Distance Learning Teaching Drama

Warm-up Exercises for Trust Building

Warm-up Exercises for Trust Building
Written by Kerry Hishon

It’s not unusual to feel slightly disconnected from students while teaching virtually (and we don’t mean when the internet stops working!). Drama classes are all about human connection and trust, and that can be hard to develop when you’re not physically together with your students. It’s not impossible though — it just takes some time. Try these warm-up exercises in your distance learning drama classes to help build trust, both between you and your students, and between your students.

Boring Facts

At the beginning of a new term of drama classes, it’s common for teachers to try to get to know their students by asking them to introduce themselves and share an interesting fact about themselves. However, students often stress about having to figure out an interesting fact, and put pressure on themselves to choose something impressive. Next time, try asking students to share a boring fact about themselves. Anything from “I like cheese” to “I’m also taking math this term” to “I have one sister” works just fine! A boring fact is easy to think of quickly, will give students a chuckle, and can lead to students being more willing to answer follow-up questions (“What kind of cheese is your favourite?” “What’s your opinion of melted cheese on vegetables?” “Ever try one of those fancy bleu cheeses?”).

Read My Lips

Students are more likely to loosen up and take risks when they see that their teacher is willing to take risks and look silly as well. When doing exercises, be willing to demonstrate the task so students can see what to expect. As well, try the following simple warm-up: Mute your camera and say a sentence out loud in front of the camera. Speak slowly and exaggerate your enunciation. Students must guess what you are saying by reading your lips. They can respond orally or in the chat box. Encourage students to try the exercise as well! This is a great way for students to practice enunciation and diction, so they can be heard clearly while performing.

Full Class Warm-ups

Doing full class warm-up exercises takes the pressure off of students. Everyone is working together, which means they’re all on equal footing, and nobody has to worry about looking silly, because you’re all looking silly together! Here are some fast and easy full class warm-ups:

  • As a group, have students shake their 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 short on time, count back from 5 to 1. (This is from our post Community-Building Warm-ups for the Drama Classroom.) 
  • Have a Puppet Dance Party with found objects. Have students suggest songs to dance to. 
  • Rapid Fire Thumbs: As quickly as you can, ask students a number of yes/no questions on a topic, such as favourite foods, music genres, actors, or hobbies. For example: “I’m going to quickly list some fruits and you’ll respond as fast as you can with thumbs up if you like it and thumbs down if you don’t… three, two, one: Apples! Oranges! Bananas! Strawberries! Grapefruit!” and so on.

    You can add an extra layer of two thumbs up for something they really like, and two thumbs down for something they really dislike. To make it more active, you could have students stand up for things they like and sit down for things they don’t like, or change up the gestures (nodding/shaking head, applause/booing, smiling/frowning). You can also try throwing in something that doesn’t fit into the topic and see how students respond. For example: “Apples! Oranges! Bananas! Popcorn!” Did they notice? Did they try to call you out? How did they feel when you tried to trick them?
Click here for a free reflection for your students.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.