Theatre is a necessity in our schools – not only to foster creativity and personal autonomy, but also to help students develop their own forms of self-expression. As an educator, you can employ a variety of tactics to uplift student voices in the theatre classroom. Let’s explore a few.
Ways to Make Your Classroom Safe for Self Expression
- Encourage Artistic Exploration
Forms of self-expression are like snowflakes – each is unique. Some of your students may not be big talkers but emote through their acting, music, dance, painting, or other art form. Motivate your students to try out a variety of these mediums within your classroom, and encourage them to indulge without intense rules or major restraint. Keeping an open mind may unlock a plethora of new self-expression tactics.
- Offer A Modicum of Choices
Self-expression and autonomy are inextricably linked, so make sure you’re giving your students the ability to choose how to express themselves. Let them make their own choices, and be responsible for those choices. Let your students decide between different projects, subjects, or different aspects of their curriculum. You can still be in charge, but giving students the freedom to decide on certain educational components will help them to develop a freer sense of self.
- Don’t Stifle Communication and Expression Styles
Let each student develop his or her own styles of expression or communication, and avoid harsh critique or leading suggestions. By allowing a student to define their own ways to communicate, you are giving them the keys to confidence – both inside and outside your classroom.
- Offering Journaling or Quiet Time
Daily journaling – or even just a bit of time free from stimulation – is beneficial for just about everyone. Encourage your students to write down thoughts, feelings, or ideas in their journals during a quiet period in your class. This will help them to explore their own minds and emotions, allowing them to vent negative feelings or celebrate any wins, free from fear of a bad grade or prying eyes.
- Take Them Outdoors
Inspiration is often found in nature. Break the normal school expectation by letting your students convene with the great outdoors during class. Consider organizing an outdoor performance if you feel that your students are particularly fond of it.
How to Facilitate Beneficial Conversations
- Ask Questions About Students’ Feelings
As a teacher, you often have to balance the line between authority figures, mentors, and friends. But being a shoulder to lean on won’t undermine your authority. Encourage your students to talk about their feelings during class – whether it’s frustrations about a project, excitement over extracurriculars, or just daily grievances. Discuss their emotions with them, thus helping them grow into self-aware individuals.
- Present Writing Prompts
Some students have a hard time coming right out with their big emotions. To give them time to prepare, create writing prompts and allow students to sit with their feelings before sharing. Giving students the resources to properly communicate will reap benefits inside and outside the classroom.
- Address Anxiety, Fear, and Stage Fright
An experienced theatre teacher knows that not every student is ready to jump in front of a crowd and perform at the drop of a hat. Make sure to normalize feelings of anxiety/stage fright so your students don’t feel isolated. When kids have an open and honest conversation about how performing makes them feel, they will likely find relief… and feel more ready to be vulnerable on and off the stage.
How to Uplift Students to Speak
- Foster Inclusion in Your Classrooms
Many students feel lost, isolated, and afraid at school. Make sure your classroom is a safe haven for those students and all students. Fostering inclusion inside your classroom – by avoiding favorites and ensuring everyone has a say – means you are creating confidence within your students to speak up.
- Create a Judgement-Free Zone
An inclusive classroom is a classroom devoid of judgment. Make sure your students know you are a safe person with whom to confer, and make clear in your upfront expectations that no one should judge another student for acting choices or big emotions during your class.
- Break Into Small Groups
For those students who suffer from the aforementioned anxiety or stage fright, a great way to make them more comfortable is to break into small groups or ensembles for sharing or acting exercises. With less eyes on them, students will be able to gain some conviction in a safer environment.
- Encourage Silliness
Improv games and icebreakers are cornerstones in any drama class. Help students break down boundaries with these games, where they can learn to act and react in certain situations. Students will feel more comfortable if everyone collectively steps out of their respective comfort zones together.
On The Stage
It’s clear that theatre, aside from giving an excellent cultural education, is a necessity in schools in the way it helps to shape students. On The Stage presents a helpful infographic on the subject. And if you’re looking for extra help with your own theatre programs or classes, OTS can tackle just about everything – marketing and promotion, ticketing, fundraising, reporting, and more. Book a demo today to get started!
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