Welcome to a new school year. We never know where summer went, but once more into the breach we go.
While you’re doing your back to school shopping to trick out your classroom or mobile room to room cart, may I suggest laying in a stock of some of my favorite tried and true drama teacher essentials. Having these on hand will keep your creative juices flowing and your students on their toes.
- Golf pencils. Great for when you expect your students to rehearse with a pencil in their hand. These little workhorses are cheap enough to keep a supply of, small enough to not take up a lot of room, and strangely proportioned enough that your students may actually remember to return them. Supplying your own materials cuts down on boring conversations about students remembering materials, and allows everyone to get to the task at hand.
- Sharpies and Highlighters. You need the clear “write on anything” power of the sharpie and your students need a few loaner highlighters around so they can count lines and drive their peers mad.
- Rubber Balls. The kitschier the better. You’d be surprised at how much your students will enjoy tossing around a Frozen or Ant Man ball during warmup. Get at least three, I recommend five. On days when you can’t think of a warmup, nothing says instant fun like dumping a bunch of rubber balls in the center of the circle and letting students toss or gently kick them to each other. The possibilities are endless.
- Squeaky toys, Koosh balls, Beanbags. Important for gentle tossing games and much of Spolin’s whole group work. Great to hand to a squirrelly kid as a fidget in a pinch.
- Playing Cards. I use these to sort students for quick, random heterogenous grouping, one deck per class. I use them for quick oral quizzes- if four out of five students randomly called upon get the answers right, the whole class avoids a written quiz. I use them to call on volunteers to get up in front of class, or make a comment on others’ work. I also use them for status exercises and occasionally as props. Teach middle school? Nothing is more of a crowd pleaser than handing out decks and getting students to play “I doubt it” in order to work on their poker faces. “I doubt it” is a game known in adult circles as “BS”, it is easy to teach and a great deal of fun to play.
- Scarves. Instant props and costume accessories. Groups of three students can use one to augment Boal’s “Columbian Hypnosis”, where one student moves the scarf and the others mimic the movements with their bodies. Scarves can be used as teacher attention getters while students are doing group work. They can be used as blindfolds for Dog and Bone or Hunter Hunted, and trust walks.
- Dowels. Available at your local hardware store, these wooden babies are worth stocking up on. They can be used for group movement, used in sets of two to create dance movement before students are comfortable dancing, as swords for armed combat, to build squares on the floor. In a pinch, they are canes for old characters or soft shoe. Students can work on balancing them on a finger. Buy the half inch and have them cut to about three feet. Save the one foot pieces for rehearsal daggers and wands.
- Index cards. Write scene suggestions on them. Give them to groups to fill out as grade cards when starting a project. Use them to build white models (they are very easy to teach scale with and hold up well on a cardboard stage floor with nothing more than clear tape. Students can put their info on them for auditions.
- Cups. Not environmental, so you may want to go dollar store permanent here, but the red cups that people give out at barbecues are great props, place holders, and amplify the sound of a cell phone’s speaker when placed inside it.
- Corks. A dying breed, but when cut into small discs, wine corks (or the type you can buy clean and unadulterated from a craft store) work wonders as diction exercisers for your mushmouthed students. Small enough to be carried in the pocket, a cork held between the teeth is a long time favorite trick of voice teachers to assist a student in popping those plosives.
- Blue Painter’s Tape. Make a grid on the floor. Create seating spots in a room with no furniture. Put up cast lists, project groups, poster or fliers. Allow students to create a temporary gallery for their designs. Create independence for your technicians, and save the wall from further paint peels.
As always, feel free to contact me with questions about how to use any of these items. Happy shopping, and have a tremendous beginning to your school year!