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  • Shannon Stoddard

Ensemble Building Lesson Plan

I believe that a strong ensemble is one of the most important aspects of a production! Before we hit the ground running with music, choreography and blocking rehearsals - I like to have a fun rehearsal of ensemble building games! Each year I try to change things up a little bit so none of it gets stale (since I have many students who are the same year after year) ... below is what we did for our Ensemble Building rehearsal of The Little Mermaid last month!


Dividing The Teams

I started by pre-dividing the cards so that there was an equal number of each suit for the number of students in the cast. Then, I had students each pick a card randomly and then they divided by their suits of cards. Each group then came up with a team name!


Game #1: Alphabet Race

I handed each group a sheet of paper with the alphabet written down the side. The students were then given 5 minutes to work together and come up with a word related to our show for each letter of the alphabet. When the time was up - students from each group shared which words they chose. Teams would only get a point if their word was unique from everyone else's!


Game #2: Balloons

I started the game by blowing up 3 balloons of 4 different colors so that every team had their own color balloon. Students then had to work together to see who could keep their balloon up in the air the longest. To make it more challenging - we let them also try to sabatoge the other teams by knocking their balloons now. It got pretty heated and very quickly... the game only lasted a few minutes... but there were many laughs!


Game #3: Puzzle Time

Each group was given a 300-piece puzzle to work together to complete -- as a race! Students had to work together fast to get their puzzles together! But we thought we'd make it more challenging and stole 1 piece from each group... As the first group almost finished their puzzle; but realized that they were missing a piece - we encouraged them to help the other groups because maybe their piece got lost among their pieces.


It didn't take long for the kids to start blaming others for sabotaging their groups. We just kept encouraging the kids to work together because their pieces HAD to be in one of the boxes! In the long run, the stolen pieces added extra laughs all around! We also discussed the importance of working together and not blaming others for things out of their control (a true ensemble building moment!)!


Game #4: 60, 30, 15, 7, 4 (Improv)

In this game the teams had to re-enact the story of The Little Mermaid; but from another character's perspective (example: Ursula's Story). We gave the teams about 5 minutes to chat about the story they'd share, who was doing what and planned their stories. Each team was first given 1 minute (60 seconds) to share their story with the other teams. (We had some pretty interesting reenactments of the story!) Then time was cut in half... each team was given 30 seconds, then 15 seconds, 7 seconds, and 4 seconds. Each time the story got crazier -- it was hard to tell the same story each time with less and less time! This game was probably the biggest hit of the night!


Game #5: Fishbowl

Our final game of the night was an edited version of the classic party game "fishbowl." For our game we stayed in our 4 teams to compete. Each member of the team wrote out two little Mermaid related things on slips of paper (people, places, things). All of these things were then added into the bowl for the game.


Round 1: Taboo Round --

The starting team chooses a player to go first. That player then grabs a piece of paper from the bowl and reads it (to themself). The one-minute timer begins as soon as they pick the piece of paper from the bowl. The player must describe the word on that paper without saying WHAT the word is. If the player thinks the word is too hard, they can pass and put the paper back in the bowl. The goal is to see how many words you can get in the one-minute!


Each team gets their turn to guess the words -- and the bowl continues circulating to each team until there are no more words. We recommend everyone paying attention to each team's round though as THEY may have that word in another round!


Once Round 1 is over -- all of the pieces of paper go back in the bowl for Round 2!


Round 2: Password Round --

Once again, each team chooses a player to go first. That player will then grab a piece of paper and then read (just as before). This round is tricky because the player can only say ONE WORD in relation to what is on their paper. They can say the word as many times and as many ways as they'd like -- but they can only say that ONE word!


If players were paying attention in the previous round, they should have an idea of that things in the bowl (which always helps!). The game continues (as before) so each team gets their one-minute turn, and it keeps going until all papers have been read!


Once Round 2 is over -- all of the pieces of paper go back into the bowl for Round 3!


Round 3: Charades Round --

Once again, each time chooses a player to go first (all the same as the previous two rounds). The only difference this time is that the players can only act out their words -- no speaking or making sounds! This round continues until all papers have been guessed!


And the Winner Is...

To end the game, we tallied up all of the points each team earned throughout the 3 rounds. Points were based on how many things they guessed correctly!



The Points Don't Matter...

In the end, the students all had fun and honestly the points in the games didn't matter! The real goal of the night was for the students to bond and get to know each other better! We had many new students in our Theatre Company this year and I think this was a great way to break the ice!


The funniest part of the evening was as I was putting away the puzzles from the earlier game... one of the teams so kindly left a puzzle piece out of one of the boxes... No idea which one! So, that will be a guessing game for another group in another show!




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