II.4.2 - Drama conventions and strategies

Theatre and drama encode meaning into the elements of situation and make them accessible for the those watching it. Many of these forms can be used in education with the aim of grasping and exploring moments of the human experience. In this section we offer some fairly basic forms of drama that do just that – freeze a moment of life and hence, make it accessible, so we can engage with those who are in these moments. We are offering seemingly similar activities, that differ in small elements – but actually these elements make great differences when signs are used to make meaning and to read meaning, as this is done in drama and theatre.

There are many possibilities for working with objects in drama lessons, but also many games can be built around them. This is because objects carry different sets of values with them. So a carved stick could have a specific price (fiscal value); but if it the only stick that someone can reach and press a very high switch with then that gives it a different value (use value); in case it was a stick that someone played with as a child together with their grandfather then it will have again a different value (sentimental value).

Still image / Freeze frame – this drama convention refers to freezing a moment of life. It is as a video has been stopped at a significant moment. It is important that the moment shared through this form carries some sort of importance. It can be used to portray fictional moments (from a story for example) or real-life situations. Its strength is that it is a quick step from speech towards situation – for example if children listen to a story and are then asked to make a still image of the most important moment from the story then they will immediately start working on it as a situation form a story. This can allow the teacher/facilitator to see what the interests of the children are, but also raise question, discuss and develop the situation that has been highlighted by the group. This form is widely used because of its simplicity and it can be developed in a variety of directions.

Depiction – this convention is similar to a still image in form with the important difference that while a still image is like a frozen moment of life, a depiction is like a painting created for an audience. This means that in the creation of a depiction the group should be aware that they are not only showing a significant moment, but using visual tools to place their thinking about it in the depiction as well. This means that they are coding their thinking about the moment into the image as well.

Statue – this dramatic convention is again similar to a depiction, but in this case the focus is on one character and that figure’s situation rather than the situation as a whole. The statue allows participants to look at the details of that person’s situation in the process of crafting it. The statue can be created in small group work or in whole groups working together, as it is really useful for those observing it to share what comes through of the intentions of the creators.


A variety of forms can be used to develop the above-mentioned activities into processes of exploring meaning collectively. The drama lesson offered above gives one example, but surely teachers will be interested in building their own processes out of these forms.