Exploring Techniques and Practices from the IDIERI 9 Workshops (Part 1)

Workshop activities from Iceland, Singapore, Ireland, and New Zealand - and delivered at IDIERI 9

Delegates at the 9th International Drama in Education Research Institute were treated to an abundance of exciting and engaging practical workshops during the 7-day event. To give you a flavour of what was on offer, the Dialogue team have put together a series of toolkits that include the workshop abstracts, biographies of the workshop leaders, and featured activities. It’s important to note that these activities are by no means comprehensive of the overall workshops but merely represent a small portion of the activities being introduced to participants.

The #Trash Monster, A Workshop about Environmental Issues
Facilitated by Rannveig Thorkelsdóttir and Ása Ragnarsdóttir (Iceland)

“This workshop integrates drama, singing, and dancing while exploring environmental issues. Young people are facing new challenges on many levels due to the effects of climate change and social changes. Global warming has become an undisputed fact about our current livelihoods; our planet is warming up and we are definitely part of the problem. However, this is not the only environmental problem that we should be concerned about. All across the world, people are facing a wealth of new and challenging environmental problems every day. Through imagination, children are taken on a journey (via the story of the “Trash Monster”) where they can explore and come up with solutions about environmental matters using their imaginations.”

Dr. Rannveig Björk Thorkelsdóttir is an assistant lecturer in Drama and Theatre, at the University of Iceland, School of Education. She is an experienced Drama teacher / educator. She has been involved in curriculum development in creativity and introducing Drama in compulsory schools and higher education. Her research and practice are focused on Drama and artistic approaches to teaching and learning. Rannveig has published several books and articles on teaching and learning in Drama.

Ása Helga Ragnarsdóttir is an assistant lecturer in Drama and Theatre Education at the University of Iceland, School of Education and a Drama teacher at Iceland Academy of the Arts. She has a Master of Arts in Drama and Theatre Education from the University of Warwick in England. Ása has been involved in curriculum development in Iceland, has written both textbooks and scholarly publications and articles on Drama in Education and has been a researcher for years. 

Featured Activity:
Two facilitators would be ideal for this exercise but it’s possible to manage with one if this is not possible. This workshop is typically geared toward 6 to 10-year-olds.

  • The facilitator introduces a colleague, who is dressed up as the “Trash Monster”
  • The facilitator points out how upset the “Trash Monster” looks as it wanders around the space in a sluggish manner with its head down
  • The facilitator encourages the group to ask the “Trash Monster” what is wrong
  • The “Trash Monster” reveals that it is too full from eating all of the trash left outside and that it never used to have to eat this much before
  • The facilitator guides the group in conversation with the “Trash Monster” to reveal that, if they helped recycle, they could make the “Trash Monster” much happier
  • The group is then asked to leave the classroom and find pieces of trash that are particular colours (blue, yellow, pink, etc.)
  • The group brainstorms what can be created with these materials that have been left around in their classroom, school, workshop space etc.
  • As they do this, the “Trash Monster” asks them to stick the materials to a big piece of paper, creating a colourful piece of artwork
  • The “Trash Monster” concludes the discussion with the group by discussing how much more helpful it would be if the group were to recycle and teach others to do the same
  • Through their encounter with the “Trash Monster”, this activity encourages children to think about what it means to recycle, how they can help reduce waste, and how their actions can have a lasting positive impact on the environment. Allowing children to probe the “Trash Monster” for information allows discussions around recycling to happen naturally and organically in diverse learning contexts.

Crossroads. You. Terrorist. A Process Drama about Terrorism and Youth
Facilitated by Jeffrey Tan (Singapore)

“Terrorism is more than just a religious battle. Yet, for many young people, it may not be at the top of their concern. This Process Drama workshop will bring to light the different perspectives and complexities of youths dealing with terrorism. The aim of the workshop is to entice the participants to think more deeply about the issues and situations around terrorism. Based on an original play of the same title, the youth characters will be introduced to the participants for interaction. Through helping the characters, we aim to shift the perspectives of the participants by challenging their choices.”

Jeffrey Tan has been working as a theatre director, drama educator and arts producer since 1989. He holds a BA (Drama) from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia) and a MA (Drama and Theatre Education) from the University of Warwick (United Kingdom). He was Resident Director with The Theatre Practice (1997), Drama Lecturer with LASALLE SIA (1999), Associate Artistic Director with TheatreWorks (S) Ltd (2002), Assistant Director with the National Arts Council (2007) and Assistant Director, People’s Association (2012). He now works independently producing his own creations. Jeffrey’s recent productions include the Singapore International Festival of Arts commission ‘Open Homes’ (2017), three of the ‘Open Homes’ were brought to the National Arts Council’s Silver Arts Festival (2017), ‘Island Stories’ for the Singapore Heritage Festival (2017), ‘Shrimps in Space’ for Generasia (2016), ‘CrossRoads, You. Terrorist’ for the Association of Muslim Professionals (2016). 

