I am interested in starting a drama/theater club at my K-5 school.  Does anyone have any advice as far as:
- How young should I make the club open for?
- Any good plays you know of?
- Any ideas on how to get money for sets, etc?
I remember my school doing a production of "The Lorax" when I was in fourth grade.  I really felt that it opened my eyes to the theater and really enhanced my love of the arts throughout my life.  I want to give the students at my school that same type of experience.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Tags: club, design, drama, elementary, plays, set, theater

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Hi Bobby!

I don't know how much help I'd be (I do annual 8th grade productions because I want to- not a drama club director, not a theater major, just a passionate language arts teacher).

I don't know what age group you currently teach, but I would say that Kindergarten is too young. I've done two-week summer drama camps for incoming grades 4-8, and it worked well. Those 4th graders were just at the right age where they were mature enough to interact with the old ones, cooperate in a focused environment, and exert thier own creativity.

If you teach in an elementary school up to grade 5, I would start slow and start small.... perhaps begin with 4th and 5th graders and go from there. One decent play I head of (never saw) is called Antics in the Attic... my niece did it a few years ago, but I wasn't able to see it (out of state). I'd love to give more ideas, but my shows are musicals. There are also great books I found in the teacher store that have skits and short plays. Reader's Theatre by Judy Truesdell Mecca and Real Life Drama for Real, Live Students by the same author.

Sets is something I've been grateful to get donated. It's not technologically created (no projectors), but it's basically four moving dividers on wheels that are double sided for various painted backdrops. You are bound to find a few dads (or moms) who are woodshop saavy and it'll take them about 2 hours to get them together..... then charge for tickets at your shows and re-coup your costs. Sell concession items before and at the intermission of your show and watch your proceeds grow!

I hope that helps! Good luck- or better yet, break a leg!

Thank you so much for the advice! I will have to find that play Antics in the Attic! I teach 2nd grade, but I was thinking of like a 3-5 grade drama club. Your advice to start with 4th graders is great - I think I will do that. I also have no drama or theater experience so this is a huge undertaking. I am hoping to get one of the 4th grade teachers on board with me so I'm not going it alone. Our art teacher does a free art club after school also, and she volunteered to help us with set design (as I am artistically challenged!)

How much do you have the students do? Do they do the set design? Sell the concessions? Costumes? Do you write a script for them, or have you found completed scripts for your musicals?

Thank you so much for your time and advice! It helps greatly!
Hi Bobby,

It sounds like you are where I was just a few years ago. I've been running an elementary drama club for the last four years and it has varied each year. I agree with Christine, allow yourself to start small and start slow! It will ramp up quickly! My first year I started with 4th-6th and had 75 kids! The next year I went to 5th-6th and had 85 (school of 615 kids)! My main piece of advice would be to determine what you really want your club to accomplish. Is it just a fun creative outlet for kids? A serious full-length performance driven club? What are your goals for the kids? Mine have changed each year. I have been moving away from big performances with sets and costumes and toward student developed performances where kids focus on building characters.

My other piece of advice is that there is no right or wrong way to do this! I think it is great you are seeking out help from others too!

Pioneer Drama Service has many excellent plays written for elementary age students.


Also, Clarus (clarusmusic.com)

For sets, Christine's idea is great (might use PVC pipe with that design too). Also, using either 2x4's or PVC, create two squares and attach them together with hinges. Cover the squares with old bed sheets to use for backdrops. These are nice because they fold up and are easily moved if you need to clear your performance space quickly.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes!


P.S. Your PTA/PTO might be a good source for financial support, especially with start up costs (script fees and performance fees).

Thank you so much for the great advice! Both of those websites look like they offer great titles and they look very affordable as well. I appreciate the encouragement about just giving it a try - I think too often as a new teacher I get frustrated thinking "well if someone else here hasn't done it, it must not work" but I am excited to give it a try.

Mostly I just want the kids to have fun and to gain more experience with different types of literature/story telling and music. I loved Ralph Esquith's book "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire" where he got his kids to do Shakespeare and had them play full on instrumental rock pieces throughout. I know we are years away from that - but I think the idea is admirable. I think I know a few families that could help out with Christine and your ideas for set design. Thanks so much for the ideas!

Wow, Chris also has fabulous advice!

I love the PVC idea! Our backdrops are so huge, that it takes time between scenes to switch them around. I'm sure the PVC is much lighter. Do you have any pictures, Chris?

Yes, I forgot about Pioneer. They send catalogs each season, but I never order anything, since I use prepared scripts and buy the rights to perform a show. For my literature class, I do have my students write their own scripts based on a short story or novel we are reading, then they video-record themselves to create a movie.

You can start teaching them their skills by doing that (or even acting them out live in class) before you put on a show.

My students take part in a lot of painting. The parents run concessions, but each actor is asked to donate certain items to the booth. I do ask for parent help by having a mandatory parent meeting prior to auditions. I have one loooooonnnnnggg Saturday (the week before opening night) where all we do it set building from 9:00 a.m. until about 9:00 pm. Parent shave to sign up and bring supplies. If they do not show up, I cash a $50 check that they previously gave me. That goes towards supplies. If they show up, I return their check to them.

Keep us posted!
I have learned the hard way!
Hi Bobby,
This year our 5th and 6th graders produced "School House Rock Jr.". I'm told it was expensive up front to buy the scripts, music, and rights, but the money was recouped from ticket sales and a small snack stand. There were many students involved. Instead of a Spring concert, the 5th and 6th grade chorus headed by our music teacher stood on risers on the back of the stage and sang the numerous numbers, often with props (flags for the Preamble, glowing antenna for Inter-planet Janet...). 6th graders served as stage crew. Student council members and parents ran the refreshment stand and sold tickets. Art students made props (cardboard train for "Conjunction Junction). My favorite prop was the bumpy mattress pad cover turned into a bill costume ("I'm just a bill on Capitol Hill"). The play was produced on three different nights with three different casts (Everyone was involved each night in some capacity, but the 5 main rolls were rotated.). Honestly, I had no role in the play other than very entertained spectator. The following adults were involved: the music teacher directed chorus, a 6th grade math teacher was in charge of the acting and stage crew, the assistant principal had a feature role as Inter-planet Janet and roller skated about the stage in a cape, another teacher with a dance background helped choreograph a dance number. Hope this helps.
Hi Rebecca,

That definitely helps! It is good that you were able to get so many different adults and the student council involved. I think that will make or break it for our hopes for a drama club. We also have a new music teacher so I want to try and get her involved without stepping on any toes. Thank you so much for the ideas - that sounds like it was really fun!




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