Creating Ensembles In Drama

What is the best method of creating ensembles in drama class for extended activities and assessment performances? I have always been intrigued by this and particularly the impact some methods of group creation may have on student achievement and final assessment in a drama task.

Is it best for the teacher to create groups, or should we allow students to create their own? Class dynamics may determine the teacher to set groups on behalf of the students, but will this affect some students’ learning in the task?

Over the years I have asked colleagues who teach drama these questions and I have received very different responses. Some teachers prefer to set groups on behalf of their students, even in senior drama assessment pieces, while others believe by the time students are mature enough to make sensible and appropriate decisions themselves the teacher should steer clear of the group creation process.

Responsible decision making is part of life, not just high school, and students must make good choices in creating ensembles in drama class

If students create their own groups for extended assessment pieces in drama, then is it acceptable to see ‘super groups’ of very talented students form alongside other groups in the class with far less skill? Or is it better for the teacher to strategically ‘even out’ all groups so that each ensemble consists of roughly the same number of leaders, high achievers and lesser achievers? The problem with this situation is that high achievers may perform better alongside students of similar motivation and skill.

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I allow students to create their own groups in my senior drama classes these days. But this only occurs after several reminders to be careful of working in a group with your best friend if they could aid in bringing your potential grade down or if both of you will just fool around for most of the rehearsals. Responsible decision making is part of life, not just high school, and students must make good choices in creating ensembles in drama class. There are so many combinations in different circumstances such as combined drama classes, all boys, all girls, coeducational and that’s not to mention behavioural issues, shy students, loud students, bullying and more within the class.

Last year I was pleased when my Year 12 drama class revealed to me they took the process of group creation so seriously with their major ensemble piece that they all met privately in a classroom one lunchtime to work it out, ensuring all members of the class had a voice and were happy with the final outcome.

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1 Response

  1. Sean says:

    I have always found building rapport first and getting to know my group important first and trusting my own wisdom and experience before deciding this structural teaching process.

    Sometimes I have the right class/group where numbering off and choosing the groups works beautifully – even with different levels of ability – because the personalities of the students allow them to work well this way.

    But other times – where I may have a class who struggle with confidence, their own identities and abilities, I would not go there and allow them to choose their own groups for both class activities and assessment. Our state’s and school’s agenda is to improve and maximise student results and achievement – I think we should trust ourselves and make the professional judgment ourselves to achieve these educational aims.

    If I do let them choose their own groups – there are caviets – “if one person is left out and does not have a group in 5 minutes – then I will choose the groups”. There are a range of ways to manage this too.

    Great topic though – ask me again in another 5 years and I may have a different answer again.

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