Featured Activity:

  • Initially, the group is asked to stand up and physically represent their viewpoints by standing in one of three designated spaces in the room (that the facilitator explains represents ‘not at all’/’some of the time’/’all of the time’)
  • Their prompt is as follows: “How concerned are you with…?”
    • Social Media/Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Blogging
    • Twitter
    • Terrorism
  • The group discusses their responses to each topic. They discuss the final topic, “Terrorism”, in depth and consider how it makes them feel.
  • The Facilitator explains that participants will now represent their viewpoints on a sliding scale whereby one side of an invisible line represents “Hot” and the other “Cold”. Participants are asked to place themselves somewhere along this invisible line characterising how they feel toward the following topics:
    • Youth Issues
    • Political Issues
    • World Issues
    • Racism
    • Terrorism
  • The workshop space is then split up into groups of four and the Facilitator asks the question, “What are some questions of concern?” Each group then discusses some of the topics discussed above (e.g.Social Media, Racism, Terrorism) as they relate to this question.
  • Following their small group discussions, everyone gathers back together and expresses their thoughts to the larger group
  • The groups are then switched up again into groups of two or three
  • Within each group, they are assigned a role to assume when answering the following questions: ‘When are you on Facebook?’ ‘What will you share on Facebook?’ ‘What will you post?’ The roles should be as follows:
    • Teens
    • Bloggers
    • Parents
    • Companies
    • Senior Citizens

Gender Stereotypes & Diversity in Families: A Drama Workshop for Primary Schools Addressing Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying
Facilitated by Ciara Fagan (Ireland)

“Families are central to the formation of children’s identity and are the primary lens through which they view their world. It is important for all children to see their families represented in school. It is also essential to create a positive school climate that fosters respect and acceptance of all family structures. Teachers and drama practitioners are looking to find ways to celebrate equality and diversity in their schools. ‘Central Park Zoo’, suitable for early years aged 3 to 7 years, explores family diversity using the Process Drama approach. ‘Bully Buster’ focuses on senior classes, aged 8 to 14 years, with an emphasis on gender stereotypes and providing children with strategies to stand up to homophobic and transphobic bullying using forum theatre. This practical workshop would be useful to those working with children and young people to explore these topics in an age appropriate way.”

Ciara Fagan is a primary school teacher and drama practitioner currently teaching in Ireland. She graduated with a Bachelor in Education degree and completed a Masters in Drama in Education from Trinity College in 2012. Ciara has worked in a number of educational settings as a classroom teacher, additional needs support teacher, and EAL teacher. As a drama teacher, Ciara creates Process Dramas that engage students while integrating curriculum areas (e.g. English, History) and social topics (e.g. racism, homophobia, bullying, migration) to develop critical thinking, self-esteem, empathy skills, and to support children in adopting new and different perspectives. Ciara’s research focuses on the concept of frame, and components such as role, focus, place, tension, distancing, power, influence are explored with a view to improving theory and practice in Drama in Education for practitioners. 

Featured Activity:
This activity details the ‘Bully Busters’ focused workshop targeted for 8 to 14-year-olds. This workshop process would normally take place over multiple workshops. 

  • Using Mantle of the Expert, the facilitator reveals to participants that they are an Anti-Bullying Team from the Department of Education
  • The facilitator introduces a new assignment for the Team by delivering news clippings about a top-rated school that has been at the centre of a recent bullying scandal
  • In order to figure out what happened, the Team is tasked with conducting interviews with the Principal, teachers, students, and any other persons of interest at the school
  • For some of these interviews, the participants are asked to use their imagination, however, they conduct a ‘real’ interview with “Sam” (played by the Facilitator) who is uncovered to be the bullying target
  • The Team must ask “Sam” questions to uncover their experiences and to determine how the Team can help
  • Through their discussions with “Sam,” it is subtly revealed that the bullying has taken on a homophobic nature
  • Once the Team has conducted a full interview with “Sam,” the Team steps out of their role, coming back together as workshop participants to discuss their understanding of the school’s problem
  • The group is then guided through strategies that a bystander can use to combat bullying (BUSTER):
    •    Befriend the target
    •    Use a distraction
    •    Speak out and stand up
    •    Tell/text for help
    •    Exit
    •    Reason/Remedy
  • These ‘Bully Buster’ strategies are discussed as ways for them to help people like “Sam” so that they can transform from the role of a bystander to that of an ‘upstander’
  • The strategies are then practiced through various Forum Theatre and Role Play exercises

To see Ciara’s slides from the day, please click here.
To see more about Bully Busters, please click here.
To see more about the Central Park Zoo activities, please click here.

Four Seasons in One Day: Rewriting in Role within the PhD
Facilitated by Claire Coleman (New Zealand)

“This workshop combines performance, discussion, and interaction to introduce the development of rewriting in role as a writing strategy within my PhD. The PhD thesis Dancing through the fourth wall, considers the potential of Process Drama, as an enactment of critical pedagogy. Challenged by the limitations of honoring the principles of dialogic pedagogies within the traditionally monologic PhD, I began to play. Rewriting in role is a considered and deliberately partial reconsideration of initial data through which a richer story emanates. Recrafting the data to offer the perspective of fictional characters highlights key areas of interest. Performing short pieces of the writing will demonstrate how repositioning through role offers a new lens through which to consider the data. Participants will be invited to share their own writing practice, explore rewriting in role, and reflect on its potential for expanding our definitions of knowing.”

Claire Coleman began her career in education by working as a puppeteer in a disability awareness education programme. Following a Masters in Education she embarked upon her doctoral study. Her current PhD work Dancing through the fourth wall examines the potential of process drama as an enactment of the philosophies of critical pedagogy. Claire currently lectures in Drama Education and Innovative Pedagogy at the University of Waikato. 

Featured Activity:

  • The facilitator lays out a series of photographs face down and asks participants to choose an image each
  • As each participant flips their image over, they are asked to pick one person featured in the photo as their character in their writing
  • The facilitator instructs the group to draw a “role-on-the-wall” of their chosen character
  • Once everyone completes their “role-on-the-wall,” participants switch with a partner and read the traits of the other’s character, adding additional details where they see fit
  • The facilitator then instructs the participants to write in the role of this new character on the topic of The Importance of Schooling the World
  • Each of the participants’ written responses should be tailored towards how they believe the character would respond versus how they themselves would respond
  • The narratives are then swapped back to the original participant who had created the “role-on-the-wall” for the character
  • Stories can be shared out to the larger group if any participant is willing to read their narrative