10 ways to liven up your drama space

Holly Barradell

Welcoming us to 2018 is a guest post from Holly Barradell. Holly’s shared this piece with us – adapted from an article appearing in Primary School Management – which presents a 10-step guide to enhancing school hall facilities, in ways that’ll help to improve your performing arts provision.

  1. One of the requirements in the English Primary National Curriculum is for pupils to be “Competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.” There’s no better way of doing this than by using a stage, along with a lectern and a sound system.
  1. The same goes for the curriculum’s requirement that pupils be able to ‘perform’ and ‘listen to’ music. Simple rostra blocks can be rearranged into different shapes and sizes to form simple staging that will support both. ‘Block stages’ can also be used as tiered seating for the children during assemblies, improving sight lines for all.
  1. The school’s art club (or possibly a class following a particular unit of work in art) can paint designs on canvas that will edge the staging blocks. This will cover gaps and prevent audiences from being able to see under the stage. The designs can be changed as frequently as needed.
  1. Staging that flattens down can be easily stored to one side of the hall or in a cupboard without taking up too much space (depending on how large your halls/cupboards are, of course). Staging blocks tend to be hollow, which lets you store smaller items, such as props, underneath them. Either way, you’ll be saving space!
  1. Once your staging is set up, you might be wondering what to do with your audience. Be creative – try using bean bags, benches and blocks, as well as chairs of course! Keeping things varied can be a nice way to differentiate, and will also help students with additional needs to sit more comfortably.

    Theatre pic
    (PIC: Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash)
  1. You needn’t go to the expense of having lighting bars hung from the ceiling – besides, this will often prevent students from accessing them and learning about them. Go for more cost-effective boom bars or T-bars, which will let students learn how to rig lights, focus them and add colours and effects.
  1. LED lighting might be costly to install, but it’s more economical for the school’s utility bills in the long run. Multicoloured LED lighting can further save on the added expense of colour gels and gel frames, and help to deliver great sensory experiences and learning opportunities for SEND pupils.
  1. Pupils can learn a lot about staging, lighting and direction with the aid of scale models. If you’re confident enough (and have the time to spare), you can construct your own. Otherwise, you can purchase model staging kits intended for schools that contain everything you’ll need in one handy package, with prices starting at around £350.
  1. A simple freestanding tripod projection screen with a black border frame can be used on stage to create scenery and backdrops. By setting up a laptop with a PowerPoint and cycling through different slides, you can produce the effect of scene changes while providing a nice link to IT. It’s also useful for presentations during assemblies.
  1. Staging and LED lighting in place? Performances ready to go? Remember that the work your pupils put into performance design and preparation can be recognised by achieving an Arts Award! Discover and Explore – and Bronze for any students aged 11+ – can fit alongside your existing activities. Use our mapping resources to identify ways of linking your performing arts work to the evidence requirements at each level!

Holly Barradell is an Ofqual Drama Subject Expert, GCSE Drama examiner and specialist teacher of Drama from Years 1 to 11 at a MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Follow her @drama_holly

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