By Pepijn Giesbers, Academie voor Sociale Studies ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Last week I wrote a blog about the lessons I developed and gave to the children of grade 7. The kids and I learned a lot from each other.

This time I developed a totally other lesson. This lesson was not about sketching but about playing and theatre. In three different games, the kids from grade 1, 2 and 3 learned to show, see and feel their own feelings and emotions.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands Jet Bussemaker has a beautiful explanation of why theatre is so important.
Quote Jet Bussemaker
“Culture takes you out of your comfort zone – you learn to look at yourself and the world around you in a different way. Theatre for and with young people is invaluable for this. In the theatre, you can just leave reality behind and give space to imagination and expression, by looking at it or by playing theatre or dancing together. In this way, young people develop a creative, inquisitive attitude and a flexible and open mind. Important skills for young people to grow into independent global citizens (Platform Theater, 2016).”
Progress lesson (1/2)
I have done this lesson a number of times with 10 children at a time. So not like last week where I gave a lesson to 44 children at the same time. This time giving personal attention to these children as possible and easy to get involved with individuals in this lesson.
Every time I started the lesson with a general explanation of what we were going to do and what was expected of the children. I told the kids that we were going to play some games. But not general games, games about showing your emotions, with your body, voice and facial expressions.
Then I started with my first game, the first three times I gave this lesson I started with the greeting game (explanation will follow). I wanted to start realistic so kids can easily understand what the purpose of the lesson was. It differed per class how they picked it up. Some of them were really easy and picked it up imminently others needed some more time to concentrate. So that’s why I also tried to start with the fairytale forest game (explanation will follow). This game is way more extravert and not realistic (it has a more imaginative theme) as the greeting game. That could make it harder to do for older kids but easier for younger kids because they feel shameless when they need to act very extravert.
I can understand that you are thinking please explain to me those games and what the kids learn from the games and how they work. So I will tell you.
Greeting game
At first, the greeting game this game takes about 15 minutes time. The goal of the game is to let the children portray an emotion as they know it from a situation or role or figure. But also to learn how to greet someone in real life. If you are happy do you respond differently than when you are sad or angry with something or someone?

First you let the children sit in a circle and ask the following questions:

  • What do you do when you meet someone you know?
  • How do you greet?
  • What do you say?
  • Do you wave?

Then you come up with a simple greeting text with the children, for example:

  • “Hello how are you?” – “Good and how are you?”
  • “Also fine!’ – “bye!”

Then ask for two volunteers who should step in the middle of the circle. Here they meet and do the pre-conceived greeting text. Then it’s everyone’s turn.
Let the children stand opposite each other in two rows (at an arm’s length). Then tell them that it is now their turn to greet the partner across the street, so the game is called the greeting game. But this not only in a normal way like this, this will happen in all sorts of different ways.
Start again with the simple greeting text, ask the children to greet each other in a normal way.
Next come the following figures that represent different emotions and / or roles:

  • Frightened
  • Happy
  • Shy
  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Brave
  • Tired
  • Ill
  • Stinky
  • Lovely
  • Grandma/grandpa
  • Teacher
  • In a hurry
  • The Play Sport4Life coach

Also ask the children themselves for examples and finally the assignments can also be mixed: for example, child 1 is very happy, while child 2 is very angry.
Fairytale forest
The second game is the fairytale forest as the same as the last game this game can takes about 15 minutes. This game aims to become more aware of how you portray emotions with the whole body, voice/sound and facial expression.
The children walk on a delimited space on the playing ground. You tell them they are in the fairytale forest. All kinds of fairy-tale characters live in the fairytale forest. First a witch comes out of the bushes. All children assume the position of a witch. When act a character, it helps to name different body parts.
For instance:
• make witch’s hands
• make witch’s arms
• make a witch’s back
• make witch’s legs
• make witch’s buttocks
• make a witch’s face

You can also have them make a sound. For example a witch laugh. If the children have adopted the posture of the character, have them briefly perform an act like the character. In the case of the witch this can be, for example: picking mushrooms or making a witch potion.
Then do the same with the following examples and / or ask the children for examples: the bad wolf, grandmother, a giant and little red riding hood etcetera.

Progress lesson (2/2)
It was really funny and nice to play these games with the kids. Sometimes it was really hard to get the goal clear for the kids and do not let them think they are just playing games for fun.
After the last game called mirroring (what I will discuss at last) I did some reflection at the end of the lesson as in the Sketch your life environment lesson. During the reflection I asked questions like:

  • Did you like the lesson?
  • What game did you like most or less?
  • Why did you (not) like about that game?
  • Which emotion was the easiest for you to show?
  • What was hard for you to express?
  • Which emoticons did you need to express during the lesson?
  • What did you learn?
    Throughout asking these questions the children gave me a lot of feedback:
  • I learned how to be happy, sad, angry and Ill
  • Now I know how to be happy and brave
  • I learned how to be strong and sad, before it was difficult for me
  • Before this it was difficult to act angry
  • I learned how to be nice and angry
    Next time when I am going to give this lesson I also want to advance it a bit. This through whispering to the half of the group an emotion in which they need to act (f.e. in a hurry) to the other half of the class when they meet each other. The others need to guess that emotion and moreover explain what they feel when someone is approaching them like the other persons just did (f.e. uncomfortable or felt passed by the other person).
    Like I promised you the last game mirroring during the blog you can read the explanation in underneath. Hopefully I can let you know soon what else I learned these lovely kids from Factreton Primary and what I learned myself during these lessons.
    The third and last game is the mirroring game and takes about 10 minutes. This game aims on the awareness of how others express emotions and how you can portray your emotions to others.
    The children needs to stand on opposite sides in two rows (two meters apart). The one shows everything, the other is the mirror image and imitates this as precisely as possible. If necessary, tell the children to pay attention to each other’s facial expressions and hand movements.
    Start with simple movements to music (tell them to move slowly). Then you can expand this game to a drama game.
    The teacher gives assignments, such as “we are in church” “we are visiting grandma”, “we are going to the zoo or on safari”, “we are very happy”, “we have lost a football match” etc.
    • The stupid mirror:
    o He does everything exactly wrong. Does the child go to the left, he goes to the right, the child picks up a hairbrush, he has lost the brush etc.
    • The lazy mirror image:
    o does everything reluctantly and only halfway.
    • The mean mirror:
    o When the real person does not look, the mirror does all nasty things.
    • The hysterical mirror:
    o Makes everything 10x larger than is done in real life

Quote from the Minister of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands Jet Bussemaker is extracted from:
Platform Theater. (2016, Maart). Platform Theater. Opgehaald van Platform Theater:

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