13 High School Drama Activities To Get Them Going
Teaching drama in high school can be challenging, or the most fun class you've ever taught. In this article, I'll go over 13 great drama activities for high school students, and tell you what I've learned from my own experience as a drama teacher.
So here are my 13 exercises to give a great high school drama lesson:
Collectively Counting to 20
Not All At Once
No empty spots, follow the leader, word associating, telling a story simultaneously, depicting a word, chair thief.
Below, I'll first go over a couple of quick tips for getting the most out of your lesson. After that, I'll explain each exercise one by one.
Good Exercise Combinations
- Games 1 - 4 are great warmups.
- Games 5 - 10 are good main activities because they are longer and go more in-depth.
- Games 11 - 13 are great to end the lesson on a high note. Also, it's a great way to release energy - which your coworkers will thank you for.
Here are some combinations of main exercises that work well in my experience:
- 5, 6, and 7
- 8, 9, and 10
For the opening and ending, you can choose games you like or fit the general mood of the classroom.
Things to Consider When Setting Up Your Lesson
I usually try to do four to five games for each one-hour lesson. But it really depends on the size of the group (larger groups = less games).
For some games, each player needs some time to perform their role. With larger groups, it can then take A LOT of time. So make sure to account for this. If the group is extremely large, you might want to avoid these games altogether.
For larger groups, you might want to consider planning to do only activities where the group performs as a whole.
What To Look For in Drama Activities for High Schoolers
We want activities that have some sort of friendly competitive element. Students may find it difficult to relax and give themselves to the game fully. Some form of competition will help them to get their minds off their homework, video game, or rap career.
In my experience, students can get preoccupied with how their peers perceive them. This can make it difficult for them to start playing around. To get them going, I suggest using some high-energy games with some friendly competition.
The right activities will help, but your own mood is also important. High school students will reflect your own mood and motivation.
Some Tips on How To Start Your Lesson
- High energy
- Make it physical
- Include everybody for the first activity - make sure everybody is on the floor
- Make it fun
The first activity will determine the energy and focus of the rest of the lesson. So make sure you pick something that fits your goal for that lesson. If you want to work on collaboration, pick something that strengthens teamwork, like Not All At Once .
You can also use the warm-up exercise to balance out the energy in the group. If they feel particularly hyperactive or unfocused, use a focus exercise, like Collectively Counting to 20 .
So let's dive into the exercises.
This first exercise is great to increase the students' focus. This is the right opener for you if you feel your students aren't particularly focused at the moment, or if your next exercise requires extra focus and you want to prepare them for it.
The players form an intimate circle, standing shoulder to shoulder. The players count in random order from 1 to 20. Whenever two players use the same number simultaneously, the game starts over.
Tip : the group will think up tricks for cheating. For example, a small cough beforehand. I found it helps to ask the students to close their eyes, or to make them look at the ground.
Once you get their attention with a solid warmup exercise, let's keep increasing focus. With this game, we want them to be attentive to each other. Increasing awareness can be difficult for high-schoolers. I found that by increasing their awareness, they will open up and become more playful and have more fun during class.
Two players are facing each other. Player A starts to move and player B mirrors player A's movements and facial expression as closely as possible.
- A pair in front of audience. They agree on who starts and who mirrors. Then they perform in front of their audience. The audience shouldn't be able to tell who mirrors and who initiates the movements. After the performance, the audience may guess the initiator.
- Both players can both initiate and mirror at the same time.
Knee Tag is a great high-pace exercise. It really helps to activate them, especially when energy is low. Suitable as a warmup and ending exercise.
Players position themselves facing each other. Everyone uses one hand to tag and one hand to defend. Players want to tag each others knees. With the defending hand, players may protect themselves to try to avoid getting tagged.
Please note: if you end with this game, your students will be hyperactive when leaving the classroom. So make sure the next class isn't maths.
Whoosh Zap Boing
This game teaches them to be spontaneous and gets them to stop thinking and simply start acting. That's why it's a great warmup.
If you teach this class regularly, this one is great to repeat every single time. After a couple of times, they become really good at it - which increases enjoyment and engagement.
All players are standing in a circle. The game leader picks who goes first. He or she passes a 'WHOOSH' (a sweeping motion with both arms) to another player. The players pass on the sound to the person beside them. It doesn't matter which way.
After this round, 'BOING' gets introduced. BOING is crossing both arms and facing the person passing the 'WHOOSH'. This stops 'WHOOSH' and will make it change direction.
Lastly, the game leader introduces 'ZAP'. You ZAP by forming a pistol with your hands, pointing it at someone and yelling ZAP! This makes the WHOOSH jump to the person being ZAPPED.
You want to play this game at high speed. If a player moves before they're up, or make a wrong move or sound, it's game over. Players that are out sit down on the floor.
At the end of the game, only two players will remain. The class will have to come up with their own way to determine the winner (ie. rock-paper-scissors).
This is the last warmup exercise. Now you've got their attention, energy is high and they are focused and playful. Let's take a look at some great main exercises, which will require more focus and engagement, which is why we started with these games.
Now, let's get our drama on.
The following exercises go a little bit more deeply into drama techniques. I like to spend the majority of the class on these exercises.
This exercise focuses on the group instead of the individual. Also, it requires them to pay close attention to each other, which means they will become more attentive.
One person walks. The rest of the group stands still. There needs to be one person that walks at all times. It's the group's responsibility to ensure this.
Whenever the Walker stops, someone else needs to start walking immediately. The transition needs to be seamless. Also, whenever someone starts walking, the Walker needs to stop walking immediately.
The group will quickly find its own rhythm. After a while, they will probably walk and pause for the same amount of time every time. So make sure they stay present and switch it up.
This next exercise is an excellent follow-up, because it ups the tempo, reducing the time to think. This exercise focuses more on the individual player as part of the group (instead of the entire group).
The players walk across the room quickly (but they don't run). At all times, they want to keep the same exact distance between them. At the same time, they try to fill up the space entirely.
Naturally, the players shouldn't touch each other. When a player discovers a 'hole', he or she tries to fill it.
