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How should you choose your students’ roles in school play dramas?

By Paul Matthias, National Director of Hays Education

It can be so rewarding staging a school play where you get the chance to boost school morale, build your students’ confidence and integrate with the community. But if you’re hosting a summer play at your school it can be daunting to try and choose roles for your students. You want to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to participate but also ensure that they all enjoy the play and don’t feel pressured to do aspects they don’t want to.

So with this school calendar event looming in most schools, here are our tips for the best ways of selecting students for roles in the school play.

1. Choose from categories

A great way to gauge what type of role your students would like to have in the school play is to ask them to choose a category. For example, they could pick either actor, narration, non-speaking or music and from this, you can see what they’re comfortable with and go from there. Those who have specified non-speaking are evidently not going to be comfortable with a leading role. You could go with more vague categories if you want to push your students to be more open to the experience, such as using a traffic light method; ‘red’ if they’re adamant they don’t want a key role, ‘amber’ if they don’t mind what they do within the play, or ‘green’ is they’re keen to take on a more inclusive role wherein they may be a lead role or singing for example.

2. Host an audition process

Whilst a school play isn’t a West End production holding auditions can be a useful tactic, as sometimes children can seem confident and enthusiastic, but when it comes to it they might freeze in front of an audience. It’s therefore useful to realise this early to both save the student from potential anxiety and the running of the school play. This also provides an opportunity for those students who you’ve pegged as more reserved in the classroom, to surprise you by auditioning and coming out of their shell. Just make sure that you don’t get caught up in the audition process and choose students with a specific ‘look’ for a part - your Sandy from Grease doesn’t need to have traditional blonde hair!

3. Trust yourself

Likely the most traditional of options is just choosing the play parts based off of your own knowledge, both as their class teacher and as an experienced teacher in itself. Ultimately you’re going to best know your student’s capabilities and who will be reliable for the key parts. You may feel assured in your position as their teacher to simply sit down with your class list and the character list side by side and choose who’s who. You could use this as chance to give a helpful nudge to a student you’ve noticed who rarely gets the opportunity to showcase their skills, or take a leap of faith by giving an important role to a student with behavioural issues which in the long run could be a huge help to how they are in your class.

There is no sure fail-safe option for choosing the play roles for your students, but we hope these ideas have given you some options and helped you with a fair way to allocate the parts to students for your school play.

To find out more, or to discuss your employment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.

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