information at their fingertips, how do we take them to the next level? They need to know how to use their brain to create, to communicate, to innovate, to collaborate. These are the real world skills of the modern world, the 21st century skills.  And they are happening in every drama classroom right now.

Are you shouting that from the rooftops?

The drama class is a microcosm for 21st century skills.Throw that on a poster and slap it on your classroom door. Make it your mantra.  If you want parents, administrators, other teachers to take you seriously and to take your program use this sentence on a constant basis.

My class promotes 21st century skills.

The skills of the 21st century are not about technology, even though every teenager is fully wired. It’s about teaching students to think in a new way: 

  • Critical Thinking
  • Creative Thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

 The act of being in a play promotes all of these skills.

Critical Thinking:

  • We apply close reading to the script
  • We analyze our characters and make inferences
  • We ask and answer questions based on the script


  • We interpret the script
  • We develop choices for our characters
  • We design the costumes, sets, and props based on the script


  • We construct a vision both visual and thematic
  • We offer feedback and suggestions during the rehearsal process
  • We receive and process feedback from the audience


  • We work together onstage and off
  • We develop a community
  • We problem solve

You may be thinking – Hold on. This is not why I teach drama. I teach drama not for the administrators. I am there for the students. I am there to create the only safe space they have in a day. I am here to bring theatre to life. I am not a spouter of buzzwords.

You don’t have to be. In the classroom it’s just you and your kids. But how are you advocating for your program outside the classroom? Is your administrator in your corner? Are the parents? What are you doing to keep your program alive? What language do you use to make administrators sit up and take notice?

Click here to download a brainstorming activity that asks: How does my class promote 21st Century Skills?

21st Century Skills Brainstorm

And click here to download a poster showing how the act of being in a play promotes 21st century skills.

 21st Century Skills Poster

Being in a Play is SO 21st Century!

post it

Jessica Stafford of Owensboro Middle School was in the middle of rehearsing Hoodie for the KTA middle school festival. She generously shared this “Positive and Negative Post-it Exercise” she used with her cast.

“Students write on post-it notes the negative words they have heard from others about themselves and the negative words they think of when they look in the mirror. They are only allowed one word or phrase per post-it. The post-its are placed on a large piece of orange paper hung on the wall. Students then write positive words they have heard from others or think of when they look in the mirror. These are placed on a large piece of blue paper hung on the wall.”

The purpose of the exercise was to gather words for a specific scene in the play about personal perception, and the assignment raised a variety of reactions.

“The kids loved and hated this assignment at the same time. They found it so incredibly easy to come up with the negative and hateful words but needed prompting from myself and others in order to find the positives. I think they were relieved to see they weren’t the only ones with the same negatives. I promised them I would do my post-its, too. I told them that adults can walk the same walk – positive and negative.”

The exercise was used in a rehearsal setting but it certainly could be adapted to the drama classroom. It’s an exercise that explores how students feel about themselves, how others feel about themselves, and helps establish empathy for others.


  • Read the “I see You/You see me” scene with your class.
  • Discuss the scene either as a class or in groups.
    • What do you think the scene is about?
    • Do you think people see you differently than you see yourself?
  • Students write on post-it notes the negative words they have heard others say about themselves and the negative words they think of when they look in the mirror.
  • Students places their post-its on a large orange sheet hung on the wall.
  • Students write on post-it notes the positive words they have heard others say about themselves and think of when they look in the mirror.
  • Students place their post-its on a large orange sheet hung on the wall.
  • Students review the sheets.
    • What words are repeated?
    • What words surprise them?
    • What words don’t surprise them at all?
  • Students write a reflection in their drama journals about what it’s like to see the two sheets side by side. Are they surprised by the words their classmates wrote? How does the exercise make them feel?
  • Students pick one word from the positive sheet and one word from the negative sheet.
  • Students personify these two words. Turn the positive word and the negative word into characters.
    • What would their names be?
    • How old would they be?
    • What would they look like?
    • What would they wear?
    • Where would they live?
    • How would they interact with their living environment?
  • Students write a one page scene between the Positive Word and the Negative Word.
  • Students share their scenes.

Click here to download the Positive and Negative Post-It Exercise


Episode 121: Middle School Play Mania: multiple plays with multiple classes


Middle School Teacher Jessica Stafford isn’t just doing one play. She’s doing a play with multiple classes. And she’s not doing the same play, each class gets their own play. How do you produce multiple plays with multiple classes and not go crazy? Listen in and learn!

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