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Drama Strategies

The following page offers a number of drama based activities to enable further exploration of some of the themes and issues appearing in Bag of Beans.  They do not require specialist skills but descriptions of the basic techniques are included for those who have not used them before.  If class control is an anxiety for teachers inexperienced in drama, plan your lesson well in advance and ideally run the session with the support of another colleague or a classroom assistant.

Drama is a good distancing technique for young people as it allows them to explore situations that they may encounter in real life but from within the safety of a fictional context.

Warm-up Activity

It is important to warm up before doing drama to get our brains and our bodies ready for the type of work that we are going to do.  Warm-ups can also be a good way of introducing some of the themes or elements which will be involved in the drama scheme.

Standing in the circle ask the group to become different types of beans
Perhaps begin by making a suggestion e.g. runner beans – the children run on the spot.
Then ask for their suggestions – the might even make a few up.
Some examples:  jumping beans, jelly beans, baked beans, chilli beans, magic beans.

Hot seating

Someone takes on a particular role or character and is interviewed by the rest of the group.  This activity allows a character’s motivations and emotions to be examined in more depth.

The Pedlar, The Giant’s maid, Jack’s neighbour

Ask the pupils to take on the role of newspaper reporters.  Tell them they are going to interview key characters from Bag of Beans in order to gather information for an exclusive story they are going to write for their newspaper.  Prior to questioning the characters get the class to decide on a ‘slant’ for their story and to create a story to go with one of the following the headlines: “Jack the people’s hero” ,“I was robbed – The Giant’s Story told by his closest companion ”, “The Pedlar – the man behind the mystery”.

Still image

This is the creation of a still or frozen image using a group of people who ‘freeze’ in a pose to capture a particular moment, idea or theme, as in a photograph or painting.  This technique has distinct advantages when a teacher is exploring ideas or themes which pupils find complex or vague.

To create a single concrete image requires thought on the part of the pupils so that their image is precise and not misinterpreted.  Particular attention should be given to body posture and facial expressions.  How do others interpret the still image?  Who do they think is depicted and what is happening?  Allow time for adjustments for clarity and dramatic effect.

Ask the children to create a still image marking a moment from the story that they felt was of significance to them.  Ask the rest of the class to try to identify the moment being depicted.  Deepen the image by asking why the moment was important and what the character might have been thinking or feeling in that moment.  Get the children in the picture to articulate these thoughts/feelings as if they were the characters.

It may help to ask the pupils imagine that they are publishers responsible for producing a printed version of the text where there can only be one colour illustration.  They must choose which picture to depict.  Perhaps there is a title or strap-line below the picture, what does it say.  What would the characters be thinking or saying if the picture was brought to life? It is often the onlookers in a picture that have the most interesting things to contribute.

Perhaps create the picture of the giant’s fall showing the people of Jack’s village or the moment just before the giant begins to chase Jack

Role play

Individuals take on a character role and rehearse a scene that deals with a particular situation.  This technique allows young people to explore situations from a different perspective and to practice skills.

Villagers in Jack’s village discussing the famine and what they might do about it
The maid talking to one of her friends about events that have taken place within the castle recently
Market traders talking about the mysterious peddler who seems to be taking their trade

Forum theatre

In groups pupils can improvise scenes that deal with difficult situations or characters want very different things.  Ask them to end the scenes at a moment of crisis or where a choice or problem manifests, and show them to the whole class.

Replay the scenes inviting the observing pupils to stop the scenes at a point where they would have behaved differently in order to bring about a positive outcome for a particular character.  Ask them to step into the scene and show everyone what they would do or say.  The scene continues form that point until it is stopped again and a new suggestion is tried.  The teacher should remain as a neutral facilitator throughout, encouraging the pupils to consider the consequences of their actions.

In pairs get the children to improvise scenes showing the following:

Jack is asked by his mother to sell their cow he doesn’t want to? How does she persuade him, what does he do to try and avoid it?
Jack’s meeting with the pedlar; jack needs to take the cow to market the pedlar wants him to have the magic beans

Through forum theatre the children should be encouraged to explore a number of different responses to the problems encountered within the scenes, which could in turn affect the outcome of the story.

Teacher in role

This is when the teacher adopts a role in order to deepen the children’s understanding of the ideas and themes within the drama, to pass on important information or to shape the drama from within.
The children can also be put into role.

The teacher takes on the role of Jack’s mother talking to her friends.  She tells them that Jack has disappeared and that a giant beanstalk has grown outside their house.  She does not know what to do and wants their advice.  Should she try and get him?  Why might Jack have run away?

The teacher becomes the maid and tells her friends about Jack’s first visit to the castle.  She is worried what the giant will do if he finds out.  Does the maid suspect Jack of taking anything?  What should she do if Jack turns up again?

Where do you stand?

Bag of Beans also invites the pupils to consider the differing points of view of Jack and the Giant, and two story tellers. Some of the difference in opinion arises due to a lack of willingness to see the other character’s perspective.  In the case of the storytellers the older character is unwilling to accept the changes to the story that the younger character proposes. The following exercise can be used to begin exploring notions of progress.

Take two statements about progress:

We have to move with the times                                                                                     History is everything

Imagine that there is a line between these two statements. Place yourself on the line according to which one you agree with more. This can be done as a drama exercise with one end of a space representing one statement and the opposite end the other.

It can be done as a paper exercise with a line drawn between the two statements. The exercise encourages discussion and debate.
Other pairs of statements might be:

Jack is a thief and murderer                                                                                              Jack is a hero for killing the Giant

The Pedlar is the real hero of the story                                                                        The Pedlar should be punished for putting Jack in danger

Pupils can come up with other phrases to examine and debate


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