Home > Uncategorized > Forum Theatre and Puppetry

Forum Theatre and Puppetry

Today’s Warm-up Strategy: Captioning

Mo Willems has great books with captioning (Pigeon series, Elephant and Piggy series). You can take out the original text and have students put in their own text then act it out! Tons of fun to do and results can be quite hilarious.



Forum theatre (Augusto Boal)

So we revisited forum theatre since we did mostly image theatre with Sarah. A lot of forum theatre can of course be built on image theatre. It is usually unscripted which takes pressure off actors to memorize lines. Audience can come and replace both the oppressed or the oppressor.

Ideas for Forum Theatre: Have a Box of Compliments and Complaints. Students add to it throughout the year anonymously. The teacher picks out an issue (students will know their concern will be shared but anonymously) perhaps one a week to use with Forum Theatre. Alternate between compliments and complaints.  Once the Box has been introduce and explained, students can at any point, write their thoughts and put in box. You might want to start off with just discussing issues and not use forum theatre. For  younger students that can’t write yet, they can ask adult/teacher to write it with them. Or they may try their best to write it on their own and it’s alright if some of them you won’t be able to read. Sometimes its just about voicing concerns for students- that they have an avenue to express their feelings even if they aren’t used for discussion or for theatre. Keep a chart with guiding sentences to help them write:

“I don’t like it when________b/c _________ .” or “It upsets me when__________b/c__________.”

Forum Theatre with class example: a student feels wronged when the teacher tells her she must stay after school. She was ill and was absent from school for a few days and did not know that a rule had been made: no students are allowed in cloak room area during seat work time- only right before, during, after break times.

How to:

  • Teacher directs, and establishes setting. eg. bell has rung, it’s morning seat work time
  • if you have time, actors can sit and talk about what happens in the scene then perform it once for the audience
  • next time, audience members can yell stop, and one person will choose to replace someone and tell the actors where they want to pick up
  • audience member can come in as new character but has to be realistic to the scene
  • teacher asks the oppressed individual “how did that (the change in the scene) make you feel?” That individual can share how the change makes him/her feel.

Limitations: Frustration for actors having to re-do scenes over and over, and requires a lot of improv- students can have hard time reacting to the changes in the scene and continue with what they did the first time even though something has changed in the scene. Another problem is nobody wants to stop the scene and jump in! (is this just because we are new and still uncomfortable?) Teacher might have to act as Joker and facilitate audience jumping in. Joker often asks incredulously when no one is stopping the scene Is there nothing you want to stop???? Might have to stare and challenge people…this might be even more uncomfortable for teacher and audience.  The younger the students (K or Gr.1), the shorter and more direct it needs to be. For example, in the above scenario, the scene could be just the very brief moment when she goes to the cloak room and teacher reprimands her when she comes back. That’s it!   Short, direct, and to the point. Teacher needs to direct much more and keep it very very small and manageable for younger students.

Benefits: really great for conflict resolution, but also great to integrate into curriculum. It does not have it be about issues in class because it requires high comfort level and is risky for students. It could simply be forum theatre about topics in social studies, science, or language arts (eg. explorers, pioneers). This is really engaging for many students, they have fun doing it so as uncomfortable I might be, I just have to believe and remember to have high expectations!!! The students CAN do it! But I have to try first!

Check out David Diamond’s Headline Theatre to see more of forum theatre in actions http://www.headlinestheatre.com/intro.htm


Today’s task: with a group of 6, do a small scene using puppets it has to have somehting to do with math

Benefits: It’s completely hilarious when adults do this! but of course also fun for kids to do. It can easily be incorporated into story time/read alouds, or when doing chants, poems, songs. If you do the Daily 5, it can be used at Read to Self or Read to Someone- kids love to read to puppets! They are really good for students that are shy or who are uncomfortable with being in front of an audience; by having a puppet, they can allow the puppet to do the talking and worry less about eyes on themselves. Students really do respond to the characters. I have also seen drama used as a way for non-verbal students to communicate. Although these two students still didn’t speak, they made noises and sounds which was a HUGE step for them.

Puppets are also great to integrate the visual arts with drama. There are lots of different kinds of puppets, but they can get expensive if you’re buying them all. Finger puppets are surprisingly pricey! One solution is to make puppets with the students. They can be more labour intensive like paper mache and fabric puppets or less arduous ones like sock puppets. they can also be super simple stick puppets using paper and popsicle sticks or paper bag puppets. Stuffed animals are also a great alternative, and I have loads of those sitting in my parents’ house that I couldn’t bear to part with but would happily take to school. Now only if I had my own classroom…..

Challenges: students can get quite attached to the puppets’s characters and be disappointed when they don’t come out….it can hard for teachers to constantly keep the character of the puppet and maintain the voice and mannerisms that have been created. Sometimes, it can be distracting  rather than adding to the delivery of the lesson.




Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Amanda
    August 11, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Great reflections today.

    I think forum theatre would not frustrate kids as much as you think. They usually get into the “STOP” part of it and enjoy trying new things.
    Puppetry is so much fun in the classroom. I agree with you that it would be great to have the students create the puppets. It would also invest them much more in it. This was a great activity.

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