Drama games generally fall into one of three categories: physical, verbal or concentration. Some will overlap and others will not be so clearly defined but, as a guide, these three definitions apply to the majority of drama games.
Young people (and adults!) learn a tremendous amount from playing games and drama games are just a natural extension of a young child's normal play behaviour. The difference, however, is that drama games will also teach the participants to understand rules, instructions and acceptable modes of behaviour. They also help to build confidence in those who are shy or reluctant, and will often reduce aggressive behaviour. This is why I feel that it is perfectly acceptable, certainly as a Primary teacher, to spend some time on games alone and not to feel too guilty about not 'progressing' to more complex drama work. A term of games can achieve a great deal in the learning development of a group of Primary-aged children - so go ahead!
Some of the most popular and useful games I have used with a wide variety of age groups and abilities are as follows :-
Good for all ages. Physical! Excellent for developing speaking and listening skills.
Sit participants in a circle on chairs. Give each one the name of a fruit in sequence, e.g. apple, pear, banana, apple, pear, banana, and so on until everyone has a fruit name. Nominate one person to stand in the middle of the circle (or ask for a willing volunteer!) and take their chair away - you now have one less chair than there are participants.
The person in the middle shouts out the name of one of the fruits allocated and all participants with that fruit name must dash out of their seats and run to another chair. They are NOT allowed to go back to their own chairs, and in large groups they are also not allowed to simply move to the seat next to theirs. As the 'fruits' are changing places, the person in the middle must also try and find a seat. When everyone has dashed to swap seats, there will be one person left in the middle again. He or she calls out the name of a fruit - it can be the same one or a different one - and the whole process begins again. If, however, the person in the middle calls out 'FRUITBOWL!' everyone in the circle must change places and move to a new seat! Two fruits can also be called at once.
This is a game which can become very frantic and some young children can get silly with the excitement of it all and begin pushing and shoving their way onto chairs - this needs to be checked.
Good for Year 2 upwards. Mildly physical. Improves concentration and teaches names.
An odd number of participants is needed - teachers can always join in! Put chairs in a circle. Ask participants to get into pairs, one person sitting on a chair and their partner standing behind them. One person will be left standing behind an empty chair. Discard all other chairs not being used. Those sitting down are the 'prisoners', those standing behind them are the 'guards'. Any guard with an empty prison, i.e. no prisoner sitting in front of them, must try to fill it by calling the name of one of the prisoners seated. That prisoner then tries to escape to the new prison by making a mad dash for the empty chair in front of the guard who has just called his or her name. The guard standing behind the prisoner trying to escape must try and stop this by tapping the prisoner lightly on the shoulder or back. If the guard manages to tap his or her prisoner before he/she escapes, then the prisoner remains, if, however, the guard misses, then the prisoner is free to go to the new prison. There will now be a new guard with an empty prison and he or she must call out the name of a prisoner sitting down - it can be the same one but, preferably, someone new - to try and fill the empty prison in front of them. Guards must stand at all times a little way behind their prisons, with their hands behind their backs. Prisoners must sit firmly on their chairs and not perch on the edge! The game should continue until it builds up a bit of speed and everyone has had a 'turn' and then swap the children over, to give new guards and prisoners a go.
Please watch out for anyone not being chosen and don't let the game run for too long or they'll get bored.
Good for younger children. Very physical. Aids memory and develops listening skills.
Sit the group in a circle. Give each person the name of a fish in sequence around the circle, e.g. Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Cod, Haddock, Plaice, and so on until all have a fish name. When the teacher calls out the name of a particular fish, all those with that name have to run clockwise around the outside of the circle and back to their place. It's basically a race to get back to your seat first and the last one back loses a life - each participant has three lives. The additional twits is that, during any time whilst the participants are running, the teacher can call out 'Tide Turn!' and all those running must immediately turn and run in the opposite direction back to their places. The command 'Tide Turn' can be called at any time and any number of times! This encourages participants to concentrate and listen carefully for the command. Once all three lives have gone, that participant plays no further part in the game.
Please watch for children forgetting their fish name, forgetting their place and pushing as they are running - it can become quite frantic! Make sure you know who was last back to their seat!!
LOOK DOWN, LOOK UP
Good for all ages. Non-physical. Excellent for concentration. Calming!
Stand group in a circle. Teacher gives instructions for everyone to 'Look Down'. On the command 'Look Up', everyone must look up and make direct eye contact with someone else in the circle who is participating in the game. They are not allowed to change eye direction or glance ineffectually, or look at the ceiling! If the person they make direct eye contact with is also looking at them, both participants are out and have to sit down. Continue saying 'Look Down, Look Up' until you have a winner or winners. This can be played with any number of participants and can go on for a long time.
Make sure that those who are out keep quiet so that participants still playing can concentrate and hear the commands. Please watch carefully for cheating and immediately remove anyone not playing properly or fairly.
Sit participants in a circle. Choose a 'detective' - he or she leaves the room. Remaining participants shut their eyes and bow their heads - ensure no-one cheats! Teacher walks around outside of the circle and taps one of the participants on the back - he/she then becomes the 'murderer'. The murderer must not be revealed to the other players. He or she must then murder the others in the circle by winking silently at them. Those murdered should die horribly - either by collapsing or by falling off their chairs.
The detective is reintroduced as soon as the murderer is chosen and, by standing in the centre of the circle, must try to guess who the murderer is. The detective is allowed two or three guesses. Other players must try not to give away who the murderer is. If the detective doesn't guess in the two or three goes, the murderer is then asked to reveal his/herself by standing up. Either way, a new detective and murderer are chosen and the game begins again. Theatrical/acting skills can be introduced by asking participants to think about and portray their methods of death when dying, e.g. strangulation, falling off a cliff, poisoning, etc.
Teachers should praise 'good' deaths, watch carefully for cheats, take care not to allow the detective too much time, be fair to both sexes when choosing murderers and detectives, consider choosing two murderers on occasions - to make the game more interesting - and be prepared for a headache!
CATCH MY NAME
Sit or stand participants in a circle (or in their classroom places). Use a beanbag or small, soft ball. Give this to one of the participants and ask them to throw it to someone else in the group, calling out the name of the person they are throwing to. Ask that person to throw to someone else. Allow this throwing and catching process to continue until it is achieved with some speed.
Follow-on: Introduce another beanbag or ball, so that two are being thrown at the same time. Instruct the thrower to remain silent and tell the catcher to shout out the name of the person who has thrown to them. Instruct the thrower to remain silent and ask everyone to call out the name of the thrower.