The Quiet Drama Class

Few times in my career as a drama teacher have I encountered the quiet drama class. But I’m there right now and I’m struggling…

This term I have had the 2nd quietest class of drama students in my ten years at my current school. Granted, its a small class. Thirteen Year 9 girls and about half the class didn’t choose drama as their 1st preference elective. But that’s not the issue. They are fabulous students who are more than willing to contribute to the best of their ability to activities. It’s just that they are so quiet!

As you can imagine, class discussion becomes an issue when half the class would rather be silent and listen to other ideas. Okey-dokey, how about some drama games and improvisation starters to get the ball rolling? Now that’s cool until we see the same six students contribute to every game. Once groups go off and brainstorm ideas for their comedy improvisations, small-group discussion seems even harder than whole-class teacher-lead discussion.

We are nearing the end of this term-length course. The focus of content has been comedy, specifically satire, slapstick and farce. I would argue the fact this has been a comedy drama course has made my job as teacher even harder. It’s difficult for even the most confident of drama students to successfully pull off comedy, much less a quiet student.

At times, this silence and quietness is unnerving. I find myself cracking lame jokes to keep the students entertained (not a good strategy). The start of most lessons begins with thirteen girls sitting on the floor in front of my desk waiting for me to take the roll without a sound to be heard. Do they think this is silent reading in English class, I ask myself? Because silent reading would be louder.

The quietness of this drama class has made me question my skills as a drama teacher. I set an activity. They accept it. In silence! Are they engaged? Do they find this task interesting? Do they understand it? Should I scaffold the task better? Are they bored?

While some of my colleagues out their in drama teacher land may be reading this post and thinking how lucky I am to have a quiet drama class, trust me, this has been more of a challenge than the noisiest and most unsettled of drama classes in my past.

We never stop learning in teaching. I’d love to hear other colleagues’ experiences and tips on how best to tackle the quiet drama class…

2 Responses

  1. J.R.M. says:

    My first period 8th grade class is quiet as well, except for the usual 1 or 2 who contribute. There’s only ten in there, so yeah its frustrating. I’m used to having 20 to 30 students so I’m already flummoxed by so few kids. My solution is to do a lot of group improv with them where its teacher led exercises with everyone involved, (“What are you doing?” , “Yes, thats great,” etc…). This keeps them all involved and they eventually start to break out.
    My second period, on the other hand, is talkative, but they think they’re too cool to even read a script. I’m having more trouble out of them than any other class I’ve EVER taught. they just do not participate AT ALL or they make fun of others, despite my scolding and disciplinary measures.

  2. Borbs says:

    Hi Cashy,

    I’m familiar with this issue 🙂 I always find that I have to meet them where they are. It’s frustrating and in my opinion fruitless to try to ‘pump them up’ and be something that they are not – I’ve tried that and I end up the resident clown and they feel intimidated. Unfortunately you have such little time with them that you are limited in terms of what you can achieve. But I often try different things and see what works. Once I found it, just keep repeating it–I find that shy students love predictability, they take a long time to open up and that is one process you cannot force or they will clam up on you tighter than before. My approach is:

    1. I try to get to know each child a little
    2. Try to interact with them on their level of energy (to make them feel safe) and try to push them gently to up their energy bit by bit every lesson (make this aim explicit to them and set it as a challenge)
    3. allow them to choose their groups (I know some Drama teachers don’t like this, but I find that they feel more comfortable)
    3. Set them achievable goals – I often change the curriculum to suit my classes (I have that luxury, and a bit more time I guess)
    4. Experiment – try different things – props, costume, music, naturalistic scenes … see what they like
    5. Wait a LONG time to hear an answer from a specific student … it’s always so tempting to answer one’s own questions or to go to the next student, but I think shy students need more time … and tell them that it’s OK to take your time and think about it, they might be slow but deep processors

    I too struggle with these kinds of classes Cashy! My biggest advice is change the curriculum to give them an ‘in’ (I often run naturalistic acting workshops with classes like this, I have found that they respond well to ‘serious’ acting–it’s lower risk) but this may not always be desirable or possible.

    Hope all is wonderful and awesomeness!

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