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Well, I'm now retired, worked in very crowded rooms when I was teaching, so
didn't do nearly as much of this as I would have liked. But anyway, a
couple things that come to mind.....
This was done by an Iowa Arts Council drama team. They asked the first
person to make a shape with their body and hold that position. Then a
second person added a shape by taking a position that complemented or
extended the first person's position. Each person in turn added or inserted
their own addition to the general composition.
In the art room, you may want to have half the class sketching the growing
composition with very simple, perhaps only geometric shapes. Or give them
an assortment of circles, squares and triangles to lay out the composition
as it builds. Later, I watched a very creative music teacher use this
general technique to have her students plan the staging of their musical
If you have an area that can work as the "framing", it could be useful for
understanding this as "composition" in artistic terms.
This could probably be a starting point for a collage exercise, with the
pieces as the insertions and additions.
I can see this as an introduction to a very right brain painting exercise in
composition in which an interesting shape is created on the paper--painted
and positioned in relationship to the edges of the space ( younger students
may need some size guidance). Then 2-4 more shapes are added, each in turn
painted in relationship to what is already on the canvas. Probably you'll
want to restrict the colors used in this stage to variations of one basic
color. Then the canvas is completed in what ever fashion the shapes and
spaces suggest. I use this "each shape is an actor and the page is the
stage" technique for much of my own painting.
Another way to use this kind of physical "thinking", is to have them take a
position illustrating an action and then draw it. A friend and I did this
for several months when we were spending our noon hours together for
drawing. One would hold a pose while the other drew. Then the first person
did a quick drawing from the kinesthetic memory of the pose--and we
compared the two. Junior High and middle School students can really get
into this if you tie figure drawing in with their sports interests.
Ask them to imagine themselves as a fence, tree, plant, flower, whatever,
being rained on, windblown, growing etc and then draw their object in the
environment that they felt was the most dramatic, exciting, or whatever.
This kind of meditative, personal drama may be done, depending on the class,
as individual preparation or for the class to observe and draw. One rather
amazing technique I have found useful is to have them first draw a circle
around themselves. Inside this circle they can concentrate and only those
things they allow can penetrate to bother them while they are visualizing,
drawing or working on their project. (It's also a very good technique for
test taking! Yes, art class teaches you useful things....)
It is important to remember that talking of any kind (and that includes
vocal music-- and teacher comments) can hinder this kind of concentration.
Melodic, rhythmic music, especially flute music and some new age music, is
useful--at low volume!!! I let them provide the music one day and then we
compared the work done--amazing! My favorite: Zamfir on the pan flute and
environmental water-type music. Tried one of the night sounds tapes--worked
well until the wolves howled --and then they all waited for that instead of
Another activity well done to various types of music is "whole body "
drawing. Your space is your paper and your whole body is your drawing tool.
Another more traditional drama type activity would be to give 2-3 students a
simple script to act out--something showing emotion or action preferably.
Let them plan this (with mirrors, if possible) so that the action can be
repeated --maybe in slow motion. Give the rest of the class viewfinders and
ask them to find a segment of the action that makes a good composition.
This really works best if you have room enough for the class to view in the
round or work in small groups so they can change viewing positions to find
With younger students, have them act out a familiar story before
illustrating it. For older students, use the acting out as the basis for
developing a cartoon series or, again, for selecting the composition for
illustrating a story.
One of the most memorable classes was a day when, first thing in the
morning, I came to the second grade room to find it --almost
literally--overflowing with woolly bear caterpillars. I scrapped everything
to have them crawl like catepillars --slowly!! under, over, around and
through-- and then we drew something in the room from a "caterpillar's
viewpoint". Drama, it seems to me, is useful in the art room because it is
both kinesthetic and visual--this was certainly that. <G>
With my little ones who would ask, for example, how to draw a dog, I would
ask them to think about their dog--does it have long ears, or short
ones--etc; Can you show me how he sits up? How his tail wags? Up and down
or sideways? After this kind of visual/kinesthetic remembering, they would
cheerfully draw their dog--in whatever their current development style might
This is very closely akin to the mindmapping process in creative
writing--once you know what you know--of course you can write about it! And
for the art room--if you don't know what it looks like--then look again....
Well, I'm not sure this is exactly what you are looking for. I have never
really considered myself to have much acting skill in the traditional sense
(or experience, either) so these are techniques I've developed to do my own
thing. Hope it helps.
And thanks for asking! I guess I'd never taken time to really think about
all these as classroom drama.