Take a deep breath. Not with your shoulders, not into your lungs, but a breath right into your guts.
Now breathe out.
Do it again, twice as slowly.
This time, when you push out the air, make a humming noise.
Do it again but this time open up your mouth into an AAAHHH noise.
Now, go next door, and try really, really hard to concentrate while the rest of us shout through the wall.
How did you go?
Since introducing Drama at school, there have been a number of moments where other teachers have stopped and asked, “What the hell were you doing in that class?!”
That’s mostly a fair question. Drama is a notoriously mysterious subject.
I have had the following wild accusations railed at me, including “Don’t you all just do interpretive dance?” and “Drama is easy, all you do is talk about your feelings” and my favourite “Don’t you use, like, crayons, to mark kids’ work?”.
Brilliant. I happen to like crayons, thanks.
With this particular class, though, I could understand the scepticism. To my poor colleague through the wall, I also understand the frustration.
My goal for the class was “learning to project without hurting your voice.” The lesson was on breathing, projecting, and shouting HA!
This lesson was born of a frustration that my students were as loud as a bag of cicadas when they were chatting, and couldn’t muster a squeak in front of the class. So, I decided, that we would learn to be loud, properly.
I set a challenge first of all. Could the students be louder than me? (Pro tip for the competitive among you: sorry, you aren’t.) They loved this. A chance to try and out-shout the teacher? Gold. The only thing more satisfying than a silent, respectful classroom (which I love, don’t get me wrong) is a class shouting all together, at the top of their lungs.
What happened was this:
The more inhibitions and ‘rules’ that they had abided since the beginning of school, with regard to noise, that they abandoned, the more confident they became. What made this truly beneficial, however, was that well after the shouting was done, the class were louder. They were more articulate, happier to share, and most of all, they were finally projecting properly in class.
By learning, competing with their peers, and doing something they had been told to stop doing forever, students were actually learning projection skills. Which is, if you look back up to my goals, literally the only thing I wanted them to know. So to answer my colleague’s question, “That is what we were doing. Shouting. In class.”