For 7 years, I worked as the MYP Drama teacher for grades 6 to 9 at the Canadian International School of Beijing. The MYP Drama Program approaches theatre through inquiry-based learning. In addition to learning drama skills, techniques and styles, students must make real-world connections and answer a variety of inquiry questions through daily exploration. Some examples include:
- How can we use structure to engage the audience in our performance?
- Does the use of physical theatre techniques in a performance make it more accessible to an audience?
- Can modern-day stories be expressed through ancient theatrical styles?
- How can the skills I use while improvising help me in everyday life?
- How can we use our own identity and personality as inspiration for a masked character?
By learning theatre in this way, students improve their performance abilities, acquire skills that translate to everyday life and allow them to become lifelong learners and inquirers.
Below is a sample of units I created and taught during my time at CISB.
Unit – Is Anybody Out There…?
Students learned about how to communicate effectively with the audience through using stage skills like exaggeration, voice, movement, tableau, emotion/ expression and proper stage positioning. They also learned how to properly structure a script using the 5-step storytelling framework. This unit culminated with students writing their own original plays, performing them for the class and then reflecting on their experiences in their process journals.
Unit – Behind the Mask
This unit was an IDU with English Language & Literature and English Language Acquisition. It explored the concept of inner and outer persona and how we conceal and reveal our identities in different situations. Using mask performance skills, students created a short piece that showed both the private and public personas of the character they were studying.
Unit 1 – Yes, And…
Students learned the theatrical style of improv through a series of drama games, activities and performances. This culminated in an improv performance for the grade 6 students on the topic of issues and challenges in middle school. This unit assessment also followed the service learning framework.
Unit – Drama Queens
In this unit, students learned about the theatre style melodrama, including asides, stock characters, melodrama gestures and plot structure. They also explored whether or not older theatrical styles can be applied to modern day stories by creating a melodrama performance that was set in present day.