I generally use workshop games and exercises as a fun way of changing the pace, but also illustrating points that can then feed into the ongoing work.
To introduce the group to me and each other
To begin thinking about language and rhythm
Amazing Amy: Each child introduced the child next to them alliteratively – this is Amazing Amy, this is Beautiful Beth, Calm Catherine etc. All students are warned to be polite! We try to keep the momentum going, students are encouraged to ask for help from the group if they are struggling and pick the best. I wrote name labels as we went around , complete with the alliteration as approved by student.
Throwing the ball: All students stand in a circle. I use a toy that goes boing when you hit it, but a bean bag/imaginary ball work well too – nothing too big or bouncy. Person with ball says their own name and the person they are throwing it to. The next person says their name, then the person they are throwing it to etc. Try to keep the momentum going.
To help remember the key plot points and sequence of a story
To explore working in a group
To begin physicalising a story
Split into groups – ideally between 3 and 7 in a group
Each group takes one story and breaks it down into its essential plot points, usually between 5 and 8 short sentances.
So for example, The Three Little Pigs:
1) Three pigs build three houses, one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks
2) Wolf comes and blows down house of straw
3) Wolf blows down house of sticks
4) Wolf tries to blow down house of bricks and can’t
5) Wolf climbs down the chimney, pigs are ready with a pot of boiling water and wolf is defeated
The group devise a tableaux for each plot point, ie they physically make one image with no props but their bodies for each sentance. It can be described as creating a series of photographs – they do not move. The groups should be encouraged to show inanimate objects as well as characters – they will need to show the houses as well as the pigs and wolf.
This exercise highlights how, even with a story that we think everyone knows, everyone will remember it slightly differently and will emphasise different aspects of the story – this is the first step to making the story your own and is very important to agree on if telling in a group.
This can be used with a story researched from a book, or a story you have told.
I often do this early on with a group using nursery tales such as Three Little Pigs or Cinderella. They are stories that everyone knows and can be chosen quickly. The groups then show each other their tableaux and try to guess which story each group has chosen – if they have chosen the salient points of the story, it should be easy to guess.
This can also be a useful exercise when a group begin work on a story together. They agree the bones, begin to physicalise it and then can add narration to each of the bones.
To develop descriptive language
To hear the effect of repetition and emphasis
Sit in a circle. We are going to set a ghostly scene. Going round the circle one person says a simple statement. The next person, elaborates on it, and the next. The next person starts the next simple statement. This needs a good demo and will probably start off very simply, but can then go bonkers! While the aim is to develop description, there is nothing wrong with repetition and this can be encouraged to help the rhythm and to make it easier.
It was dark. It was darker than night. It was so dark they had to feel their way with their hands.
It was cold. It was colder than a freezer. It was colder than an iceblock in a freezer at the North Pole
She was scared. She was so scared she had goosebumps. She was so scared that her knees trembled, her elbows wobbled, she felt like a jelly at a 5 year olds birthday party with a horde of children’s mouths coming towards her.
Encourage them to be completely over the top and competitive! It doesn’t matter if it gets silly as long as it gives them the confidence to be creative.
Rhythms and Actions (Beth Gifford)
Vocal and physical warm up/uninhibitor
Ask participants for different noises specific to the activity or environment they’re focussing on, ask for or create actions to go with the different sections. Introduce a beat so everyone is stepping in time and try each sound against the beat, then, as an exercise in following conducting split the group so you have different sounds happening simultaneously, you can also use this for an exercise in louds and softs.
The Grenade(Beth Gifford)
Vocal and physical warm up/uninhibitor
Getting the group to work together as a team
Get the group to mime preparing a grenade (with younger groups perhaps a hill or mountain?) When you all throw your grenade follow the shape up then down in a curve with your finger and do this with your voice too, humming is best for this as it protects and warms the voice. Experiment with starting lower or going higher, you can even get participants to lead this one.
Blah blah blah – Telling without words
To concentrate on the performance of a story: gesture, tone of voice, eye contact etc.
Storytellers are asked to tell their story, but they can only say blah, blah, blah.
Illustrates the importance of talking and listening – each in the appropriate place!
Good partner building exercise
Get a partner. One partner is the sheepdog and one is the shepherd. Sheepdogs form an inner circle with shepherds standing in outer circle behind them. Sheepdog chooses a name. Go round the circle and shepherds introduce their dogs by name (each sheepdog must have a different name, there can be no duplicates – if there has already been a Shep, you will have to choose another name). Sheepdogs close eyes and shepherds move round in a circle so that they are standing behind a different dog. Shepherds call their dogs and dogs have to find them by following the calls of their shepherd.
To develop eye contact
The group are seated in a circle. One student is chosen as the detective and leaves the room. One of the remaining students is chosen as the murderer and the detective brought back in. The murderer kills their victims by catching their eye and winking at them. Victims die as spectactularly and as the over the top as they want to! The detective stands in the middle of the circle and tries to work out who the murderer is. They are usually given three guesses, but ammend to the size of your group.