Teaching Drama to 4 year olds?…now there’s a thought! First, you have to explain what drama ‘is’…
My starting point is that in drama we are “telling a story with our bodies” and my first question to my 19 little ‘thespians-in- the-making’ is, “How do our faces tell a story?”
In a game the children select a “face” and they try to mimic that face for their friends. The friends must guess what ‘story’ is being portrayed! Always funny is the child who chooses the angry or sad face but is so excited they just can’t stop smiling enough to harness their angry or sad!
Over the weeks we move through our bodies—how do our arms tell a story? how do our legs tell a story?—and then we put everything together including our faces. Suddenly we ARE sad, we ARE shy, and we ARE sleepy— or crazy, or silly! In this, the children become very comfortable with themselves and their bodies. They become confident in telling a story with all that they are!
Over the weeks we take on different ideas of ‘being’ as we bring in various drama exercises…and enthusiasm from these dear little souls always abounds.
One day we were sitting in a drama circle and we talked about different machines. We had just done a drama with song and we had been a popcorn maker, washing machine and dryer and a blender. The conversation was as follows:
Miss R.: “What other things in our homes could we be?”
M: “We could be hot tea kettles.”
Miss R.: “Can you show us how to be a tea kettle?”
M. obliges and other children have input…what about the whistle sound that the tea kettle makes? and what about the boiling water inside the tea kettle? Then together we all try out our dramatic skills and we all become tea kettles…and then sizzling frying pans, and blow dryers, then vacuum cleaners. We use our bodies; we use levels—up and down, and side to side. Ideas come fast and furious but through mutual discussion we all eventually agree what our bodies should be doing to tell these ‘appliance’ stories. Consensus among these four year olds is a give and take affair and a thing of beauty for teacher to behold!
And then, just before our drama circle comes to a close I have time for one last little boy.
Miss R.: “OK G., what is something in your home that we could be?“ G. takes a brief moment to consider and then taps his cheek a couple of times…I see in his eyes the bright light of the ‘Aha’ moment and the excitement comes to his lips…here it is…
G.: “I know Miss Rebecca…we could be a wine bottle !!!”
I pause, and the teachers begin to laugh, and not quick enough to say anything in response, I watch…
And…in a split second, in complete unison, without any consensus building, without the remotest prompting needed— my theatre troupe rises to their feet. This time I am the last to rise…this time no teacher prompting needed! I watch as in unison they put their arms straight into the air with hands together for a narrowed bottle effect and stand with legs together. Someone shouts, “We need to take the cork out!!!”
Miss R. “What happens then????” I say.
I watch as my little actors and actresses all start to make a “Pop” sound and movement which belies a cork coming out! I watch as they bend to the left or right and mime filling a wine glass!
Ah yes…well, we all know that the best drama is life itself…not that the children are drinking wine…but…it’s nice that they allow their mummies and daddies that little something extra at the dinner table. Funny that they all can be a wine bottle so ‘effortlessly’ and integrate it dramatically without any difficulty whatsoever!
Keep up the good work, Mums and Dads…it makes drama so much fun!