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Serious Play: Writing and Performing Plays With Children (page 2)

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Updated on Mar 21, 2013

Make ‘em laugh. The skills developed by working on a play are seriously important, but the subject of the play can be funny. Explore situation comedy, slapstick, fantasy and science-fiction. Generations of boys have learned to love reading when they encountered Douglas Adams and books such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Staging a scene from Adams’ hilarious novel will have everyone in stitches. The Hobbit crowd can begin with a remembered scene from a book or movie and take it in a new direction.

Convey a message. Simple role-playing helps younger children deal with the ups and downs of everyday life. Older children use realistic drama to deal with social issues. Writing and performing a play about a quarrel between friends or a lonely student new to the school helps children articulate the importance of friendship and what it takes to be a good friend. Making a play also gives children an opportunity to work as a team. In fact, one of the major benefits that Shepherd sees when her kindergarteners do a play is the opportunity to understand that “everyone’s role is important.”

No need to budget for costumes. Putting on a play can be as simple as writing lines and rehearsing until everyone comes in on cue and reads expressively. There is no need to fully costume each actor, but an item that fits the character adds credibility. Items as easy to find as a newspaper to rattle or a broom to lean on heighten the impact. Put together a bag or drawer of costume materials: hats, scarves, worn linens for capes and togas. Regardless of age, it’s important to give children room to invent and improvise. As Camera puts it, “Their characters became their spokespersons for ideas and forms of expression outside the parameters of formal essay writing.” It’s the opportunity to generate ideas and make expressive use of language that is most important.

Putting on a play, whether at home or at school, can be the highlight of the year. The time and effort invested in writing and performing a play pays off in so many ways. Shepherd acknowledges that it takes time to do plays with children, but she says there’s no doubt about the value of students participating in plays. “It is a win-win.”

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