Creating rituals in the drama classroom is a great way to build community and a sense of teamwork – a feeling of “we’re all in this together.” The most easy, basic ritual is starting each class with a group warmup, to get students’ bodies moving and energized after they have been sitting for hours in other classes. The following exercise starts out really simple, then turns the tables on students by having them lead the warmup.
Sometimes a simple warmup can be the most effective. I always start my classes with a body warmup and stretch-out, especially if my students have been sitting down for long periods of time before drama class. This can be as basic as putting on an upbeat song and leading students in warming up their bodies by running in place or doing jumping jacks. Follow this with stretching, starting from the top of the head and neck, then going down to the legs and feet. You can also include a vocal warmup and breathing exercises.
If you are short on time, here’s an easy body-and-voice warmup exercise:
As a group, have students shake the right hand vigorously while counting out loud, backwards from 10. Then shake the left hand and count back, the right foot and count back, and the left foot and count back. Start again with the right hand and count back from 9, and keep repeating the exercise until you get down to 1-1-1-1 (right hand, left hand, right foot, left foot). If you’re extremely short on time, count back from 5 to 1. Guaranteed to get your students warmed up in a jiffy!
You might also start with some games. Here are some great ideas to get you started!
Once students are in the habit of doing a daily warmup, turn the tables on them and try this…
Get a calendar and assign each student a date where he or she is responsible for leading the class in the warmup routine, exercise, or game. One week before their date, students must submit a planning handout that describes their warmup and how it will benefit the class. Students can create an original warmup exercise or game, or they can adapt a warmup exercise or game that they’ve done in class. If they use an existing exercise, they need to put their own spin on it. Ideas could include “theming” a warmup to an upcoming school event or holiday, or basing their warmup on a topic you’ve been studying in class (Greek playwright tongue-twisters?).
Students don’t need to reinvent the wheel here; the point of the exercise is to practice leadership skills and to think creatively. It also gives each student the chance to lead their classmates and take ownership of their portion of the class. And since everyone in the class gets a chance to lead, it encourages students to support each other. It also gives students the chance to get to know each other better by seeing the different spin that each student puts on their warmup!