Starting your class with bell work or a journal prompt is a great way to get students into the drama class mindset. Some teachers like to have students brainstorm a list of ideas or respond to a question of the day to get their creative juices flowing. Here’s another prompt that you can use with your students: a “would you rather” question.
The simplest way to use a “would you rather” prompt is to post the question somewhere and have students write an individual response in their journals. You could use a “would you rather” question as a discussion prompt, either as a full class or in small groups. You might choose to have the prompt posted on a board as a chart with some sticky notes available for students to post their vote under their choice, to see what the breakdown of answers is within the class. Maybe 13 of your students would prefer to act in a play and 7 of your students would prefer to act in a musical. You could also make it a physical exercise, where students move to one side of the room or the other, depending on their choice. (This is a great way to see if students are easily influenced by their friends/peers.)
The “would you rather” prompt can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. You can start with ideas like, “Would you rather operate sound or lights?” “Would you rather be the director or the producer?” “Would you rather perform an improvised scene or a scripted scene?” The prompts don’t have to be related to drama class — you could throw in a funny one now and then, such as, “Would you rather have dessert for every meal or never have dessert again?”
The prompts could be related to a play you’re studying in class. Think about choices that characters make or problems that arise in the play, and have students respond to those questions. “Would you rather be part of the Capulet family or the Montague family?” “Would you rather go down the rabbit hole to Wonderland or stay in the real world?” “Would you rather be a pizza box or a chocolate box?”
You can also use a “would you rather” prompt as a problem-solving challenge, by adding an “if” scenario at the start of the prompt. For example, “If you were casting the lead role in your musical, would you rather cast your worst enemy who is a fantastic singer, or your best friend who is totally tone-deaf?” “If your actors weren’t off-book at dress rehearsal, would you make them do the show as best they could, or cancel it?”
One of the great things about a “would you rather” question is that it allows students to practice making a choice. Some students haven’t had many opportunities to make decisions for themselves, or lack the confidence to do so. They might look towards their friends to see what they would do, or worry about making the “wrong” choice. Encourage your students to make their choices for themselves.
Once students gain more confidence in their choice making, take it a step further and ask the follow-up question: “WHY?” What are their thoughts and feelings about the choice they made? Can they articulate why they would make that choice? Do they answer confidently, or do they feel like they need to defend their decision?
One of the challenges of a “would you rather” prompt is that students may try to push back and refuse to make a choice, or try to negotiate a “but” or an “if.” “I’d cast my enemy IF they would sign a contract saying that they can’t be mean to me.” “I’d cast my best friend BUT I’d have them take singing lessons.” It’s up to you whether you want to allow students to do this. Either way, students will have the opportunity to think critically and creatively.