Freeze frame

4th July 2008 at 01:00
The plot is simple: to get your pupils to perform. Valerie Goodwin's tactics strike a chord in class

The plot is simple: to get your pupils to perform. Valerie Goodwin's tactics strike a chord in class

Secondary Drama: Ages 14-16

Physical theatre is an important part of key stage 4 drama, which requires pupils to learn new skills and styles to use in their work. I start with warm-ups, designed to encourage physical contact and rid the class of inhibitions:

- Molecules Pupils move around the room spaced like molecules and walk to the beat you are tapping out for them on a table (use a rhythm beater, a stick or tambourine). Aim for total focus and blank expressions. Pupils must stop instantly when you stop tapping. You should try "stop, turn, look, wait, walk on", all co-ordinated in silence.

- Knots Pupils in groups of five to eight join hands. They step over arms and go under legs until they are tangled. Then they should try and unknot themselves without letting go of hands, which is good fun. It's also invaluable for breaking down barriers.

- Feet on the floor The teacher calls out a number of feet that each group can have on the floor. Pupils must hop, piggyback or lie on their backs to achieve this. It reduces inhibitions.

- Ten-second tableaux The teacher calls out titles for them to re-enact and counts down from 10, at which point each group must freeze. Titles such as Eiffel Tower, New York, fruit bowl or fish and chips all work well. Try silence during the planning and the tableaux to encourage more imagination.

The main part of the lesson is for the pupils to create a physical representation of a song, in the form of a series of tableaux held for five seconds each, plus a smooth transition from one to the next.

The music is played as they perform. Use a piece with surreal lyrics - "Windmills of Your Mind" by Noel Harrison works well. Emphasise non- literal interpretations when representing the song via a series of freezes, and work gracefully on the transitions from one freeze to the next. For instance, while playing the song they can "become" various kitchen utensils or gadgets that are rife in the lyrics.

Valerie Goodwin is head of drama at Beaminster School in Dorset.


- Sing the song through on your own so you know you have got it.

- Use visual cues with the children all the time.

- Sing it through with the children as many times as you can bear.

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