The following is a guest post by Samantha Marsden author of ‘How to make a living as a freelance drama teacher.’
I taught drama to 3 – 7 year olds for nine years. During this time I had hundreds of parents tell me how drama had improved their child’s confidence. Here are some tips on how to help students gain more confidence in your drama class.
Performing: Plan your lesson so that students get a chance to perform in front of their classmates. The more they practice performing, the easier it will become for them. Even if a student gets up for only three seconds and shows the class their impression of a cat, this counts as a performance.
Praise: Even when a student mumbles a few inaudible lines, find something to praise them for. Chances are it took a lot of guts for them to get up and do that in front of the class. Try and make the praise specific. It’s ok to include constructive criticism as long as it’s said in a gentle and kind tone. For example, ‘Lily I really liked the way you smiled during your poem but do you think you could make the words a little louder?’
Applaud: Whenever someone performs in front of the class encourage everyone to clap afterwards. Make sure you clap as well and if it was really good throw in a few whoops and cheers!
Comparisons: Always compare a student to themselves not to others. Progress should be measured by how far a student has come, not by what they are like compared to other students.
Respect: Respect your students’ ideas and never belittle an idea even if it is a little crazy! If a child is speaking or performing give them your full attention and make sure the class does too.
No nastiness: Make it a very strict rule that no one is to say anything nasty about anyone during the drama class.
Don’t put a child on the spot: Please don’t ever randomly pick a child and ask them to answer your question or perform. Children hate looking stupid in front of their peers and if they don’t know the answer to your question they will quickly lose confidence and won’t volunteer themselves to do anything in your class in the future.
Simplicity: Keep the lesson content simple. If you make the lesson too complex, which is easily done with this age group, students will lose confidence as they will feel out of their depth.
Make mistakes: Kid’s love it when you make mistakes. If you get the words of a song wrong,laugh at yourself and say, ‘Silly me.’ Don’t try to hide your mistakes. They’ll love it if you muck up and it will make them feel better about themselves. I’ve been to known to fake a few mistakes so that students feel more at ease.
No forcing: Never force a child to perform or to do anything in your class. They will join in and perform when they are ready, not when you are ready. By forcing them you may ruin their confidence and then they may never perform as they have a terrible memory of the time they were forced to do it. If you don’t force anyone and only positively encourage students I can guarantee you that every student will be volunteering to perform by week 5 or 6.
Thumbs up: If a child is particularly terrified whilst performing stick your thumbs up at them as they perform and encourage other members of the class to do so as well.. You’ll often see a smile spread across the terrified child’s face when you show them support.
Friend: Buddy children up and help them to make friends with each other. They’ll have a lot more confidence if they know they have a friend routing for them.
Stickers: Give out stickers and be specific about why you’re giving them. The children will be more proud of their achievement if they know exactly what the sticker is for, for example: ‘Well done Caleb I really liked your lion face in that song.’
Certificates: Give out certificates. Each week have a ‘performer of the week,’ or two, or even three depending on the size of your class. Keep a list of who gets the certificate each week and make sure everyone gets it at least once during the term.
Student praise: After a performance, ask the class what they liked about it. Try and get about three positive comments from the class per performance – any more and you won’t have enough time. You’ll be amazed at what lovely things they have to say about each other.
Written by Sam Marsden, author of ‘How to make a living as a freelance drama teacher.’
Whether you’re an experienced drama teacher or straight out of college, my new book Teach Drama: How to Make a Living as a Freelance Drama Teacher will help you get work as freelance drama teacher.