Every now and then, the game leader shouts "stop!", at which point everybody stands still. The game leader then checks whether the room is filled evenly.
Ideally you want that the players form one liquid mass, that fills the room without stopping, agile, and at an even pace.
Spicing It Up
Stop the group in the middle of a run, let them close their eyes, and ask them where a specific person stands in the room (make them point). This challenges them to be aware of their environment.
This is a main exercise that may require a bit more time. It can take a while for students to get the hang of it - so it's probably a good idea to allow them more time.
The group starts at their starting position. One of the players then starts a motion. The rest of the group mirrors the motion.
There is no fixed group leader. It's a dynamic role. Whoever starts the motion, becomes the temporary leader.
Ideally, the group and leader move as one. If the exercise is performed perfectly, you shouldn't be able to tell the leader from the group.
To Spice Things Up
After doing this exercise collectively, it's great fun to split up the group and let one half of the group watch the other half play the game. Make sure to discuss it afterward.
What will happen is the audience will see a narrative develop. Which is funny, because it's just a series of made-up movements.
This will teach them that on stage, everything gets a meaning attributed - whether you want to or not. So it matters what you do there.
If your students are prone to overthinking, this is a great game. It helps them to relax the mind and start to play.
All players are standing in a circle. The teacher says a word, and the person to the teacher's left immediately responds with a new word, based on their own association. After that, the next player responds with his or her word.
You only associate on the last word mentioned. Ideally, you don't think of anything in advance, and every word is stated spontaneously.
High schoolers can be notoriously selfish. I like this exercise because it teaches them the opposite. It's a great way to learn that not everything is about YOU. The group is valuable as well.
Two players both tell a different story to the audience. They tell it simultaneously. Afterward, you test both narrators by asking them to tell the other's story as if it were his or her own. You will find that both narrators are practically unable to retell each other's stories.
In round 2, the game leader asks two new players to tell a story simultaneously. This time, the game leader will pause the first story and start the next, then pause the second and start the first. Please note that they shouldn't react to each other's stories. They should only tell their own.
In round 3, the narrating pair determines when to pause their story themselves.
Ideally, you want the narrator to remain aware of the other narrator while telling his or her story.
High school students can find it extremely important how others perceive them. This exercise teaches them to let go control, and surprise yourself (by acting a little crazy).
Player A says a word. Without thinking, Player B and Player C quickly depict the word. The depiction can be either concrete or abstract - literally or figuratively. Player A claps his or her hands whenever he or she thinks the image is complete. Player B and Player C relax (at ease) and wait for Player A's next word.
The goal of this exercise is to loosen up the students. I've found that whenever they are able to let go, and not be afraid of what others might think, all of a sudden they start having A LOT of fun.
The next three games are great endings for your lesson.
This first end game is great for boosting self-esteem and positivity.
Everyone is standing in a large circle. One by one, a volunteer steps into the circle. He or she does or says something that takes at least five seconds. In response, the rest of the group applauds fiercely - regardless of what the volunteer did or said. The volunteer steps back into line, and the next one enters.
It can feel awkward at first, but give it a try. After a couple of rounds, people will stop wondering what the heck they are doing and start to feel great after their round of applause.
Teenagers can have low self-esteem, and especially drama lessons can be quite intense and demanding. So this exercise ends on unconditional positive note. It's also a great warmup. Ending your class this way will help them to remind it as positive instead of challenging.
This game is so much fun because it engages everybody every single time. It's my absolute favorite.
I like this game the best:
- it challenges them to act out / visualize without overthinking it
- activates a lot of game fun, humor, laughter
- it introduces them, in a very playful manner, to who, what, where
Who What Where is basic drama theory. Who are the roles - the relation, who is this about? What is the problem that needs to be solved or object. This is what fuels the scene. Where is the location - where does the scene unfold?
Of the team, three people go outside the classroom. The last person remains in the classroom (this is player 1). The class collectively thinks up the following (the game leader decides):
- a murderer (a profession or famous person)
- the murder weapon (arbitrary item)
- the location (specific spot)
The game leader starts the stopwatch. Player 1 collects player 2 from the corridor. He or she portrays the murderer, murder weapon and location. Player 2 then collects player 3 and portrays all three points. Player 3 then collects player 4 and portrays who, what and where. Player 4 in turn rapports to the group who was the murderer, what was the murder weapon, and where the crime was commited.
The team that's the fastest and with most correct answers wins.
Quick tip from experience: pick a person, an item and a location that are easily portrayed.
My other personal favorite.
Very high energy game. Because of the time pressure, the students are really engaged and generally have a lot of fun playing this. They also have to collaborate in order for it to work. I find that they always start collaborating at one point - it kind of forces them to do so.
All players sit on a chair, scattered throughout the room. There is one empty chair.
Player A gets appointed as the Chair Thief and stands at the opposite end of the room. Player A's goal is to sit on a chair. However, Player A may only walk slowly.
The group wants to prevent Player A from sitting on the empty chair. Contrary to Player A, they are allowed to run.
Whenever Player A walks towards the empty chair, they quickly switch chairs, leaving a new empty chair somewhere else in the room.
Now you know 13 great exercises to get your high school students going. Pick the ones you like or think will fit your group. Feel free to adapt, change and adjust. After all, you are the teacher, and you know your group best.
One last tip: always keep one trump game up your sleeve, in case one of the games you've picked doesn't work out after all.
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Theater Games Use Drama Techniques to Create Fun, Engaging Classroom Experiences
Sometimes we think theater games belong only in drama classes, but finding ways to apply these activities to your subject area can increase engagement, creativity, and critical thinking. It’s also a great way to get students moving around, interacting with each other and having fun with your subject matter.
Below are some theater games you can use in a variety of classes. Just keep your students’ ages, comfort levels, and physical and linguistic abilities in mind. You know what will work best with each group and what accommodations students might need. And don’t be afraid to alter these activities to really make them your own.
