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Shakespeare teaching ideas Performing Shakespeare for kids

3 Quick Tips for New Drama Teachers

I am often asked by teachers, when I present to their classes, to give their kids my top two or three tips they should focus on while they rehearse. Although there are so many tips that one could give, it always comes down to the following three for me:

1) PROJECT YOUR VOICE – One of the biggest challenges I find for kids is their ability to project their voices. Some get it confused with yelling. But really, basic projection comes from the diaphragm. Projecting your voice goes for both a larger setting as well as smaller settings. Just because the audience is close, doesn’t mean you should not project! Oh, and don’t get this confused with probably projecting a whisper on stage. That’s a different technique altogether!

2) FACE THE AUDIENCE – I always tell kids, “Your parents would rather look at your faces rather than your “other side” (while air-quoting) when you are on stage.” This typically gets a giggle, but it also gets the point across. But, facing the audience isn’t as simple as one might think. It’s logically challenging, we are programmed as people in a social society to face someone when we speak to them, kids do this with no problem. But, I am always reminding my kids, “The other actors already know what you are going to say, it’s the audience we are telling the story to.” Somethings that I do to help the kids remember to face forward is using thin blue painter’s tape and marking lines on the floor.  I typically make a half circle, (some times small, sometimes big, depending on the cast size or how many players are on stage at any one time) this way, especially when there are more than three players on stage at any one time, they can orientate more appropriately for to the audience.

The other piece to talk about is a 3/4 stance. This is typically when there are 2 players talking to each other on stage. A 3/4 stance is where the back foot is pointed towards the other actor and the front (or downstage) foot is pointed towards the audience. This allows them to open their bodies to the audience which does two things: 1) It allows the audience to better see the actors and 2) It allows their words to be heard by more of the audience.

3) SPEAK CLEARLY – And the last piece that I always talk to the kids about is enunciating their words. For many of them, it’s as simple as slowing down. Others, we play tongue twister games.  It’s a great warm-up exercise for any actor, regardless, but is especially useful as a tool to help kids speak clearly. My favorites are TOY BOAT and RED LEATHER YELLOW LEATHER. These two are very easy, just say each one 10 times and see what happens… kids typically have a good laugh during this exercise as well.  For example: “Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy…” until you reach 10 times. Most people have a tough time reaching three times! The more you practice, the better you get. There are many different types of tongue twisters out there. Use what works for you and, most importantly, have fun with it!

With these three basic tips, you should have a great time.  Remember, no matter what tips you have your kids work on, have them focus on no more than 2 or 3 skills at any one time. Trying to have them work on too many things will cause them to not learn any, as well as frustrate or overwhelm them.

If you have any questions, please met me know!

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By brendan kelso

Brendan is the main creative source and author behind Playing With Plays and the infamous Shakespeare for Kids series. You can typically find him inventing by day, playing with his family by night, and writing by very late night.

One reply on “3 Quick Tips for New Drama Teachers”

Our family has always loved your books (we homeschool BTW), but I didn’t know you wrote out these plays! It sounds so fun…and doable. I think I will order a set for my own family to perform on our front porch and then maybe get the courage to teach it for our co-op this fall. Thanks so much for making Shakespeare so un-intemidating for us adults.

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