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Image Theatre with Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud

Today, Sarah Wolfman Robichaud showed us several practical activities and strategies that we could try implementing right into our classroom practice.

(Sarah’s e-folio can be found here with a link to a Process Drama lesson Plan. See Post on “Standard 6: Subject Areas”)

Finger Point

This activity is to show students the power of the mind to control/push the body to do what it envisions. Have the students spread out and make sure they have enough room (their arm span) to move their arm without hitting anyone. Students can use either arm, but with younger children or if doing for the first time, have  everyone use their right arm. Ask them to raise their arm out in front of them so it’s about 90 degrees to their body. Focus on their fingers outstretched (they can use one or two fingers or whole hand). Tell them to move their arm to their right, twisting their upper body as they do so, but feet stay put. When they can’t move their arm anymore, ask them to make a mental note of where their arm is, using a point on the wall to remember. Return to original position. Next, ask them to close their eyes and imagine going further this time. When they are ready, have them try. See how many  were able to go further. Next, have them again imagine going further yet again, but without opening eyes attempt it again for a third time. Have them open their eyes and see where their arm is. Many will find they have gone further. this idea is great concentration game, and allows students to focus. Might be useful when trying to calm a class after lunch, or get everyone focused and paying attention.


“Cover the Space!” Students are atoms that move about the classroom, covering as much space as possible so as not to bunch up, or walk in circles, but to really spread out and use all of the physical space in the room. Teacher/Leader calls out a number and students must form groups of whatever number has been called. The teacher will also call out a letter/shape/object and students must use their bodies to represent the number/letter/object. Emphasize there is no wrong way to do this! Get the students to be creative as possible! You can adapt with restrictions. For example: no talking allowed, or they must form groups with brand new people. Teacher can use this with just about any curricular topic (learning about shapes in geometry, letters of the alphabet, counting) or simply as an activity for a movement break or DPA. Older students can even try doing more abstract things such as concepts and feelings, or they might create scenes from a novel they’re studying in LA. It gets students moving, working cooperatively, and thinking about different ways to show their understanding of a topic.

Weightless (aka Bar Room Brawl) 

Students will pair up, one will be leader, the other follows. Without touching, the leader will try to move their partner by trying to communicate with arm gestures, hands, eyes etc. Have students take 2 steps back and continue trying to move their partner this way. Try moving even further away. Switch roles. Adaptation/Extension: Have the whole class move and each time students make eye contact with another person, then can move them then continue circulating the room.

Challenges: many students feel like they are mirroring in order to communicate how they want their partner to move. Suggestions: Leaders should try playing with level. For example, in order to move their foot, get down low to the ground to indicate what body part you want moved. Also use eye contact to signal what body part you are trying to move. Kids might understand this better if we called it “Puppets” and have them imagine they are on string controlled by the Leader. Also, discuss with the class what the difficulties were and what would make it easier. The students can collaboratively come up with ideas on how to improve their communication. Always remember to start small: move just fingers, feet, or try just the eyes. Lastly, ask students what they liked better. Leader or follower? Why?

Image Theatre

  • Pick a theme example: exclusion
  • Have groups of students create a tableau
  • Vote on one tableau to animate
  • Chosen group gets into tableau
  • Teacher/Leader taps each person in the group and asks “What do you want?” They each say “I want_________”. Make sure they respond with what they want and not what they want other to do.
  • Teacher/Leader taps each person in the group and asks “What is your secret wish?” Each person in tableau responds
  • Invite audience members to go stand with someone in the tableau that they identify with
  • Teacher/Leader taps individuals and each time they make a sound  (these can be very quiet and subtle sounds or loud)
  • Teacher/Leader asks the audience to leave the tableau
  • Teacher/Leader asks the people in the tableau to move one step closer to what they want and Freeze, repeat
  • Teacher/Leader taps into thoughts one last time and asks “What are you thinking?”
  • Students can be silly, especially younger ones, so when you do Tap into Thoughts, remind them it must be connected to the theme, otherwise you’ll get  a lot of silly ideas like “I’m hungry”.
  • This particular method isn’t always popular or fair because you have to vote for one tableau to animate, but other groups could go in subsequent lessons?
  • What do you want? and What is your secret wish? can get muddled
  • can be adapted and used for any curricular topic
  • very effective with conflict resolution
  • less intimidating than role drama as it requires less improvisation
  • tapping into thoughts really helps students with inferencing skills
Life Map Activity
 Have students think of 4-5 really important events in their life (eg being born, first haircut, losing first tooth, immigrating). They make a symbol for each of these events, and arrange these symbols/pictures on a piece of construction paper in any way they like. Then they take one of these events/symbols and do image theatre (either individually, or if older, other students can be other characters, help make a scene come to life).
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Amanda
    August 11, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    So happy that you have taken so much away from Sarah’s visit and that you found her online portfolio. Image theatre can be extremely rewarding in the classroom.
    Also, the Life Map lesson plan is on Vista in the Family & Culture Unit.

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