This game is typically best for eighth- to 12th-grade students who have a good command of English, as it requires them to improvise and know a variety of words that start with each letter of the alphabet. The game pairs students in a conversation where they take turns speaking back and forth on an assigned topic — trying to go from A to Z. The first word of each ensuing sentence must start with the next letter of the alphabet. Sentences still have to make sense and fit with the topic you give them.
This game can get students into a creative yet focused conversation on a general topic like ecosystems, or it can review something specific like key players during the Harlem Renaissance. For an added challenge, invite advanced student pairs to try to fit in terms or vocabulary words.
- Student 1 goes first, beginning a sentence with a word starting with A, such as “Are you ready for that test on the Industrial Revolution?”
- Student 2 replies with a sentence beginning with a word starting with the letter B, such as: “Better believe I’m prepared, and I know all about urbanization and labor unions.”
- Student 1 responds with the letter C, with a line like, “Can’t forget about Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, who got really rich during that time.”
- Student 2 would reply with the letter D, and so on.
If one student gets stuck, the partner can help out. If they’re both stuck, they can start over and see how far they get, or sit down and study.
Tips : It’s best to model this game first with a student you’ve prepped in advance. It’s also helpful to walk around during the activity to monitor and encourage each pair.
This improvisation game requires students to be focused, attentive listeners who are knowledgeable about the subject matter you’re choosing to review through this activity. In small groups of three to five, students work together to improvise a cohesive story. The catch is they must take turns, saying only one word of the story at a time.
In drama classes, this game quickly turns into a lively tale full of imagination and expressive body language to convey characters’ emotions. In a history, science or English class, you can still encourage that kind of drama to keep it fun vs. mechanical. You can also require students to fit in certain vocabulary words or key concepts.
Students can either practice this in groups around the room, or they can take turns standing in front of the class to tell a story. You can ask them to explain something such as how WWII began, give a summary of Sir Isaac Newton’s life and accomplishments or describe the major conflict in the play “A Raisin in the Sun.”
The topic and how you focus their attention is really up to you. You can also make this into a fun way to review before an exam by asking a question from their study guide and pointing to a specific group to respond, requiring them to take turns, saying only one word at a time.
Tips: Assigning groups cuts down on students getting distracted when working with their friends. It’s also important to make sure students understand they are on a team when they’re in a group, so when they’re practicing around the room they can help each other out. Groups will often have to start over. If you let them know that that’s part of the process (since we all make mistakes), then they will handle it better as individuals and as a team.
Angel/devil dilemma scene
This is a great game for studying moral dilemmas, using historical figures or famous fictional characters who faced difficult decisions pulling them in opposite directions. The activity can be really useful because students have to act things out to show they understand why somebody feels torn.
Groups of three or four students write, practice and act out the scene in front of the class. One person plays the historical figure struggling to make a decision. Another person plays the angel on one shoulder, and another plays the devil on the other shoulder.
If your groups number more than three, make them supporting characters who speak with the main person who is struggling internally — unsure whether to listen to the angel or the devil. If angel and devil figures seem too religious-sounding for your students, call them the conscience and the temptation, the superego, and the id, or the good voice and the bad voice.
Acting out scenes like this can help students solidify important literary scenes or historical moments in their minds. It can also help them develop empathy and fully comprehend the gravity of a situation by creating realistic dialogue, showing emotion, and including relevant details that demonstrate comprehension and critical thinking.
A group acts out the moment Juliet finds out her beloved Romeo killed her cousin Tybalt, and she doesn’t know what to think. Does she react with love and forgiveness — or rage and violence? Students act out both sides, adding depth to this brief but important moment that’s wedged between scenes of violence and romance.
Tips: Make things even more engaging by starting a discussion after groups perform their scenes: Ask students what they learned while performing and watching, and to apply it to their own lives. That’ll help them feel more connected to the characters or historical figures in the spotlight.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and a MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She has worked with adolescents for a decade as a middle school and high school English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, and a curriculum designer for high school and college courses. She works with 13- to 19-year-old students as a project manager of a nonprofit organization.
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For Building Improv Skills
- Freeze - Make a circle. Two people go into the middle of the circle and begin a scene (the leader can have premade characters and situations to help inspire the actors if needed). Anyone in the circle at any time can yell “freeze,” and the two in the middle literally freeze into place. The person that yelled “freeze” then goes in and taps out one of the frozen characters and then starts the scene in the exact physical position of the tapped-out character, but changes the storyline to something different. This continues until everyone has had a turn.
- Luggage Surpris e - The leader needs to have a suitcase and a trash bag full of random props. Before each actor comes on stage, sneak props into the suitcase. Either as individuals or in pairs, have actors arrive at a destination and give them two minutes to get out the suitcase and improvise reactions to what is inside.
- Duck, Duck, Cereal! - This is a fun variation from author Mel Paradis — instead of “goose,” the student that is “it” tags another actor and assigns a category such as cereal, fruit, sports, musicals, song names, etc. There isn’t a chase, but the tagged student stays in place and tries to name three items in the given category before the “it” student runs around the circle and gets back to them. If they can name three things, then “it” repeats the process with a new category. You can assign a higher number if three seems too simple. (From “Teaching Improv: The Essential Handbook” by Mel Paradis.)
- Hey Let’s... Always Yes - One of the best skills you can have in improv is the ability to say “yes” to whatever your partner is doing and roll with it. Make a set of notecards with an activity suggestion like “Hey let’s... try to ride this tandem bike!” and then the partner must agree and act out the activity for the group. Set a timer for one minute per scene and quickly hand the next pair a card to keep the fun rolling! A variation: Have one person say “Hey let’s…” and keep adding members who join in, or add members who suggest a new activity that everyone then joins the new activity.
- Story, Story, Die! - Choose four students to be storytellers and one pointer. The pointer picks one person to start the story and then randomly switches between people. The goal is to continue telling a cohesive story, picking up where the last person left off. A participant “dies” if they make a continuity error or if they hesitate too long before picking up the thread of the story. The audience can be the judge and participants can “die” an exaggerated stage death for more fun. The last person standing wins.
