Add Drama to Engage Your Students

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

If “all the world’s a stage,” as William Shakespeare asserted, then we teachers can cast ourselves in lead roles within our classroom walls (and in other parts of school, as well) to more fully engage our students as we present lessons.

Check out my blog pic here and you’ll see me teaching with my arms and hands.

"THIS is special for ALL of you!"

Notice how my arms are stretched out to my sides. A simple dramatic gesture, but one that demonstrates my embrace of the WHOLE class. The message: “I want and expect all of you to look, listen and learn.”

I like to call teaching “a performing art.” Pause a second; go back and re-read the opening paragraph of this blog. The focus is on more fully engaging students and I’ve used the words present lessons rather than teach lessons.

To gain and maintain K – 5 students’ attention in our world today – a world in which we’re forced to compete with all kinds of eye and ear-grabbing distractions – we have to COMMAND ATTENTION. One way to do that is to perform – to teach with dramatic moves, mannerisms and methods – in ways that may seem overly dramatic to some and perhaps non-traditional to many educators that have been trained in protocols of past years.

I’m not suggesting that you don a costume every day before greeting your class as school begins (although once-in-a-while costumes can be very effective attention-getters! We’ll save costuming for another blog). I’m offering classroom-tested easy to implement tricks that will add drama to your instruction time and help improve your hold on your students’ eyes and ears. Let’s get specific…

Offer Outstretched Arms – Again, as my blog pic above shows, it’s easy and effective to open out your arms as you make an important announcement or explain a broad-based study point to your students. Once you’ve stretched your arms out you can add further drama as you call attention to the focus of your lesson by bringing your hands slowly back in front of you and touch the palms of your hands together. Try it…broad message – arms wide.  Key points – hands back together in front of you.

Move Lessons Around Your Room – Elementary school students today have been born into a world that is constantly moving. I haven’t recently counted the times a television or video picture changes in 60-seconds, but I know that research has been done on the subject. Electronic media that blend audio and visual stimulation are sure-fire attention magnets.

Teachers can capitalize on the television attention-ology “formula” by moving about the classroom more as they speak. This isn’t to suggest that you dart about the room, only that you consider new ways to move while you teach. I’ve had success, for example, with tip-toeing to mimic the action of a sneaky witch getting ready to brew up some wonderful Halloween writing. Movement to dramatize characters in stories you share with your class is a wonderful way to bring stories to life.

Use a Dramatic VoiceMany teachers find that they have to raise their voices to be heard in class. But, a raised voice is different from a dramatic voice. Dramatic voices stand a better chance of catching and keeping K – 5 kids’ attention.

A dramatic voice can be anything you choose to use that is different in sound from your regular voice. Some teachers are comfortable using dramatic voices when they read stories aloud to their classes. It’s an age-old part of storytelling, but some teachers feel more comfortable with this than others. My experience tells me that few teachers use dramatic voices for different kinds of instruction other than storytelling. That’s unfortunate because dramatic voices are deal-makers for entertaining and educating children!

All of us have more than our given voices to employ in teaching if we muster the courage to try something new. Go ahead…try out some new voices, in private at first, and when you find one that suits you, commit to trying it out in class.

Think of a lesson that you’ll soon be teaching and look for where a new voice might fit in the plan. If, for example, you’re planning to invite your class to write Halloween poems as I’ll be asking my upcoming students to do in October, consider using a sneaky witch’s voice like I do. Say a few words in a high-pitched witch-like voice; it’s okay if you try to sound like a witch you heard in a movie. Male teachers can drop their already lower voices even lower and sound like “monsters” looking for Halloween writing treats. Your students will love you as witches and monsters!

Good news…no theater education is required for you to set the stage for incorporating some drama to more fully engage your students and help them achieve academic and personal success. Have some fun trying out some of the basic drama tricks I’ve suggested in my blog and let me know how your “stage debut” goes.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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Solution: Hold up "Listen Star," a toy magic wand that you’ve designated to be a cue for quiet. Tell the class, "When you see our friend, 'Listen Star' dance across the classroom sky, that’s your signal to HUSH for a moment."

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