Calling all Countdown Card Collectors!!!

How to use Countdown Collector Cards in Drama

I am a self confessed Countdown Card collector. I have exchanged many 'I still need...'texts (text recipients you know who you are - I'm not alone), filed and organised, swapped and posted cards and been really nice to check out operators in the hopes they might slide an extra few cards my way! That sense of achievement as I slid the 'last' card into the pocket - so satisfying (I clearly need to get out more!).

With completed albums (out of the reach of little hands), there is still the excess that are regularly strewn around our lounge room floor with the accompanying paraphernalia - projectors, stickers, animal making sound machines and the like.

So here are some suggestions of ways to use these precious little rectangles in other creative and productive ways to engage your children or students!

The ultimate guessing game - Charades!

The ultimate guessing game - Charades!

What I like about the game Charades, is that that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Charades is word guessing game where by the performer mimes (no speaking) out a word, action or a phrase.

I have played it with primary school classes, creative drama students and with my own family at home!

Primary teachers, it makes for great transition time game while you wait for everyone to join you on the mat.

It teaches the performer:
  • Imaginative, quick thinking
  • How to use facial expression, gesture and movement
  • Ways to convey emotion non verbally
  • To interact with an audience
  • Vocabulary/language development 
 It teaches the audience to:
  • Concentrate
  • Make observations
  • Listen and respond
  • Show appreciation of a performance
  • Build their vocabulary
The Game

There are many variations of this game. With under tens I keep it simple with drawing a card from a hat or a box. Cards typically have an animal, action or phrase written on it.

With under fives and junior primary school, I use picture cards with the word underneath.

The performer selects a card and acts it out whilst the class watches and offers their observations.

With bigger groups, its best to limit guesses to three so that you can let the next student choose a card and the game can continue.

 "Charades for Kids" is is an essential for your teacher tool kit. Here are some cards I made when I couldn't find my copy of the game.

The Game for older students

  • Stop watch or egg timer
  • Basket/hat
  • Slips of paper with ideas on them (Categories can include: quotes, movies, books, songs, TV shows, Plays, People, Locations, Events, Word or a phrase
  • Pen and paper for keeping score
  • Divide into two even teams
  • Taking turns, each player chooses a card with word or phrase written on it (can be a category, see above)
  • Set the timer to indicate time frame that the player has to perform
  • No sound or lip movement, or pointing to objects to assist
  • Teams take turns until all members have had a chance to act out a card
  • Keep score if you wish!
Charades Cards offers some great playing tips:

Players can indicate category by:
  • Quote/Saying - Make quote signs with 2 fingers on both hands
  • Movies - Pretend to use an old fashioned film camera, cranking a handle to operate it and looking through the lense
  • Books - Open a pretend book with your hands
  • Music/Songs - Simulate sound coming out of your mouth with your hands
  • TV - Draw a television shaped rectangle in the air with your hands
  • Plays - Pretend to pull the ropes of a theatre curtain
  • People - Stand with your hands on your hips
  • Location - Draw an Earth with your fingers, then point somewhere in the middle
  • Event - Point at your watch (or just your wrist if you're not wearing one)
  • Word/Phrase - Similar to Quote/Saying, make quote signs with your hands
Some Non Verbal  clues can be given:
  • Think!! - point at your head and wave your finger in a circle
  • Number of words in the phrase - Hold up the appropriate number of fingers, e.g. hold up 5 fingers to show it's a phrase with 5 words
  • Which word you are working on - Hold up the number of fingers again, e.g. hold up 3 fingers to show you're working on the 3rd word
  • Number of syllables in the word - Rest one finger per syllable on your arm and show the audience
  • Which syllable you're working on - Rest the number of fingers on your arm to show which syllable you're working on
  • Length of word - Make a little or big sign with your hands as if you were measuring a fish
  • Sounds like / Rhymes with - Pull your earlobe
Inspiration for Four Categories:

Movies: Frozen, Lion King, Madagascar, Toy Story, Happy Feet, The Sound of Music, ET, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Transformers, Jurassic Park

TV: Sponge Bob Square Pants, Pingu, Sesame Street, Peppa Pig, Magic School Bus, Care Bears, The Wiggles, Fragle Rock, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones

Locations: The beach, supermarket, ski field, Australia, movies, school, soccer game, park, pool, zoo

People: hairdresser, mechanic, ballerina, rugby star, gardener, shop keeper, mailman, artist, florist, reporter

Have fun!

20 Picture books that can spark the imagination!

There's no such thing as a Gruffalo!

Here is a list of our favourites, many of which have been well road tested by my son! A great go to list if you want to buy a gift or change up your reading material.
    These stories come in handy when devising a thematic drama lesson, containing lots of potential to cover key drama learning areas. I look forward to choosing a story and sharing a lesson plan down the track!

    20 Picture books that can spark the imagination!
    1. The Gruffalo By Julia Donaldson
    2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt By Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
    3. Mr Muggs the Library Cat by Dave Gunson

    Let the climbing frame become the Pirate Ship!

