Pandemic Teaching Tip #3 by theatre teacher Jennifer Finlayson

Pandemic Teaching Tip #3: Physicality and Storytelling

How do I teach theatre during a pandemic? *sigh*

We can help! We've been gathering pandemic teaching success stories from teachers and directors all over the country. Whether you're teaching over Zoom or socially distanced in a classroom, we have ideas for you!

Physicality and Storytelling

Teaching Ideas by Jennifer Finlayson, teacher and proud member of the Georgia State Thespian Board.

When asked how she’s had to adapt her theatre teaching during the pandemic, Jennifer said:

"EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT! We use masks at ALL times and we keep at least six feet social distance between students. Some students are virtual and others are in person. It’s so hard to express oneself from behind a mask. We focus a lot on physicality and emoting through the eyes. 

Improv still works WONDERS in the time of COVID. 'Statues in the Garden' and 'Freeze' both work for physicality. 'The Dating Game' is great for character building, and 'Slideshow' works for storytelling."

Some of Jennifer's successful teaching activities:

Statues in the Garden: A game of many names! It’s the game where one student is the “garden keeper” and the other students are the statues. The statues have the goal of moving without being caught. Encourage challenging movements by using a theme for the statues!

Students don’t have to touch each other physically at all — it's a very simple warm up for elementary and middle school — no adaptations necessary!

Freeze: This game will just require a little more creativity and animation to include virtual learners. When someone yells “freeze” and “jumps in,” they will interact with the live student as if they were in the same room together. This can actually develop their dramatic skills, because they will have to do things “bigger” over zoom to make it work. See here for details on how to play. 

The Dating Game: This game is based on the TV game show popular in the US in the 1960s. This doesn’t require a whole lot of adapting to be done at a safe social distance. You can also make it fun to include a laptop in one of the “bachelor” spots for one of the virtual learners, etc. See here for details on how to play. 

Slideshow: Give one player an activity, like a trip through the jungle, or riding a New York City subway. This player presents a “slide show” of the activity, and the other players act out and build on what is in the slides. This can be done over Zoom or socially distanced.

Have your own pandemic teaching tip? Share it with us so we can pass it on! Email

Check out some of our other pandemic teaching tips:

#1 - Thank You for Coming to my TED Talk

#2 - Improv Zoom Rooms

Read more from Jennifer, one of our favorite "TheatrePeople!" Also, check our Live Video Interview with Jennifer at the International Theatre Festival in 2019.

More about Jennifer

Jennifer is a proud member of the GA State Thespian Board working with Guest Artists and Hospitality. She teaches and directs at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not teaching, directing, or scheduling workshops, Jennifer enjoys being outside exploring with her husband and two pups.

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