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Small actions, big results

Students often come to drama classes with big goals: get the lead in the show! Become a star performer! And while some students may be making great strides toward achieving these big goals, most don’t really know how to get started, or they want too much, too fast, and it’s gone. They might even think it’s work too hard.

So how can we help our students achieve their goals and grow as performers? Encourage them to start small!

Start by asking your students this question of the day: What is one small thing you can focus on this week to improve your performance in drama class? Ask students to create a list of small action steps related to their performance that they could improve. Actions must be very small and specific. If it’s longer than a single sentence, they need to cut it down even more. Here are some suggestions for students to start with:

  • Pronouncing “ings” or “ts” while speaking and/or singing
  • 2% increase in spoken volume
  • Shoulder Drop (Release tension! Relax your body!)
  • Observing, then adjusting eye contact (Where are you looking? Where should you be looking?)
  • Release tension from the jaw (Try to move your tongue away from the roof of your mouth.)
  • Standing straight
  • Unfolding arms during blocking instructions or note sessions
  • Taking your hands out of your pockets
  • Pointing toes during dance combinations
  • Finger extension during dance combinations
  • Volunteer to answer one more question per class
  • Stay quiet between scenes (It is common for drama students to immediately chat with their neighbors when the teacher/director calls the crew to stop.)

Small actions add up. During a week where you focus on stage or performances, ask students to go back to the brainstorming list and choose a micro-action that they would like to focus on personally. Their aim is to apply this action to their acting activity that week, either in rehearsal or performing in front of the class.

Have students take out a new sheet of paper and write their microfocus action at the top of the page along with their name. Draw a table with four columns and six rows. In the left column, write each day of the week, leaving space between each heading. (You can also use practice journal found at the bottom of this article.) Each day for a week, at the end of class, have students complete the following exit ticket:

  • Rate out of ten how successful you were in remembering and applying the micro-action to today’s class/rehearsal/performance (10 being that you remembered and applying the action to every aspect of your performance, 1 being that you did not -you never mentioned or applied any action part of your performance).
  • Write down two comments for yourself (one positive, one constructive) about your work on your action during today’s class/rehearsal/performance.

At the end of the week, ask students to look back at their class work on their small actions. Ask them to answer the following reflection questions:

  • Have you been successful in applying and practicing your micro-action? Why or why not?
  • What changes have you noticed since you started working on your micro-action?
  • How has working on your micro-action helped you become a better performer?

If you want, have students do a second check-in after a month for their micro-actions:

  • Since the beginning of the month, what changes have you noticed since working on your micro-action? (Or did you forget about it?)
  • How did this small action affect your performance in drama class?
  • What will be your next micro-action goal in the future?

Click here for a free workout log and evaluation rubric.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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