An empty classroom is like a blank canvas — fresh and exciting, but also pretty anxiety-inducing. It can be challenging for new arts teachers to know which items they should have in their classrooms, especially when few schools are fortunate enough to have a crew of experienced arts teachers to help guide them.
Here are 20 items all drama teachers should have in their classrooms:
1. Book of Improv Games
If class finishes early, you are stuck for a lesson or are looking for a way to engage students at the start of class, you can’t go wrong with improv games. Amazon offers several choices in books on the subject, or you can purchase sets from educator resource site Teachers Pay Teachers.
2. Box of Costumes and Props
Be it an in-class activity or a school production, having costumes and props available is essential. It may take some time to accumulate a decent stash of items, but start by asking friends or family if they have anything they are looking to get rid of or cruise local garage sales. Dollar stores, craft stores and discount stores are great for finding more specialized pieces at low prices and often have coupons or teacher discounts. Or, enlist the help of creative students or staff to make costumes and props.
Never get rid of costumes and props used in a production, unless they’re borrowed, broken or rented. You never know when they could be useful again. Be sure to find plastic bins, crates or even a trunk for storage to keep your collection in good condition.
3. Sharpie Markers
Whether you are labeling tape-marked spots onstage, teacher resources or writing on chart paper, Sharpie markers are multipurpose and always useful. Consider investing in a few mini Sharpie markers that come with keychain clips for easy access.
4. Quality Speakers
Teaching a movement class? Showing a film clip? Just listening to music? Poor-quality speakers mean students can’t hear and will either miss a crucial point you’re trying to make or disengage with the lesson. It’s worth doing some research and purchasing a high-quality set of speakers that will last.
5. Organizational Storage
Drama classes by nature are more interactive, but that doesn’t mean they have to be disorganized. Avoid chaos and allow your students to have independence by maintaining an organized and structured classroom. Whether it’s bins, shelves, cubbies or carts, the options are extensive. Check out Pinterest for tips and ideas for classroom storage and organization.
6. Art Supplies
Allow your students to thrive in inspiring moments and engage in the creative process. Having art supplies on hand gives them the freedom to follow their creativity for an assignment or school production. Speak to your administration about budget for such items before purchasing any on your own.
7. Glue Gun and Duct Tape
There’s nothing this pair can’t do.
8. Jar of Safety Pins
Basic uses include fitting a costume, but safety pins are also great for fastening items to stage curtains or backdrops or even transforming costume pieces into something completely different with creative pinning.
9. Butcher Paper
Drawing, brainstorming and creating backdrops for classroom performances are just a few ways you can use butcher paper. The long rolls of paper are easy to store, economical and more versatile than regular plain paper.
10. LCD Projector or TV
Being able to show video clips and multimedia during your lessons is helpful to keep your students engaged and spark ideas.
Many drama classrooms opt not to have desks to allow for more space to move around. Clipboards are a great alternative when students need to make notes, write creatively or complete an activity. They also come in handy for productions when you need to organize copies of the script and design notes for members of your backstage and technical crew.
12. Piano or Keyboard
A piano opens more opportunities for your students to be creative and inventive. A budding Sondheim could be among your students, and creating a space that lets them explore the different areas of theatre could be the spark they need. It’s also useful for musical auditions and rehearsals.
13. Performance Space
If you are given a regular classroom space, it can be helpful to designate where the “stage” will be. Some teachers create a small platform within their room, while others mark the space with an area rug or colorful duct tape. Remember to review safety regulations within your school before deciding how you will design your space.
14. Notice Board
Find wall space to hang a cork board where you can advertise arts opportunities such as audition notices, community theatre groups, theatre performance posts or post-secondary programs. Check with your administration before posting anything from a source outside of the school, as some schools have policies around what can be advertised to the student body.
15. Foam Ball
Tossing a ball back and forth around the classroom is a fun way to call on students and engage them in the lesson or discussion by asking the student holding the foam ball to be the one to speak. It’s also an active way to review terminology by having the students toss the ball while quizzing each other.
16. Small Sewing Kit
You never know if there is a budding designer in your midst. Give your students the freedom to explore their imagination and create costume pieces for their performances.
17. Overhead Projector
With many schools transitioning to using document cameras and smart boards, overhead projectors are collecting dust somewhere in the school. Rescue them and give them a new lease on life as budget spotlights for performances in class.
18. Inspirational Décor
Make your room a haven for creativity. Hang up old playbills, posters of shows and examples of those who have found success in creative careers. Also, artwork with motivational phrases can be the encouragement some students need to engage and move outside of their comfort zones.
You can also engage students with fun, decorative items. One of my high school music teachers kept a plastic lawn gnome on his desk that had been given to him by a student as a joke. Students always asked about it when first entering his class, and it eventually became the class mascot.
19. Stage Direction Sign
It is surprisingly easy to forget the difference between stage right and stage left when you are also trying to stay in character, read lines, act, sing or dance. Having a reference poster or two for stage directions allows students to reference it independently and saves you from having to repeat the directions numerous times.
Presentations and improve games can get chaotic and noisy. Avoid shouting to get their attention and use a buzzer, bell or noisemaker instead. Your voice will thank you.
While all of these items are an excellent support for programming, ultimately, the passion for the subject matter is the most important thing to have in every classroom. And luckily, that’s priceless.