Starting your drama class with a Question of the Day is a great way to get your students into the “drama class” mindset. It’s a way to help create a routine for your students – they know that as soon as they enter the classroom it’s time to open their minds and challenge themselves to think creatively.
How you present the Question of the Day can be as simple as writing it on a whiteboard or posting it on a bulletin board. If you want to get really creative, you can present the question in a funny and interesting way – you could try writing the question out in code or hiding it somewhere in the room for students to find, scavenger-hunt style. You could also use a combination of the two presentation methods – perhaps your regular method is to post the question, but then once a week or once a month you can mix it up and have students search it out!
It may seem silly or trivial to present the Question of the Day in a more playful manner, but I think it’s important to shake things up and show students that there isn’t just one way to present classroom work. As well, drama class and theatre are all about creativity and coming up with different and interesting solutions to problems and ways of communicating stories.
What should the content of the question of the day be?
Really, your Question of the Day can be anything that has to do with theatre. It’s best if it ties in with whatever topic you are currently covering in class, as a method of introducing the topic or as an extension of what was covered in the previous class. Sometimes the Question of the Day can be something totally random, just to get those creative juices flowing.
The Question of the Day should be open-ended, so students don’t just give one-word answers. (This might happen anyway, but as students get used to the Question of the Day concept, encourage them to expand on their answers.) Some topics may start discussions with students of different opinions – and that’s great!
Here are some questions to get you started:
- If you could write a play about any topic, what would you write about and why?
- What recent movie or television show do you think would make a great stage production?
- What technical role do you think is the most challenging?
- What would you do if the lead performer of your show got pneumonia on opening night?
- How can actors help each other to succeed in their roles?
- If you were to go back to a certain era or to a different country to learn more about a certain type of theatre, when/where would you go and why? (For example: ancient Greek theatre, Japanese Noh theatre, the Renaissance, commedia dell’arte in Italy, etc.)
- Whose job is easier: onstage performers or backstage crew? Why?
- What do you think will be the “next big thing” in the theatrical world?
- How could you present an extreme sport or extreme activity safely and creatively onstage? (Such as downhill skiing, skydiving, rock climbing, surfing, bobsledding, etc.)
- What historical or literary character deserves to have a show written about them?
Once you get into the habit of presenting a Question of the Day, get your students involved in creating the questions! You can use the “idea machine” brainstorming method (read more about that here: Brainstorming in the Drama Class: Coming up With More Ideas Than You Need) to help students come up with different questions. And then once a week you can have different students prepare the question and determine the method of presenting it to the class.
Finally, how should students answer the Question of the Day? The easiest way is for students to write out their answers individually and submit them, similar to an Exit Slip. However, should you wish to do so, students could also present their answers in a creative way. You might choose a small group of students to present their answers orally. You might challenge students to sketch their answers or to write them in rhyming couplets. Or you may permit students to work together in small groups and then present their thoughts in a variety of ways – as a group scene, to the tune of a song, as a mime scene, and so on.
No matter how students answer the questions, ensure that the questions are answered within the first five minutes of class. Your students might feel that they don’t have enough time to answer the question when you first introduce this exercise, but stick to the five-minute time length. Eventually their “creativity muscles” will strengthen and answering the Question of the Day will become easier and quicker.
Distance Learning Adaptation: Virtual Learning Questions
You can continue to do the Question of the Day activity while doing distance education. You might choose to send your students the question the day via email and have them prepare a response to share during virtual class time; have them submit a written response; or share the question during class time and either allow them to have five minutes to write their own response or have a class discussion.
Feel free to use the existing questions. As well, here are some new sample questions you could use for this activity that are related to distance learning.
- What are some advantages of studying drama virtually? What are some disadvantages?
- If you could change one thing about distance learning, what would it be and why?
- What is something new you’ve learned since starting distance learning? (This doesn’t have to be related to school or drama class.)
- What is one big change you’ve noticed in yourself since starting distance learning?
- What play, movie, television show, or book would be fun to adapt to perform online?
- What do you miss most about being in school? What do you miss the least?
- Given the choice, would you prefer to continue online learning, or would you prefer to go back to school? (Perhaps you’d prefer a hybrid of the two – how would you make that work?)
- How could theatres make physical distancing work for audiences? For performers? For technicians?
- What should our school’s first in-person production be when we are allowed to do so?
- If our class were to do a virtual talent/variety show, what would your act be?
- How do you think people would have coped with a global pandemic if we didn’t have the internet?
- What theatrical skills are easiest to study/practice virtually? What are the most difficult? Why?
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.
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