Plan a drama club summer social pool party with a sign up. View an Example
For Building Character
- Taxi Cab - Set four chairs in two rows of two (like a car). You can divide your group into fours. Actor one is the driver. The driver creates a unique character and begins the scene. Person two gets “picked up” and interacts with the driver as a new unique character (for example, someone who just got their wisdom teeth removed). The twist is the driver must take on the character of who they pick up and they begin to interact together (as in the example, now they are two people who just got their wisdom teeth removed). Then the third person gets picked up with a whole new character and the two people in the car become that character that just got picked up and again for the fourth person. After a minute or two (and the comedy unfolds), the fourth person gets “out” of the cab and the three remaining characters return to the third person’s character and so on, until only the driver remains and ends the scene in their original character.
- Fake News - Bring magazines with lots of people or print pictures of characters that will make for good storytelling. Have actors select a picture and give them a few minutes to create a backstory about this character and one minute to “become” that person for the group, whether just introducing themselves or putting the character into a situation. For added fun, have another actor get up and have their characters interact together for some fun improv.
- Cross the Street - The leader gathers the actors on one side of the room. Each actor is instructed to cross the street as the character the leader calls out, “Cross the street as _____.” These can be famous people, animals, even inanimate objects. For a twist, the leader can also call out if there is heavy traffic, rain or another factor influencing the scene.
- Where Did You Come From? - Have actors select three items from a grab bag or from a table with props (wigs, hats, beards, etc.). You could even offer pots of color and cotton swabs for some simple theatre makeup. Have each student create a character and give them a few minutes to work up their story. Then each has a turn to introduce themselves to the audience, sharing where they came from and where they are headed.
- Hair Apparent - Have students create some kind of crazy style with their hair. If you are in a camp setting, assign the actors to bring a hair accessory with them for the next day, but don’t tell them why. Then actors walk around the room, creating a character that emphasizes that physical feature, really having the hair take over their entire persona.
For Concentration Skills
- The Noise Machine - All actors stand in a circle with space to move between them. One actor begins the “machine” with a sound and a movement that they do simultaneously. Have the person next to them repeat the sound or movement and go around the circle till all have done the combination. The last person, however, instead of doing the sound or movement that has been passed around, makes a new combination and that new combination travels around the circle as quickly as possible, continuing on until everyone has had the chance to make their own noise machine combination.
- Crazy Party - Divide the actors into groups of five with one person as the party host. The host leaves the room and the four remaining characters each choose a personality and persona. The host then re-enters the room and the four characters exit. One-by-one the guests enter the “party” and the host has to concentrate on hints and clues to guess the person’s character. For a twist, have two characters come to the party at once and be a famous couple, like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
- Whoa! - Hold up both hands in a stop motion. A “whoa” changes the direction of the whoosh around the circle (i.e., if it was clockwise, the order now goes counterclockwise).
- Zap - Instead of passing the whoosh to your neighbor, it gets zapped to the person you point to with your hands clasped together. The receiver continues with either a whoosh to his neighbor, or another zap to another person. A “whoa” after a zap returns to the zapper.
- Groooooooovelicious - For this one the whole group bends down and up again in a kind of groovy way, all saying “groooooooovelicious.” Afterward, the person who started the groooooooovelicious sets the whoosh in motion again, in any direction.
- Freakout - Indicated by waving both hands in the air, everybody starts screaming and moves to the center of the circle. When everyone has freaked out, a new circle is formed and the starter of the freakout sets the whoosh in motion again.
- Memory Train (Musical Theater Version) - The group sits in a circle and the leader selects a commonly known musical such as “Aladdin.” The first person says, “I am putting on ‘Aladdin,’ and in my show I will need ____.” They can pick prop items, backstage equipment, costume pieces or even something obvious like the script! Each subsequent person repeats the phrase and adds an additional item, those that drop an item are out and scoot back out of the circle until a memory wizard is found.
- Lights, Name, Action! - Form a circle with your actors. Each one must share their name and a unique four-beat action such as tapping an elbow four times, patting their head four times, etc. After everyone has gone, have your first volunteer make eye contact with someone else, say their name and action, then switch places with that person. That named person continues the pattern as quickly as possible with another name and the four-beat action. This is a great way to get to know names, you can start each session with this activity and speed it up as your time together goes along.
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For Developing Physicality
- Mirror, Mirror - Have two actors stand facing each other and assign one to be the mirror and the other as the person looking into the mirror (or get creative and make it an animal looking into the mirror). Give them a minute for the mirror to try to perfectly copy the actions of the “looker.” Then have them switch roles.
- What in The World? - Have actors sit in a circle and have either a real or imaginary box (a shoe box is perfect). Have the first actor open the box and mime what’s inside, using only the face and upper body to reveal what they are finding in the box. Then have them close the lid and pass it to the next actor who also opens the lid, but finds something else inside and reacts to it. For an extra challenge, give all actors a golf pencil and notecard and have them guess what each actor is finding. Reveal answers at the end to see whose guess is closest to correct.
- Pass the Popcorn - Actors sit in a circle and each creates an imaginary object that must be passed around the circle without talking and using only physical expressions. They indicate its size, texture and even if it tastes good (or bad). For example: pass the water balloon, egg, beach ball, etc.
- Life as Art - At your local library, find a collection of artwork in a book (search for Louvre, Metropolitan Museum of Art, etc.) and select paintings with several people in them or even a large group. Have your actors take on one of the characters in the painting and see if they can recreate the scene. Once they have hit their mark they must freeze. For added fun, snap a picture of the group and then compare to the real art.
- Cheating Out Challenge - This activity is good for teaching actors to always try to face their audience (i.e., “cheating out”). First set up a simple, goofy obstacle course on stage. Actors must complete the course while facing the audience the entire time. To add to the challenge, have them sing a familiar song as they do the course to see if they can project their voice while moving and keeping their audience as their main focus.
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For Pure Fun
- Drama Circles - Drama circles are done with a set of cards which set the story into motion. The “Start Card” usually says something in a narrator’s voice, explaining the story. Card two continues on the story with something like, “When you hear (or see) _____, say (or do) _____.” That word or action is the clue to set the next card in motion and so on and so on. You can search for card ideas online.
