The Kax Herberger Center for Children + the Arts

Lesson Plans: Drama / Theatre

Theatre Education: A Resource of Practical and Project-Based Warm-ups (K-12) and Units for Middle and High School




What is in this resource?

Who we are?

Introduction: Our Philosophies

Why do this?
Our goal in developing this resource is to create a useful text for theatre educators to turn to for new ideas. As we looked for a text that included all theatre skills with equal emphasis, we discovered a gap in the literature. So we created a resource that we feel applies the theories of secondary theatre education and treats theatre holistically through practical, project-based work.

Theatre Standards
In this resource, we use the national standards as a guideline to ensure that we are including all the skills deemed necessary in a theatre education program. Every sample lesson plan contains the applicable national standard. We chose to focus on the national standards so that this resource satisfies arts requirements anywhere in the country. The national standards can be found at ArtsEdge Kennedy Center. Individual state standards can be found on state education department websites.

Theatre naturally increases literacy in reading and writing as well as in cultural, technological and social forms. This particular resource also helps to create theatrical literacy, so that students know the conventions, vocabulary and history of the theatre.

Some specific management techniques we find useful are daily bell work, open and clearly defined work/performance spaces, and simple attention-getting strategies such as "give me five," striking a drum, flashing lights, rhythmic clapping and teacher-led movements the students mimic. We believe that the more autonomy students have in the classroom, the fewer management techniques the teacher will need to use. Working with your students to develop the daily routines and rules gives them a say in how their classroom operates. The more invested students are in their own education, the more responsibility they will take upon themselves.




Assessing student work in theatre requires both informal, formative assessment and formal, summative evaluation. It is important to let the students know what is expected of them and to challenge them with high but realistic standards for their work. When grading student work in the theatre classroom, we believe that progress, participation and commitment are more important than raw talent. We acknowledge that not every student in a theatre class will become a theatre artist, but we do want students to leave a theatre program with basic theatre skills, knowledge and appreciation. We suggest assessing the students with concrete tools (such as rubrics) and grading their group work, individual participation and final products/performances.

Special Populations
The work in theatre classrooms is accessible to a wide variety of learning styles and emphasizes social skills such as communication, collaboration and trust. Special populations are often placed in theatre classrooms due to these qualities. Therefore, theatre teachers must always be aware of the needs of their students in order to make appropriate and useful adaptations or accommodations. The environment of the theatre classroom should be one in which every student can participate to the best of their abilities.

Support in the School
Due to limited education funding, arts programming is often the first thing to be cut. Therefore, it is crucial for any arts teacher to be an advocate for their program. Support within the school is the first step. Department heads, principals and administration need to be aware of your program and the important role it plays in the school and greater community. Without these important people on your side, it will be very difficult to create and maintain your ideal theatre program. Showcase the work of your theatre students in classroom tours, school assemblies and any other programs that will demonstrate the students' learning and skills to administrators. Recruit other teachers and parents, especially those with a background in the arts, to contribute their talents to the program in exchange for free tickets to shows or ideas for drama games to use in their classrooms. A strong parent support group can help with fundraising, tech weeks, construction, awards and marketing. The more visible your program is in the school, the more likely it is to stay put.

Community Ties
Community ties can greatly enhance a theatre program. They connect student learning to life outside the classroom and allow the students to have a voice in their communities. Establishing partnerships with local arts organizations provides students with possible internships and enables them to get an intimate understanding of how the arts operate in the real world. It is also important to bring student work out into the community. This allows students to see the impact of their work on a larger audience and connect to their community as a whole. This can encourage community members to come to the school for performances. Strong ties outside the classroom establish a theatre program as an essential component of the school and greater community.