"Aw...," "Ha Ha!", and "Ah-Ha!": Finding Flow in Drama Warm-ups

Classroom Flow through Drama Warm-Ups

On September 23rd, Teresa Love, one of our drama education experts serving on the BYU ARTS Partnership Leadership Team, worked with elementary school teachers in the Arts Integration endorsement program on the creation of drama lesson plans. What Teresa shares is always golden, pithy, and organized. At the onset of their discussion (I was there, so let’s try that again). At the onset of our discussion, she emphasized the importance of selecting strategic warm-ups for drama lessons. 

She stated the importance of drama warm-ups by naming the actor’s tools—voice, body, and mind—and asked teachers to reflect on which tools students could practice to enable full participation in the day’s lesson. Are students using their voice in your lesson? If yes, then the warm-up includes vocal exercises that massage the vocal cords and prepare the students for vocalization (cue a visualization of the cacophony created by students simultaneously screeching animal sounds in a single classroom).

Utilizing Drama Warm-Ups in the classroom

Teresa also noted that sometimes a strategic warm-up can relate to transition time: choosing a specific warm-up can ease the shift between one environment and another, and often relates with where the students are coming from than a desired lesson outcome. For instance, if it’s snowing outside and you know classroom chaos is in order (chaos? order? same sentence? that’s so 2020 of me) when the students return from recess, you may choose to introduce a calming body or mind warm-up, even if the lesson objective isn’t about finding calm. Pick the warm-up that best blends your teaching priority with students’ needs. 

Tackling the question of how long a drama lesson warm-up should last, Teresa explained, “Engage in the warm-up until you have achieved an ensemble sense of one of the following three reactions: “Ha ha!”; “Awww…”; or “Ah-ha!” (See the work of storyteller, Elizabeth Ellis.)

She continued, “These are all states of flow. If everyone in the room, or most of them, are in that state of flow, you are able to move forward with the other demanding things you’re asking of them because art and creativity lives in that state of flow.” (So beautiful!)

When students are all laughing and you’re having a good time, it’s tempting to say, “Let’s play it again!” because everyone is having so much fun. When students are relaxed, it’s tempting to stay in that calm state for a while (am I right, teachers?). But once you have got students in a state of flow, proceed to the next thing and don’t let the warm-up eat up your time. Move forward in flow. (New mantra, yes?) 

Teresa shared a recent example of a strategic warm-up she used with her college students. She knew they would have an intellectual experience that day in class and would need to think strategically: she showed them the following M.C. Escher print and they discussed it.

M.C. Escher

They didn’t need to warm-up their bodies or their voices, they needed to warm-up their brains. This prepared their focus and allowed her to move forward into the heart of her lesson.

Warm-Up Activity Ideas

The rest of her presentation was just as delightful and insightful as this introduction to drama warm-ups. Teresa shared a website resource with several warm-up activity ideas for the classroom (http://www.bbbpress.com/), and you can find more of her ideas under the “21 Red-Hot Guided Classroom Drama Tools” section on the Drama page of AdvancingArtsLeadership.com.