- Frog on a log - One student gets down on all fours (log) and the frog sits gently on their back.
- Bird on a perch - One student gets down on one knee (perch) and the bird sits on the perch.
- Lion in a den - One person stands with their feet apart (den) and the lion lies down on the floor.
- Background Quiet - Often actors are asked to “converse” silently in the background while the action is out front. Have some fun with this by having one actor do a simple pre-selected monologue (or they can sing happy birthday). The challenge is to have two background actors have a silent conversation, trying to add to the scene, but not distract from the main actor. Have audience members give constructive feedback on whether they added or distracted from what was going on out front. Throw the audience for a loop by having the actors try to interrupt the action or actually start interacting with the main action and chat about what that does to the scene.
- Conga Character Line - Have all your students form a conga line. The actor in the front of the line must invent a character walk. This can be a limp, a skip or a combination of several things. Every person in the conga line must take the form of the person in front of them. Once the entire conga line of actors has taken on the characters walk at the front of the line, the teacher says, “next.” The actor in front of the line goes to the back and the next actor in front of the line takes on a new character walk.
- Jump In, Jump Out - Have actors form a circle and hold hands. There are only four jumping commands: In, Out, Left, Right. Sounds easy? Have the group say what you say and then do what you say to start. Have the group jump in, out, left and right for 30 seconds to get used to the concept. Then increase the challenge by telling your group to say what you say, but do the opposite. Go slow at first, but then speed it up for some comical fun!
Drama games and activities are a great way to decrease inhibitions and increase confidence. As the leader, don’t be afraid to participate — when they see you getting involved it inspires them to let loose and try new things. Enjoy using some of these games and activities at your next thespian gathering!
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.
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15 Theater Games for Drama Groups (Large or Small!)
Here is our list of the best theater games for groups .
Theater games for groups are activities involving role-play that help develop essential skills like focus, listening, cooperation, and improvisation. For example, Family Portrait and Communication Chain. The purpose of these activities is to warm up participants while teaching them valuable skills and building their confidence. Outside of the US these activities are called “theatre games.”
These activities are similar to improv games and can work as group icebreaker games . An i mprov prompt generator can help with these exercises.
This list includes:
- theatre games for small groups
- theatre games for large groups
- fun drama games
- musical theatre games
- high energy drama games
- team building drama games
Here we go!
List of Theater Games for Groups
There are many theater games that your team can try. From Try Not To Laugh to One-Word Story, here is a list of group theater games.
1. Pass The Energy Circle
Pass The Energy Circle is one of the best high-energy theater games to engage groups. The game involves synchronized sound-making.
Here is how to play:
- Have the participants gather around in a circle
- Select a caller who will lead the circle in making sounds
- The caller will give a sound to make. For example, the caller can say “boom,” “oops,” or “aah”
- After the caller makes the sound, the next person clockwise will make the same sound. Other participants will take turns to make the sound as fast as possible in the same clockwise direction
- The round ends with the caller being the last person to make the sound.
- Then the next person standing beside the caller becomes the next caller and gives a new sound to make. Other participants will take turns to make the sound as fast as possible in the same clockwise direction
- The game continues until everyone takes a turn to be the caller
The goal of the game is to transfer higher energy around the circle. In a round, each subsequent player should increase their pitch higher until the caller ends off with the highest pitch.
2. Try Not To Laugh
Try Not To Laugh is a super fun theater game for groups. As the name implies, the game requires players to resist laughing.
First, ask players to pretend that a particular teammate is invisible. Players will walk around, pretend to inspect an object, stare into space, or do anything besides interacting with the chosen player. The invisible player then tries to make the other players laugh. Any player that laughs has to leave the game.
The game will continue until only one player remains.
3. Pass The Clap
Pass The Clap is an energizing theater game where participants pass applause around a circle.
To play this game, participants gather in a circle. The leader starts the clap, and other players take turns clapping in a clockwise direction until the leader makes the final clap.
You can play this game in other variations. For instance, the participants can start the clap slowly and gradually increase the tempo over several rounds.
Drama-Freeze is one of the most interesting theater games for small groups. Here is how to play Drama-Freeze:
- Pair the participants into teams of two
- The first team spontaneously acts a random scene without discussing the scene beforehand
- While the two participants are acting, the supervisor of the game can call “freeze” anytime
- Once the supervisor says “freeze,” the acting team must remain still
- Then another team of two participants will take over the positions of the previous participants.
- Once the supervisor says “action,” the new team in the freeze position takes the drama up from there. However, the new participants must spontaneously come up with a scene entirely different from the one acted by the previous participants.
- Other teams also take turns to play in the same manner
It is not compulsory to group the participants in twos. The supervisor can randomly call out any two participants to play the game. However, all participants get to play before the game ends.
5. Jump Over The Imaginary Ball
Jump Over The Imaginary Ball is one of the best warm-up theater games for groups. The game involves leaping over a pretend ball. This exercise is great for keeping the participants energetic and active.
- Gather participants in a circle and choose a leader
- The leader pretends to throw a ball at the feet of the next participant.
- Then the participant will jump over the imaginary ball
- Other participants will imagine that the imaginary ball is moving around the circle under their feet and will take turns jumping over the ball
- The round ends with the leader making the last jump
As a variation, the leader can call different balls with varying sizes to get the participants to jump at different heights. For example, if the leader calls basketball, then the participants will make a bigger leap than if the leader calls tennis ball.
6. Emotion Game
Emotion Game is a theater game for groups to warm up and break the ice. To play this game, determine an order. Then one person acts as the caller. The caller will shout out emotions like “excited” or “moody,” and the first participant will come out to act out the emotion for a few seconds. Then, other participants will take turns acting out emotions called by the supervisor.
Emotion Game is an excellent theater game that helps students develop improvisation skills and emotional intelligence.
7. Communication Chain
Communication Chain is one of the best theater games for teams. The game involves participants expressing activities through gestures.
