Have you ever felt like you need to be on stage while you’re teaching? I don’t mean a “sage on stage” kind of powerpoint-slide filled presentation. I’m talking about using elements of theater in your lessons to add interest, intrigue, and excitement!
Here are some elements of theater that you can add into your lessons to spice things up and help encourage student interest:
- Get into character: I decided one year to make my ecology/earth systems unit interesting by pretending I was from a different planet. And to add some neediness to the fun, I pretended I was from Vulcan. I taught entirely in character and compared Earth’s atmosphere to Vulcan’s, demonstrating the unique characteristics of Earth and the life forms that grow there. Students loved it!
- Add conflict: So often in science, students feel like the textbook is truth-incarnate and science is fact, when in reality, science should be about doubt, wondering, imagining, and questioning! Whenever I can, I talk about how scientists don’t always agree. Sometimes they even do dastardly things like cheating each other out of credit (Watson/Crick/Franklin). In Biology class, there are a few unique opportunities to talk about the history of science and the conflicts involved and I try to include as much as I can to engage students with conflict in these situations.
- Add suspense! There’s nothing like suspense to engage students. In the biochemistry unit, I like to teach about carbohydrates first and do this activity to show students how to create monomers and polymers out of the basic monosaccharide. Monosaccharides are boring but students have fun stringing them (beads) on pipe cleaners and it really helps them to get the basic idea of a repeating unit. Then at the end of class, I tell them that tomorrow, we will be creating something that will blow this carbohydrate activity out of the water! They get so excited to see what they will be creating next (they are already excited to be doing a hands-on activity), and they come running in the next day to see what they will build next. (Hint: Proteins are just way cooler.)
- Add props: The dollar store is your friend for teaching props. One time I wanted to create a dramatic lesson around the story of Avery (and friend’s) experiment to show that DNA is the transforming material. So I bought cat-toy mice, beads, and small plastic plates at the dollar store! I modified some of the mice to look “alive” or “dead” and I used a plastic baby-medicine syringe. I got out a lab coat and had a good-natured student help me act out the whole experiment. The student provided great comic relief as he acted out the part and I narrated the story! It was so fun and students told me they loved it and it helped them remember the story and understand the details.
How do you add intrigue and drama to your science classroom? Have you used elements of theater in your classroom? Please share your ideas in the comments!