May 27, 2013 – Summer is just about upon us and ideas for vacation fun can start to run low after a couple of weeks. One of our perennial favorites for serious merriment is the drama box.
Our drama box began with remnants of Halloween costumes, old dress shoes (cowboy boots and red sparkle heels!), and a forgotten black dress. From garage sales and closet cleanings, we added items as varied as tablecloths, napkins, sheets, old scarves, bandanas and fabric pieces. Add to this about twenty safety diaper pins. Voila! Let the wild rumpus begin.
Our first plays came from well-known children’s stories, such as Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Using diaper pins to hold tucks and folds, fabric transformed into costumes. Daughters, cousins and neighborhood children became Max and the Wild Things.
With the same materials, they metamorphosed into The Very Hungry Caterpillar from Eric Carles’ book. Using a narrator, the children presented these plays or they recited oft-heard lines from memory.
As drama fever grew, we visited the remnant bins at fabric and department stores to find special colors of material. A favorite find was a square yard each of shimmery cloth in blue, purple and silver, perfect for fairy costumes, insect wings and the occasional prince or angel. A yard of red became Little Red Riding Hood, Chicken Little, a fireman and Superman. Kings, queens and police officers used blue, while witches, wolves and Batman used the black swatches. We folded sheets of unprinted newspaper and paper sacks to make crowns, hats and scenery.
From creating plays straight from their storybooks, the children’s imaginations fired to write their own plays and to search out other scripts. A retired teaching friend gave me a collection of short plays. The drama box and scripts followed me to school. The children loved presenting these short plays to each other. It was a fun and easy way to practice their reading, and their dramatic interpretations helped build their memory and comprehension skills.
As the students became more familiar with the structure of a play, six and seven-year-olds began writing their own plays, either adapting from books they had read, or creating original works. On my computer, I’d transform their handwritten scripts into standard spelling with easy-to-read fonts.
Using the drama box in our home and classroom, there never seemed to be a dull moment. With a little bit of imagination and a few dollars, a drama box can be yours. Shop garages sales and thrift stores for fun and funky items to create a dramatic wardrobe. We had a limit of $1 per item, and had a good time trying to stay within our budgets.
Gather up a few theatrical props into a box. Our box was a big plastic tub, with a lid, that fit easily in the closet. Get out a few favorite short books and enjoy a wild rumpus.
Resources for Plays: The source for my original playbook is not available, but I have located the following books that you might find enjoyable. Check at your public library for books of plays or short children’s books. The children’s librarian can help you.
25 Just Right Plays for Emergent Readers by Carol Pugliano-Martin
12 Fabulously Funny Fairy Tale Plays by Justin McCory Martin
You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You by Mary Ann Hobelman
Read more from Maren Schmidt:
Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Blue Ribbon News special contributor Maren Stark Schmidt. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit MarenSchmidt.com. Copyright 2013.