Here is how to play Communication Chain:
- Have participants form a straight line. All participants should face the same direction
- Select another participant who will be the last person on the line and take the lead
- The leader will write down an action. For instance, “I was taking a walk and saw someone. I waved and fell”
- After, the leader will tap the participant standing in front of them and demonstrate the action they wrote without verbal cues
- Then that participant taps the next person and demonstrates the action
- The demonstration will continue up to the beginning of the line. Then, the first person on the line will have to guess what the action is
The fun of the game lies in misunderstanding. When players misinterpret a gesture, the message gets muddled and miscommunicated, and the final participant’s guess can become hilariously off-base.
Using a charades prompt generator can help with material for the game.
8. One-Word Story
Storytelling exercises like One-Word Story are great theater games for small groups. The game involves each player volunteering a word to form a meaningful story.
You can play One-Word Story in these steps:
- Have the players sit round in a circle
- There will be a coordinator who will start the game. The game starts with the coordinator saying, “Once upon a time.” Then the coordinator follows the phrase with a random word
- The second player sitting next to the coordinator will say another word
- The third, fourth, fifth, and other players will also take turns to say a word. The words should form a meaningful sentence
- Then the players keep taking turns to say the words until the final players say “the” and “end”
You can make the one-word game challenging by eliminating players who take exceed a set amount of time to find a word that fits into the context. This game helps groups to improve thinking, improvisation, and listening skills.
9. Heads Up, Heads Down
Heads Up, Heads Down is a circle game ideal for small to medium-sized groups. The game aims to eliminate players who make eye contact. The exercise continues until a winner emerges.
Here is how to play Heads up, Heads down:
- First, select the game caller that will shout the directions
- Let the players gather around in a large circle
- All the players should keep their heads down at the start of the game
- When the supervisor calls “up,” the players must raise their heads simultaneously, look towards another player, and pause
- When the supervisor calls “down,” the players must bring their heads down. The players will raise their heads again and look at other players when the supervisor calls “up”
- If two players happen to look at each other directly, then they will be out of the game
- The game continues until there is a winner.
There will be one winner if three players play the last round. However, if there are just two players in the final round, then they are the winners.
Dance-Freeze is one of the most popular high-energy drama games for students, teams, and groups. You will need danceable music and participants ready to dance to play this game.
Here are the rules of the game:
- The participants must dance when the music starts playing
- When the music stops, the participants must stop dancing immediately and freeze at that last position they are in when the music stops playing.
- Any participant who keeps dancing is out of the game
- The game will continue until there is a winner
To make this game more challenging, you can have the participants sing along to the song. The participants who continue singing after the music stops playing must leave the game.
Here is a list of energetic songs that work great for the game.
11. Call A Number
Call A Number is a circle game ideal for warming up and gaining energy.
You can follow these simple steps to play this game:
- Give all the players ordered numbers. For instance, if there are 20 players, then each one will take any number from 1 to 20
- Next, have the players gather in a circle and decide who plays first
- The first player will mention a random number within the numbers of other players
- The player with the number mentioned by the first player must respond in time by mentioning the number of another player
- The game continues with players responding on time when another player calls their numbers
A player will lose and leave the game if he does not respond in time after another player calls his number. It is good to let the last two players be the winners. The game becomes very easy when only two players play it, taking forever to have a final winner.
Call A Number game is one of the better theater games that can improve players’ concentration and listening skills.
12. Stop And Walk
Stop And Walk is one of the most high energy theater games for big groups. You can use this game to warm up a large group in a fun way.
Here is how to play Stop And Walk:
- First, tell participants the “walk” and “stop” commands. When you say “walk,” participants must walk around. When you say “stop,” the participants must stop
- Repeat the two commands several times until participants get used to the game
- Next, switch the commands and announce this change. For example, when you say “walk,” participants will have to stop instead. When you say “stop,” participants will have to walk instead
- After repeating the reverse commands, you can add other commands like jump or dance. Let the participants know that “walk” means stop, “Stop” means walk, “Jump” means jump, and “Dance” means dance
- Say any of the commands randomly while participants try to carry them out without mistakes
- You can switch other commands too, like “jump” for “dance” and “dance” for “jump”
Although there is no winner in the Stop and Walk game, the game will keep your group active and engaged. The game is also good for laughs, as the struggle to remember and follow commands can be quite funny to behold.
13. Night Watchman
Night Watchman is one of the most fun theater games for big groups or small groups alike. This game requires players to imitate statues under the watch of a Night watchman. The players will try to move without getting caught.
To play this game,
- First, decide which player will be the Night watchman. This player can move around freely during the game
- Other players take the form of statues. The players can take a few steps around, but the Night watchman must not see them move
- Once the Night watchman sees a player move, the player is out of the game
- The Night watchman can do things to make the players laugh and move. However, the Night watchman cannot touch any of the players
- Set the rules of the game according. It would be best if you did not count breathing, blinking, and smiling as movements that will disqualify a player
You can customize the game to be just a fun no-winner game. In that case, any player that the Night watchman catches becomes the new Night watchman.
14. Tongue Twisters
Tongue Twisters are awesome theatre games for students, but other groups can also play them. A tongue twister consists of words that are difficult to articulate correctly without making mistakes. To play this game, prepare the Tongue Twisters for the game. All the participants can play individually.
Participants who successfully articulate the tongue twister will proceed to the next round. In the next round, give the participants a different tongue twister. The game will continue in rounds until there is a winner.
Here are some tongue twister ideas you can use for the game:
- She sells seashells by the seashore
- A big black bug bit a big black bear
- The great Greek grape growers grow great Greek grapes
- I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen
- I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream
- If you notice this notice, then you will notice that this notice is not worth noticing
- Any noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster more
- Rubber baby buggy bumpers
- Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?
You can have the participants say the Tongue Twisters just once or repeat several times.
15. Family Portrait
Family Portrait is one of the best theater games for groups. The game requires groups to make poses that imitate a particular type of family photo.
