November 17, 2021 | Kristen Jordan
Drama is an important part of our curriculum here in the Rivers Class. Drama allows children to engage in imaginary play and storytelling, both structured and unstructured.
As you may recall, we began the year with free play in a kitchen and with the bears. During that time, children took care of their bears, cooked food, served food, and pretended to role play at things that often sounded like experiences from their real lives.
“It’s time to go to sleep!”
“Just put your head down and I’ll come check on you in 5 minutes.”
“Here is your breakfast!”
“Let’s watch a movie!”
After giving the children time to engage in free play in drama, Ms. Gluckow immersed the children in a story: The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle. This is a book that children really enjoyed, and would often pick up on their own and say the words as they looked through it. So, we took that interest in the story and moved it into drama. Each child had a turn at playing the role of the quiet spider, busily spinning her web.
And each child was able to play many of the various animals who came to visit the spider. The children really enjoyed playing the various roles. It is fun to say “Meow” and “Moo”!
Some children feel comfortable playing the same role each time, while some children want to try each part. Giving children a choice about which part they play gives them practice thinking about and expressing the choices they make, and it allows them to have ownership over the role. Children are also learning to be patient as they take turns with others and gaining practice attending to the story when it is not their turn.
“I want to be my favorite–the purple cat.”
“I want to be the pig because it’s pink”
“Could I be all the animals?”
After telling the story of the spider and her friends for a few weeks, we moved into a new favorite tale: The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The children have fully thrown themselves into telling this story! Perhaps you have heard some big, mean troll voices or some tiny baby goat voices at home. This story, in particular, gives children a chance to use different voices (big and small, mean and kind) and express an array of emotions as they act out the various characters’ parts.
Again, children were given choices and took turns playing the various parts.
“I want to be the troll. And then I want to be goats!”
“I want to be a tiny goat.” (while using a tiny voice)
“I like being the troll.” (loudly, while showing a grumpy troll face)
It can take some time for children to build confidence to use a grumpy or big voice but practicing a story over and over helps children to grow in their desire and ability to express themselves. We have watched children’s confidence and comfort levels grow as they have been telling the story. It can also be really helpful to play a part together with a friend!
Once young children know a story so well, it is so fun for them to keep retelling it. And sometimes, they also decide to elaborate and make it their own!
“Elaina, do you want to be kids and bring flowers to a house over the bridge?”
“And the troll came back up to the bridge…”
“I want to make the flowers over here on the other side of the bridge!”
Using their own imaginations builds storytelling skills.
Much of our work in drama is literacy work for preschoolers. Both The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Very Busy Spider have repetition throughout and a change at the end of the story. Reading and hearing stories over and over helps children to gain understanding about the rhythm and language of literature, and helps to build vocabulary, as well as a love for stories.
But mostly, it is pure joy and fun!