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The Short Hills Drama Program aims to develop creative, collaborative, and critical thinking skills through dramatic exercises designed to help students in all facets of their natural development: emotional, intellectual, physical, vocal, and social. The focus is on process rather than production, problem solving rather than performance. From year to year, students build skills that expand on previous knowledge and connect to other curricular areas including language arts, social studies, and technology.

Kindergarten students work to develop physical creativity and focus. In Grade 1, sound and voice are added to the actor’s toolbox. Grade 2 students devise characters and develop language to discuss performance choices. Grade 3 drama explores perspective in storytelling and use of metaphor. Group performance projects and process dramas challenge Grade 4 students to consider how a character’s world affects his or her perspective, feelings, and actions. By Grade 5, students are ready to examine text and subtext like professional actors and, finally, take on the role of playwrights to capture their dramatic ideas on paper and communicate them to the world.

Curriculum by Grade

Kindergarten - Imagination in Motion

Kindergarten actors work to bring their imaginations to the stage. Through a series of games and exercises, we develop focus, physical awareness and vocal control. Students advance from a focus on the self to an awareness of others, allowing them to begin productive group work by the spring. From our first round of "Pass the Flea" to the final performance challenges, kindergarten actors are constantly in motion.

Grade 1 - an Actor's Tools

Grade 1 actors begin to add voice and sound to their work. Students are introduced to the art of radio drama and the job of a Foley artist as they record their own radio plays. Over the course of the year, we transition from performing with sound but no action to pantomime - performing with action, but no sound - and finally to combining body and voice in storytelling. Emphasis throughout the course is placed on collaboration in both planning and performance.

Grade 2 - Creating Characters

Grade 2 actors explore the many ways to invent and represent a character in the theatre. In addition to physical and vocal choices, students discuss the inner life of their characters and consider how they themselves are characters in the world. Students develop material independently, with partners, and in groups and work on giving and taking direction and advice. We explore direction through activities such as drama games, puppetry, and computer coding.

Grade 3 - Simile and Metaphor

Grade 3 actors explore simile and metaphor as expressed through art. Students explore how they can use visuals and sounds to convey deeper levels of meaning. They explore the art of film using iPads, considering the camera as a storytelling tool and a method of sharing perspective. Connections are made to language arts poetry studies as each class collaboratively choreographs a creative movement dance to selections from Carl Sandburg's 38 definitions of poetry - each a metaphor full of sounds and images ripe for physical adaptation.

Grade 4 - All the World's a Stage

Grade 4 actors explore how space is used in theatre, making connections to their work in social studies. Students explore how context shapes perspective through process drama activities and learn correct vocabulary for stage geography and blocking. They work collaboratively to develop stories out of movement, working on justifying their choices. They begin to explore playwriting and formal performance technique through monologue.

Grade 5 - From Page to Stage

Grade 5 students learn how to read a script like an actor, sharpening their inference skills. Connections are made throughout the year to the work of archeologists, historians, and readers. An actor's process is explored step-by-step as students work with scenes from professionally published scripts. After discussion of a play script's unique formatting, students are challenged to take on the role of playwright, culminating in staged readings of their work in the classroom.