Developing the IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills with Drama

Drama! It brings out the risk taker in many and inspires Oscar-worthy acting in others. It really is one of my favourite activities in the classroom that incorporates so many skills, which is why I wanted to share some ideas with you regarding using drama with your class.  Perfect for any IB PYP theme, especially How We Express Ourselves, it can be incorporated into all subject areas quite seamlessly, not to mention a fabulous way to enhance an Exhibition presentation.

The IB PYP  Approaches to Learning Skills are grouped into five areas of skills that we use in our daily journey of learning – Thinking, Communication, Social, Self Management and Research.  I have found that when I throw some drama into the mix of my plans, things really start to spice up when it comes to those skills.

How The Skills Link With Drama

If you think about what is required within drama, particularly with some form of script, you’ll find that all of the Approaches to Learning Skills are touched upon to some extent.
THINKING – understanding the text, inferring what the part of the tale before your part may be, thinking how best to communicate your role and act out your part before it comes to your turn, predicting the sequencing of events, knowing when to read your part etc.
SOCIAL – collaborating with the rest of the actors in order to keep the plot going smoothly, moving into and out of place on the stage seamlessly, working with a team in order to create props or costumes
COMMUNICATION – listening closely to each actor and watching and listening for verbal and visual clues to prompt your turn, fluency with reading the text on the card or script and acting it out appropriately so that your audience can clearly hear and understand your role and character, discussing ideas with your group etc.
SELF MANAGEMENT – Very similarly to social skills, the students must know when to enter and exit the play; reading their part of the script, recognise timing and clues that prompt them when to play their part, cooperate with the rest of the team
RESEARCH – with some scripts, it is often a good idea to do some development of background knowledge in order to gain a more thorough understanding of the plot, its setting, characters and so on. For example- if your script was about the Greek Gods, having the children research some of the characteristics of those Gods and the stories behind them would help tremendously with clarity of the plot, visualising the charatcers and thus helping them to better play their part in the play.

Adding Drama to Your Plans

I have found, over the years, that it is really quite easy to add drama into any curricular area and I have MANY tools to support integrating drama into your classroom. Take a look at the collection here in my store. 

Some ideas to easily integrate drama into your planning include the following:

Maths can have drama added too!

1.DRAMA CIRCLES One of my favourite activities that kids LOVE! If you’re not familiar, this is an hilarious class activity that involves the children sitting in a circle, facing in. There is a pack of cards with text on each card. The cards are printed with a small part of the plot of a play and read in order, so that the story unfolds with each child reading a part of the “script” and acting out what the card tells them. For example: “When you hear the old lady has swallowed the frog, you will jump

A Round of drama. Understanding the IB Attitudes.

up and hop around the circle acting like a distressed frog,  crying, ” Oh no, she swallowed the frog!” ”

Each child will have one or two cards handed to them. Most resources do come differentiated, therefore you can ensure each child has an opportunity to read text that is suitable for them. The cards usually come with numbers on them too, so that you know the order in which they must be read. The tricky part is that the cards are handed to each child OUT OF ORDER, so that they must really listen to each card being read, listen for the clues and watch the actors carefully,  prompting them to know that their part is up next.

Besides the obvious reading skills, ( fluency, comprehension, inferring and sequencing) it is really more about the skills that fall under the title of Approaches to Learning- Communication, cooperation, self management & thinking.

2. Reader’s Theatre

What’s not to love about Reader’s Theatre? It’s engaging, can be differentiated, used in guided reading as well as literacy centres, so easy to integrate into your plans and kids LOVE getting into character. There are so many, many Reader’s

A Christmas Readers Theatre script

Theatre type of scripts available online that you can just about find any genre or tale that you are seeking. A simple Google search provides a ton of ideas.


When it comes the ATL skills, the Reader’s Theatre direction brings us more to Social Skills than any other, I have found. Following a script is all well and good, but actually independently deciding who will play which parts can be a whole other story in itself. You know what I mean? When you have one kiddo who stands out as the leader in a group, it’s not such a problem but when you have too many leaders??? Yup, I’m pretty certain I am not the only teacher ever to have this little issue pop up. 🙂 Too many directors in a Reader’s Theatre group doesn’t always work well BUT it is the PERFECT learning opportunity for self management and social skills, not to mention the attitude of TOLERANCE.  ( for students and teachers, I hasten to add. Hee, hee! )


Acting without words can be integrated into a lot of curricular areas. It utilises the skills of thinking in particular as, without speech, the children have to really think creatively how to communicate their message to their audience. Of course, cooperation and communication come into play too and depending on the tasks asked of the children, there may be some research required as well. I have created a list below of some ideas that you may find useful when planning how to implement mime into your day with lots of opportunity for thinking skills, communicationself management and social skills.

The video below shows an example of how we used drama to assess the children's conceptual understanding. 

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A post shared by Susan Powers (@pypteaching)


Specified Concepts: I have found mime to be a fun formative assessment tool, as the children are asked to mime a particular concept and others have to guess  what they are portraying. The picture you can see above is of my fifth graders working collaboratively to demonstrate the form & function of the human digestive system. This example can be used with any concept that you are studying. For example; the human body systems, the rock cycle, simple machines and so on. Easy to implement, simply write 1 or 2 specified concepts on an index card, along with a sentence describing what they children have to mime, remind each group NOT to tell the other groups what their task will be, and then give them time to discuss their ideas, plan their skit and practice their mime. Each group will then perform for the class and afterwards, give the children time to try to guess what it was that was being acted.

  1. Vocabulary words: Along the lines of number 1 above, write a new vocabulary word or phrase on a card for each group and have them think, plan and practice before they mime. This is one that can be done in math especially, getting them up and out of their seats. For example: Order of operations, polygons, multiples etc. Or with Language arts;  cause and effect, onomatopoeia, fiction etc. You’ll be in awe at just how creative kids can be!
  2. Summarising a story or paragraph: This takes a bit more prep but is a wonderful way to work on reading strategies. I will have copies of various excerpts from a story that we are working on that the whole class will know. Or, it could be an excerpt from well known fairy tales, that you’d expect every child to know. ( Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood etc) One excerpt will be given to each group and together they will read over it, plan and discuss how to summarise their act and then mime it to the class. The audience will then have to infer what they see and guess which part of the story they just watched. Its so much fun!.

I hope that you can find some use from the ideas above. Once you dial into the Approaches to Learning, you really can see how they just pop up constantly in every part of our daily learning. Drama is truly one of my favourite things to have fun with the kids and it never fails to bring heaps of hilarity!

You might like to explore some of these resources that I have created and used with my kiddos. They’re found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and you can keep up to date with my IB PYP resources simply by clicking here and following me. 

As always, I am open to your own ideas and would love to have you share them.



P.S. Take a look at the whole year bundle of drama activities I have collected, ideal for integrating across subjects. 


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