    An adventurous pirate
    Let the climbing frame become the Pirate Ship!

    Parents and caregivers, here's 10 quick ideas to bring out some creativity when you're at the park with your little ones:

    1. Use park play space structures to your advantage.

    “Ahoy! Where be that treasure? Arrrgh!?” Build stories with your children, role playing your quest to search for buried treasure!

    Utilising playground equipment is an easy way to develop gross motor skills.

    Climbing and hanging help strengthen muscles, swinging and seesawing support the vestibular system, which is to do with balance.

    Playgrounds help children develop their spatial awareness and depth perception, given the many levels that can be found in the construction of playground equipment.

    2. Grab your binoculars, magnifying glasses and set off on your expedition! Take an explorers box and gather things of interest from nature or hunt for insects.

    You could use these things to take home and create pictures, or make 3D scenes. Leaves, pine cones, stones and bark have lots of artistic potential.

    3. It’s a race - explore space! Give instructions, skip to the swings, hop to the slide, balance on the rocks, wiggle like a worm to the see saw and the list continues.

    Let your children share their own movement ideas too!

    4. Roll!

    Literally roll down any grassy slopes you can find! Rolling is a great sensory experience.
    It builds strength and coordination and assists with both vestibular and midline development!

    5. Cup of tea? Don't mind if I do!

    Take Teddy to the park and have a picnic! Let the kids take the reins (with you as the helper) preparing food, packing and setting it out once at the park.

    Pretending twigs, leafs etc are delicious foods is another fun option!

    6. Take bubble wands and imagine!

    Chase them, catch them, run away from them, jump on them!

    Turn them into monsters, robots, fairy dust... etc. Bubble play has many educational benefits. It helps develop fine motor, oral and visual tracking skills along with hand/eye coordination.

    7. Don’t just feed the ducks, be the ducks!

    Quack, waddle, preen your wings! Pretend to dive and swim in the water.

    Observe and talk about them, chase and feed them. You could even go home and draw them and write a story about your experience.

    8. Get set go! Plan an obstacle course that uses playground equipment.

    Up the steps backwards, down the slide, run and touch the swing frame, race around the rubbish bin and then up to the top of the climbing frame.

    Super heroes run pretty fast! Are you game to wear your capes?

    9. You can’t go wrong with Hide and Go Seek, Tag, Follow the Leader or Eye Spy. Timeless games that all children love to play!

    10. Scavenger Hunt!

    Kids love to look for things. Give them a bag to collect things from a list or a pencil and paper to check off found items. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as:
    • Find a smooth leaf
    • Find a pointy leaf
    • Find a Brown leaf
    • Find a big leaf

    This could be just what you need to keep your little ones busy searching!

    Pirate image copyright Jenae Ryan

    How creative drama is like doing long division (in a good way!)

    long division calculation

    How creative drama is like long division (in a good way!)

    While I'm all about moving with the times and equipping children with the skills they need to navigate their way around the many electronic devices at their fingertips, creative drama classes ensures the art of confident communication and self-expression isn't buried under a pile of laptops and smart boards.

    Participating in such classes is a bit like long division.

    Effective communication isn’t a quick calculation. It requires thoughtful teaching steps, giving children tiers of skills to build upon.

    It's important that the art of effective verbal communication is not lost amidst hours of screen time watching Youtube videos.

    There is no doubt that children need strong verbal skills to become competent inquirers as the ability to communicate competently with a dash of 'pizazz' is what takes students down the path of success in all areas of their life.

    Exploring drama is an excellent way to develop these skills.

    Here are some examples of how it helps students to connect with others, so they can convey ideas, opinions, emotions and meaning through a range of genre, purposefully, appropriately and effectively.

    Lessons teach students to:
    • Speak clearly loudly and expressively such as by using tongue twisters
    • Look after their voices by utilising vocal warm ups and short songs
    • Use eye contact developed through games such as eyes up, eyes down
    • Listen and concentrate by following instructions, watching and engaging as their peers perform
    • Form and share opinions by participating in conversational activities based on a topic. This could be for example by telling a class mate about your favourite animal, give reasons. Next step: act it out
    • Reflect on learning. Verbalise a process, what went well, what might you do differently next time?
    • Think quick such as by use of  theatre sports games 
    • Team work. Encouragement of cooperative activities such as pass the hoop around the circle
    • Social skills and role play.  Having dramatic telephone conversations, pretending to be in different settings like the hairdresser or a spaceship, a great way to extend vocab! 
    • Understand their emotions, imagination and empathy. This can be done by games such as ‘Genre Re-play’ and improvised work enable students to explore a range of emotion and develop an understanding of their impact)
    Like tackling a maths problem the old fashioned way, each of these areas are steps in achieving the desired result.

    Unlike evolving technological breakthroughs where the need to do long division has passed, these skills are timeless.

    This makes creative drama an exceptional platform to provide fundamental life skills which can only but hold our children in good stead for their future endeavors.