This month we’re focusing on helping different types of students in your drama class succeed. In Part 3 of this series, we’re focusing on the introverts. Going back to the High School Musical comparison, the introverts are your talented but shy and insecure Gabriellas, who often surprise everyone with their skills once they gather the courage to participate. However, the introvert category can also include less obvious students, like Troy Bolton. These students are popular and confident when they’re in their comfort zones (in Troy’s case, the basketball court), but once they’re in drama class their confidence falters. These students have a desire to participate in drama but may be worried about what their friends think.
Your introverts enjoy drama class and want to succeed, but are often overwhelmed by your drama enthusiasts or intimidated by your writer/composers. They may not have as much (or any) previous training or experience in drama. They’re easily overlooked because they tend to be quiet and they don’t cause trouble in class, but they certainly don’t want to be forgotten. Given the chance, your introverts have the ability to shine, but you’ll need to help them to overcome their shyness or lack of self-confidence. They may take longer to warm up to certain activities, or they may wish to hang in the background for a while. They may think they don’t have the skills or experience to take on leadership roles. A good drama teacher must push them out of their comfort zone, without pushing so hard that these students retreat into their shells again.
Here are some tips to help your introverts succeed:
- Find out if they have any previous drama experience. If they don’t, give them the opportunity to learn more about the basics.
- Explore non-verbal acting techniques early in the term, such as mime, tableau, mask work, and clown work. This will give students the opportunity to get creative in the classroom without the pressure of having to speak right away.
- Give your students advance notice about what order they will present or perform in, so your introverts can mentally prepare themselves and not feel put on the spot.
- As much as possible, balance full class work, small group work, and partner exercises with solo or individual work. Some introverted students prefer working in groups because it gives them the opportunity to try out different theatrical techniques without the pressure of being the only one performing. Conversely, some introverted students can find group work overwhelming and need individual working time to decompress.
- When working on scripted scenes in class, rotate your casting so all students, including your introverts, have the opportunity to read/perform larger roles.
- Encourage your introverts to take on leadership positions and/or audition for leading roles if it seems like they want to. Challenge them to push themselves further than they think they’re capable of.
- Teach them techniques to help them overcome stage fright.
- Observe how your introverts respond to praise and feedback. Some don’t like being singled out or feel put on the spot if they’re praised publicly, so for those students, offer written feedback or pull them aside after class. Others gain confidence from verbal praise in front of others. Use what works best for each student.
- Have students come up with a series of theatrical affirmations that can be made into posters and displayed around the classroom. Use the affirmations included in the giveaway as a starting point, and brainstorm more with your students. If your students are feeling unsure of themselves, remind them of these affirmations.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.
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