Drama in Three Dimensions
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
By David Farmer | Macmillan Education Blog | Source
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Drama games and techniques can add a stimulating dimension to language learning - literally in this case! In my post I’ll show you how two-dimensional images, whether they are paintings, photographs, video stills or illustrations in course books, can be brought to life in three-dimensions through drama.
The use of pictures can have a powerful effect on students, even more so if the students are interacting with one another. The following activities can be used in any combination with a wide range of age-groups, abilities and language levels. Simply choose images that are appropriate to the theme you are developing and the level of your group. I’ll explain how to work with the whole class to begin with, although the activities can be adapted for groups and pairs.
How to Choose an Image
The image should have as many characters and objects as there are students. It’s important that there are people in the picture and there is some kind of story or subtext which appeals to the students.
Below are a few examples of images which can be found by doing an internet search.
Children’s Games by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre August Renoir
Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat
Work by Ford Madox-Brown
The Arrival (graphic novel) by Shaun Tan
Illustrations by ‘Phiz’ for books by Charles Dickens
Any painting by L.S. Lowry
Other sources could include illustrations from story books, course books, documentary or news photography, tapestries, Ancient Greek and Egyptian paintings, drawings and pottery.
How to Start
An effective way to begin is by projecting the picture onto a screen or displaying it on a smart board. Posters or other large images are also effective. The same approaches can be used with smaller groups by giving each one separate printed pictures to work with. These can be thematically linked, or they can be a sequence of pictures from a story. Another idea is to choose a picture that has a lot of activity in it, cut it into sections and give a different section to each group to work on.
Show the picture to the students and spend a few minutes asking them to look carefully at what’s happening in the scene. You can suggest speech prompts, such as ‘I can see...’, ‘I imagine...’ or ‘I think…’. The aim is to encourage observation and curiosity. One really effective prompt is ‘I wonder...’. For example, you could say ‘I wonder where they are going,’ ‘I wonder if the boy is afraid.’ or ‘I wonder what is in the woman’s suitcase.’ The students will likely start to notice far more detail in the picture.
Choose a Character
When students have examined the picture in greater detail, explain that you would like them to bring the image to life. Each student will be asked to choose a character, animal or object from the picture. When students are ready, ask them to ‘step into the picture’ one by one. Make sure you have a clear space in front of the picture then invite students to step forward, say who they are and hold a still position. Gradually they will build up a three-dimensional ‘freeze-frame’ or ‘tableau’. This is a good way to practice prepositions, for example, ‘I am the girl in front of the house’ or ‘I am the blue helicopter above the whale’.
To develop the story behind the picture we can start with what the characters (and objects) are thinking by using thought-tracking. When the students are in position, simply tap each one on the shoulder (or point at them). The student should speak as the character, voicing their thoughts or feelings. What they say will depend on their language level, for example ‘I’m in a hurry,’ ‘I’m late for my train’ or ‘I can’t wait to get home.’ It’s important to allow the students time to prepare for a task like this. If they are less confident or unsure what to say, you can ask other students for suggestions. Preparation will not only support them with their language production, it will also help with their confidence and make the activity more enjoyable.
By the way, if the student is portraying an animal or object, they may choose to make a sound instead of using words. No problem - just ask them something like ‘if the table/helicopter/seagull could talk, what would it say?’
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