First, you will need to divide a big group into smaller groups. Then choose one player to be a caller who will give out commands. Each group will go on stage, and the caller will ask them to strike a pose of any random portrait. For instance:
- A rich, proud, and influential family
- Friends taking a picture in 1960
- A family picture ruined by an over-energetic child
- The shy family
Family Portrait helps to improve improvisation skills and create memorable moments for participants. You can also take pictures of the groups’ poses and laugh about the photos later with other group members.
Theater games are great ways to equip students and employees with valuable theater and people skills. The drama games you can play are equally beneficial for groups and teams in helping participants improve focus, quick-thinking, and teamwork.
For similar activities, check out these Zoom improv games and this list of improv books.
FAQ: Theater games for groups
Here are answers to questions about theater games for groups.
What are some good theater games for work?
Some good theater games for work include Stop And Walk, Communication Chain, Tongue Twisters, and Emotion Game. These games will keep employees engaged and help to build teams.
How do you play drama games with groups?
To play drama games with groups, decide which drama games your group would like to play. You can select the games based on group members’ suggestions. After deciding, you can have fun and play following the game’s rules you choose. You can further divide the group into smaller groups to make the games easier to play.
Why should you play drama games for team building?
Playing drama games for team building helps team members bond over the experience. The games will help team members develop focus, listening, and improvisation skills. Also, drama games like emotion games will break the ice and allow team members to feel free with one another.
Author: Grace He
Content Expert at teambuilding.com. Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.
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20 Fun And Exciting Drama Games
November 4, 2022 // by Seda Unlucay
Drama games are a wonderful way to build confidence, imagination, and self-expression skills. They also encourage students to work cooperatively and strengthen their empathy and listening skills all while having plenty of fun!
This collection of drama games features classic favorites and creative new ideas, ranging from movement-oriented improv games to pantomime, characterization, focus, and listening-based games. Whatever your choice, you can rest assured that they are each designed to develop teamwork, tolerance, and creativity!
1. Lines From a Hat
The traditional game begins with the audience writing down sentences on pieces of paper and placing them in a hat. The other actors then have to tell a coherent story that incorporates the phrases into their scenes. This is a classic improv game for building communication and on-the-spot thinking skills.
Learn More: CornerStoneSF
2. Music Conductor with Emotions
In this awareness-building exercise, students take on the role of musicians in an orchestra. The conductor creates sections for various emotions such as the sadness, joy, or fear section. Every time the conductor points to a particular section, the performers must make sounds to convey their assigned feeling.
Learn More: Live About
3. Challenging Drama Game
In this language-based acting game, students stand in a circle and begin to tell a story with one sentence each. The catch is that each player must start their sentence with the last letter of the last word of the person before them. This is an excellent game to develop listening and concentration skills while keeping students engaged and having fun.
Learn More: Tasty Cupcakes
4. Fun Drama Game for Teenagers
In this theater game, students are challenged to perform an entire scene composed only of questions or interrogative sentences. This is a great game for developing communication skills while telling a cohesive story.
Learn More: Drama Trunk
5. Tell a Story with Props
Students are sure to enjoy gathering a group of interesting objects and combining them together to tell an engaging story full of dramatic tension. You can make this activity more challenging by providing objects that are unrelated and require more critical thinking to combine together in a meaningful way.
Learn More: Teaching Ideas
6. Fun Improv Miming Game
Students start the game in a circle, passing a mimed ball to each other. The teacher can instruct the students to mime that the ball is heavy, light, getting bigger or smaller, becoming slippery, sticky, or hotter and colder. It’s a fun improv game for incorporating acting exercises into everyday lessons and easy enough for every drama student.
7. Two Truths and a Lie
In this classic drama game, which also serves as an easy ice breaker, students have to tell two truths and one lie about themselves and everyone else has to guess which statement is false. It’s a fun and easy way to put their acting skills to the test while getting to know their fellow classmates.
Learn More: Ice Breakers
8. Animal Characters
Students are each shown an animal card and have to pretend to become that animal by miming, gesturing, and making sounds and movements in order to find the other members of their animal tribe. This game leads to a lot of giggles when lions get mistakenly teamed up with mice or ducks with elephants!
Learn More: Kids English Theatre
9. Themed-Musical Chairs
This creative twist on musical chairs casts students as different actors in a well-known story. The player in the center calls out a character trait, such as everyone with a tail or everyone wearing a crown, and the students who have those traits have to rush to find an empty seat.
Learn More: Ice Breaker Ideas
10. Speak in Gibberish
One student picks a random sentence out of a hat and has to communicate its meaning by using only gestures and acting. They are allowed to speak in gibberish, but cannot use any real language. The other students then have to guess the meaning of the sentence based only on actions and intonation.
Learn More: Child Drama
11. Yes, And
In this captivating drama game, one person starts with an offer such as suggesting they go for a walk, and the other response with the word yes, before expanding on the idea.
Learn More: Hoopla Impro
12. Stand, Sit, Kneel, Lie
A group of four students explores a scene in which one actor must be standing, one sitting, one kneeling, and another lying down. Anytime one changes a posture, the others must also change theirs so that no two players are in the same pose.
Learn More: Improv Dr.
13. Imaginary Tug-of-War
In this movement-based game, students use pantomime and expressive acting to pull an imaginary rope over an indicated center line.
Learn More: Theatre Dance UTexas
14. Transform an Everyday Object
Students get to put their creativity to the test in this inventive game that challenges them to turn everyday household objects into anything they can imagine. A colander can become a pirate’s hat, a ruler can become a slithering snake and a wooden spoon can become a guitar!
15. Repurpose Selfies to Capture Emotions
In this drama game, students take selfies while attempting to express different emotions with their facial expressions.
Learn More: Ontario Curriculum
16. Simple Idea for Drama Class
In this character name game, students call out their name using a unique gesture and the rest of the circle has to echo their name and gesture.
Learn More: Teach Mag
17. Wink Murder
This simple and wildly popular drama game can be played with small or large groups and does not require any equipment. One student is chosen to be the ‘murderer’ and has to ‘kill’ as many people as possible by secretly winking at them.
Learn More: The Spruce Crafts
18. Pass the Sound
In this classic drama lesson, one person starts a sound and the next person picks it up and transforms it into another sound. Why not add movement to give the game a fun twist?
