Classroom Tips

Teaching musical theatre to kids | Theatre lesson plans & games

Children have active imaginations and love to play pretend. That is why theatre is such a great activity for children of all ages to explore. If you are interested in teaching musical theatre to kids, then there are a few administrative and creative tasks that you need to accomplish first. 

In order to start a business teaching theatre classes to kids, you may want to apply for a small business grant and build a business budget to help you organize your expenses and get started on the right foot. Then, you can begin work on the fun part of starting a children’s activity business: teaching!

In this article, we will outline how to teach theatre to children both in-person and online. We will also provide some fun theatre games for kids and theatre lesson plans that you can incorporate into your classes. And if you want to learn how to write a curriculum, check out our guide!

How to teach theatre

Before you begin to prepare your classes, it is important to learn some best practices for teaching musical theatre to kids. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for your lesson plans and activities moving forward. Here are our best tips on how to teach theatre to children.

Meet the children where they already are

Studies show that children gain many benefits from pretend play. It helps advance their language skills, emotional and self-regulation, empathy, and, of course, creativity. Often, children engage in pretend play on their own all the time. 

Therefore, as you start thinking about your lessons and activities, be aware that pretend play is already a large part of their lives. Unlike adults, children tend to be more comfortable using their imagination and pretending to be someone or something else! 

Focus on stories and songs they already know

Children know a lot of stories and songs. Books, fairy tales, movies, and TV shows help children navigate the world around them and learn valuable lessons (and many of them are musical). In fact, researchers think that storytelling is a type of pretend play for children. You should use the fact that they already know a large number of musical stories and highlight those when teaching theatre. 

Make it interactive

According to a professor of infant/toddler special education at George Washington University, “by age two, a toddler’s attention span is about 5 to 6 minutes. Three-year-olds can pay attention for up to 8 minutes and four-year-olds up to about 10 minutes.” That is not a lot of time! You can keep children engaged by playing games in class, asking focused questions, and regularly refreshing material.

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How to teach theatre online

When you think about traditional theatre, you probably think of a stage and an audience. However, as more and more of our world becomes virtual, there are a lot of opportunities to teach theatre classes online. We have many providers who use Sawyer and teach virtual theatre classes, so we wanted to provide you with some guidance on how to teach theatre online.

When you write the descriptions of your classes, make sure you let parents know if their child needs any props or if they need to prepare anything for the class. Depending on the age of your students, parents or caregivers might need to supervise or participate in the class. It is important to let the adult know when booking if this is the case.

Virtual learning also requires equipment and tools. Many educators choose to live stream on Zoom because it allows you to show the whole class in a gallery view, mute and unmute participants, utilize breakout rooms, and record sessions easily. In addition to your computer and ample space to move around, we also recommend that you have an extra device with a camera and microphone, as well as a tripod. This will help your students to get a full picture of your “stage” and see all of your movements. For more help as you prepare for online classes, check out our guide.

Theatre lesson plans

In order to teach successful classes, you need to write lesson plans that outline each session and what you will be teaching and doing with your class. Lesson plans help you manage time efficiently and teach cohesive classes. To get you started on creating your theatre lesson plans, we’ve provided a theatre lesson plan template below that you can utilize. For more information on how to write a lesson plan, including lesson plan examples, read our guide.

Theatre lesson plan template

Lesson objective(s)

What do you want to accomplish in this class? Will the students practice monologues, work on a scene in pairs, learn a new song, or something else? Make your objective action-oriented so you can easily measure if you’ve achieved it.

Materials needed

Will you need materials, like props, sheet music, access to a piano or keyboard? If you need items, how much of each one? In this section of your lesson plan, you can create a list and then check off each item when you have it. Not sure where to buy supplies? Check out our guide.

Lesson activities & timing

This is the most important part of your theatre lesson plan. What are your students actually doing during this class? You should break down the time you have allotted for the class into small activities so that the session feels fresh and students stay engaged.

Make sure your activities are interactive and doable based on your students’ ages and progress. Include time where students have some independence as well. Montissori teaching can help students discover their own interests and get excited about the activity.

Next to each activity, include a time estimate, making sure to include a little buffer. Prioritize your activities so the most important occur in the middle. This will allow the bulk of the class time to be spent on these activities and ensure you are engaging students when they are most attentive. Finally, include a warm up at the beginning of the class and a flex activity that can be done or skipped based on how accurate your time estimates were.

Assessment

This section is mainly for your own use, though parents might ask how their child is doing in your classes. Since you are likely not teaching in a school, you probably want to avoid tests or quizzes. In theatre, we’d recommend using performance-based assessments based on the students singing and acting growth.

Evaluation

Use this space to take some notes during and after the class to reflect on what went well and what could have been improved. This will help you as you write your next lesson plans and develop future classes. 

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Fun theatre games for kids

Research shows that classroom games help increase student participation, improve focus and attention, and foster growth of social and emotional skills. Children love to play and learn at the same time, so here are some fun theatre games for kids that you can use during your warm ups, closing activities, or at any time in your class!

  1. Zip, zap, zop. Children stand in a circle and point with both hands pointed at another child and say “zip”. Then, that child needs to quickly point to someone else and say “zap”. The third child points to someone else and says “zop.” The goal of the game is to keep children paying attention so they can quickly keep it going. If they mess up, they step out of the circle.
  2. Names and gestures. In this game, the children should say their names and mime a gesture to go along with their name. As a challenge, have the children repeat each name and gesture before their own. This is a great game to help the students get to know one another, warm up their bodies, and exercise their memories. Plus, it works for online classes as well.
  3. Exquisite corpse. This is a fun theatre game for older kids. Sit everyone in a circle and have the first person say a word. Then, go around the circle with each person adding another word so you can create a story. Children love the creativity and silliness that this game provides.This is another great game for online classes!
  4. Finish that tune. As you prepare older children for musicals, it is important for them to be familiar with music and comfortable with singing. . In this game, you can play parts of a musical theatre song or you can sing them yourself and then have the children finish that tune on their own. Pay close attention to their pitch to make sure they are getting their notes right.
  5. Create a shape. Have the children create shapes with their bodies on the stage in 10-15 seconds. This game helps children feel comfortable with themselves and the rest of the students in the class. It’s also a great warm up activity because they can run around and get some energy out.
Photo of fun theatre games for kids

Teaching musical theatre to kids is a great way to share your love for acting and music while inspiring the next generation of Broadway stars and appreciators. If you are looking for guidance on managing and running your children’s education and activity business, the team at Sawyer is here to help. We work with educators every day to save time on admin, spend more time in the classroom, and grow their business. See how we do it with a free trial or demo today.

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