You ask a question in English on a topic your class has been studying for ages.
There’s a long pause. No-one says anything.
More often than not, the main culprits are students’ lack of confidence or focus.
Hello Drama’s solution? Specific skill-based drama games. We’ll show you how.
1. Build Confidence
Speaking out in front of a class can often feel daunting for students, especially when they are required to do so in a second language.
We want students to realise that it is better to try something and make a mistake than not to try at all. When people are comfortable, they are more confident and happy to communicate.
Hello Drama suggests: Pass The Sound
Why this drama game builds confidence:
This game requires students to express themselves in front of the group. However, as the game requires no ‘actual words’, it is impossible to get it wrong.
How to play:
Ask the group to stand in a circle with you.
Throw an imaginary ball to someone standing opposite you. Add a sound as you throw the ball. Whoosh, baa, pop, zzz - it can literally be anything!
Ask the person receiving the ball to copy the sound as they receive it.
The person with the ball makes a new sound as they throw it to the next person.
Encourage students not to 'hold' the ball for too long and to keep a good pace.
Looking for a workshop specifically designed to build your students' confidence? Check out Hello Drama’s confidence workshop: Pick Me!
Safety nets are formed through drama games requiring young people to solve problems and work as a team.
2. Create A Team
It’s one thing for a student to feel confident, but without their class to support them, this sense of confidence will not last long. Young people tend to be selective when forming close friendship groups and we often find that students are in classes with peers they barely ever interact with.
Teamwork games encourage them to create new connections and therefore form a larger support network. Not only can this make them feel more confident to speak out in front of their classmates, but new friendships can form. Teamwork games develop vital social skills including diplomacy, fair discussion and the ability to be open-minded.
Hello Drama suggests: In Groups Of
Why this drama game develops teamwork:
Students must think on their feet and work quickly under time pressure. If they want to succeed at the game, they have no option but to support each other.
How to play: We filmed this game in a park in Beijing, check it out:
Think your class are up for a team building challenge? Check out Against The Clock, Hello Drama's escape room style drama workshop.
3. Boost Focus
Effective language learning and communication require focus and concentration. We all lead busy lives and students often have a lot to juggle. A game to bring the mind to the present moment and focus everyone’s attention is a must!
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be dull - for example, we add elements of light-hearted competition into our Hello Drama workshops. This immediately boosts concentration levels and encourages students to focus completely on the game at hand.
Focus games encourage students to listen to each other - great for developing their listening skills, especially in a second language!
Hello Drama suggests this game: Stop / Go
Why this drama game boosts focus:
Students will learn a series of commands in English. As soon as they've got the hang of them, the commands are reversed. This is sure to keep them on their toes.
How to play:
Instruct the group to walk around the room at a fast pace on the command 'go' and stop instantly on the command 'stop'.
Introduce the commands 'jump' and 'clap', and emphasise that they are working as one team - landing their jump together and clapping once at the same time is important.
Once they've got the hang of the commands, let them know that everything will now be reversed. 'Go' means everyone must stop. 'Jump' means everyone must clap, and vice versa.
4. Change The Energy
Some classes can be lively and find it hard to calm down, and others can be more reserved and need a bit of encouragement. Each class has its own energy depending on the members of the group.
Once you have a few drama games up your sleeve, you’ll be able to manipulate and change this energy and use it as your secret weapon!
If you have a group that are very over-excited and loud, focus games that require collective concentration and listening are great. Try this one:
Hello Drama suggests: Rhythm Detective
How to play:
Ask one volunteer to leave the room - they are the Detective. Ask the rest of the group to sit in a circle.
Choose one person who will be the Rhythm Changer.
Ask the Rhythm Changer to begin a rhythm, e.g. continuously clapping slowly or quickly tapping their fingers on the ground. They can change this rhythm at any point.
The rest of the group must copy the Rhythm Changer's rhythm.
The Detective enters the room and stands in the middle of the circle. They must try to guess who the Rhythm Changer is.
5. Develop Language
We truly believe in the power of theatre games to develop language skills without students even realising they're learning. The best thing about it is as long as the game is introduced and played in English, it doesn't need to be a 'language game' as such.
Of course we have plenty of drama games specifically designed to develop vocab and practice grammar - far too many for this article! Keep an eye out on Hello Drama's For Teachers section for games galore!
Fancy having one of our British theatre professionals deliver workshops in your school?
By Charlie Limm & Abbie Moore