Learn More: Vaughan.ca
19. Build a Machine
One student starts a repetitive movement, such as bending their knee up and down and other students join with their own movements until a whole machine has been built.
Learn More: Bright Hub Education
20. Mirror, Mirror
Once partnered up, students face each other. One is the leader and the other has to duplicate their movements exactly. This simple game is a wonderful way to build spatial awareness and cooperation skills.
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10 Theatre Games Perfect For Drama Class
Games are the perfect way to break the ice and engage people of all ages. Within the structure of a drama class, games can be used as a get-to-know-you exercise, for warm-up, to introduce or practice a new skill or just for fun.
Here are 10 drama games that are ideal for your next class:
1. park bench.
Three chairs are set up in a row at the front. Pick one person to sit on the “park bench,” aka the row of chairs. They can pretend to read the newspaper, watch the birds, etc., but they must remain seated on the bench at all times. Select a second person to be the pedestrian. Their job is to embody a character and try to get the park bench occupant to laugh or leave the bench. They are not allowed any physical contact.
If the park bench occupant laughs or leaves the bench, the pedestrian takes their place. They become the park bench occupant and the game starts over. If the pedestrian is able to get the park bench occupant to laugh or leave the bench after an allotted amount of time, a new pedestrian is selected.
2. Party Quirks
Choose one person to be the party host and ask them to leave the room briefly. Choose three people to be party guests, and have the rest of the students suggest characters for each of them (such as man on a rollercoaster, Justin Bieber, girl who has lost her pet snake, etc.). The party host comes back into the room and returns to the front.
The party starts, and the first guest enters the party. They converse with the host while in character for one minute before the next guest enters the party to converse with the host. Stagger each guest until all three guests are at the party conversing with the host and each other. The guest must stay in character at all times. At the end of five minutes, the host must guess the character for each guest.
3. One-Word Story
This can be played in a small group or large group. The teacher starts the story with one sentence (i.e., “Once upon a time, there was a princess who dreamed of being an astronaut”). Moving clockwise around the circle, each student adds one word to the story. The circle is repeated as many times as the teacher deems necessary until they feel the story is finished.
4. Giants, Wizards and Elves
You will need a larger playing space for this one — going outside or into a gymnasium is preferable. This is like a giant game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Giants beat elves because they can step on them. Wizards beat giants because they can shrink them. Elves beat wizards because they are quick and can duck their magic.
Divide the students into two teams and put them on either side of the playing area. Teams huddle together and choose which of the three they will play first. They will also need to have a backup in the event that the other team has selected the same one.
Once both teams have chosen, they meet in the middle and face each other. The teacher calls out, “Ready, set, go!” and both teams must yell what they chose while acting it out. Whichever teams wins the face-off chases the other team back to their side and tries to tag as many players as possible. Any players they tag from the losing team must now join their team, and they continue onto the next round. The game is over when one team has all the players on its side.
5. Tableau Olympics
Divide the group into teams of four to six people and have each team choose a spot around the room. The teacher calls out a scene (such as Spiderman at the scene of a bank robbery, a birthday party gone wrong or a television awards show) and then counts down from 10. Teams have 10 seconds to organize a tableau and then freeze. The teacher then goes around and views each tableau before choosing a winner for that round. The winning team receives a point. Every student from the team must participate in the tableau or the team will be disqualified from the round.
Tip: Remind the students about the use of levels and facial expressions at the start of the game.
6. Change the Channel
Choose two to four students to start onstage and give them a scene to start (such as lifeguards rescuing someone from drowning). The teacher calls, “Action!” and the students begin acting out the given scene. At any point, the teacher calls “Freeze!” and the whole scene must freeze. The teacher selects one new volunteer, and they can tap any of the people onstage to go sit down and the assume that actor’s position.
When the teacher calls “Action!” again, the person who just tapped in must start a whole new scene based on the positions the remaining actors ended in. The other actors will need to improvise and join in the new scene. It must be completely different to the scene that was happening before. Every time the teacher calls “Freeze!” new students replace the previous ones and begin a new scene.
The teacher selects one person to be a gravekeeper, and they stand off to the side. The other students lie on their backs on the ground with their eyes open. They must stay completely still, with a straight face. The gravekeeper’s job is to go around and try to make each person laugh or speak using only acting. They are not allowed to touch the person on the ground. Anyone they succeed at making laugh is alive again and joins the gravekeeper in going around and trying to make the other students laugh or speak.
8. Simon Says (Stage Directions Version)
This is a great game for helping your students learn stage directions. This game follows the usual rules of “Simon Says.” Students should only do what the caller says if they say “Simon says.” If they do not put “Simon says” in front of the instruction and the student does it anyway, they are eliminated. The teacher calls out stage directions, such as downstage right or center. Students can only move to those places on the stage if the teacher says “Simon says” in front of it. Any students who move there otherwise are eliminated. Try to keep the calls coming quickly to keep the game interesting.
9. Greetings, Your Majesty
The teacher selects one student to sit in a chair and face away from the rest of the group. Ask the student in the chair to close their eyes. Select three students from the remaining group and have each one take a turn standing behind the chair and saying, “Greetings, your majesty” in whatever voice they like. Once all three students have gone, the student in the chair must guess who each one was.
Choose two to three actors to be onstage. Choose a director for each actor. The directors sit at the back, and the actors play out the scene at the front. The teacher assigns the actors a scene and the first direction, and the scene begins. The actors can only do what their directors say. The directors each take a turn narrating the scene, and the actors must act it out. Whenever the teacher sees fit, they can call “Cut!” and new actors and directors are selected.
Playing drama games is a great informal benchmark for where students are at in both comfort and range. Having them engage in games continuously over the length of the course allows you to see visible progress as students learn, become more comfortable and grow their abilities. Encourage everyone to participate and watch as they flourish and have fun!
Which drama games would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below…
Written by Katelynn Johnston
Katelynn is a writer and elementary arts teacher from Toronto. From acting to choreographing to directing, she has been fortunate enough to take part in a variety of shows.
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