13 High School Drama Activities To Get Them Going

Written by Carlijn in Lesson Plans

Teaching drama in high school can be challenging, or the most fun class you've ever taught. In this article, I'll go over 13 great drama activities for high school students, and tell you what I've learned from my own experience as a drama teacher.

So here are my 13 exercises to give a great high school drama lesson:

  1. Collectively Counting to 20
  2. Mirror Sessions
  3. Knee Tag
  4. Whoosh-Zap-Boing
  5. Not All At Once
  6. No Empty Spots
  7. Follow the Leader
  8. Word Associating
  9. Telling a Story Simultaneously
  10. Depicting a Word
  11. Applause
  12. Cluedo
  13. Chair Thief

Below, I'll first go over a couple of quick tips for getting the most out of your lesson. After that, I'll explain each exercise one by one.

Good Exercise Combinations

  • Games 1 - 4 are great warmups.
  • Games 5 - 10 are good main activities because they are longer and go more in-depth.
  • Games 11 - 13 are great to end the lesson on a high note. Also, it's a great way to release energy - which your coworkers will thank you for.

Here are some combinations of main exercises that work well in my experience:

  • 5, 6, and 7
  • 8, 9, and 10

For the opening and ending, you can choose games you like or fit the general mood of the classroom.

Things to Consider When Setting Up Your Lesson

I usually try to do four to five games for each one-hour lesson. But it really depends on the size of the group (larger groups = less games).

For some games, each player needs some time to perform their role. With larger groups, it can then take A LOT of time. So make sure to account for this. If the group is extremely large, you might want to avoid these games altogether.

For larger groups, you might want to consider planning to do only activities where the group performs as a whole.

What To Look For in Drama Activities for High Schoolers

We want activities that have some sort of friendly competitive element. Students may find it difficult to relax and give themselves to the game fully. Some form of competition will help them to get their minds off their homework, video game, or rap career.

In my experience, students can get preoccupied with how their peers perceive them. This can make it difficult for them to start playing around. To get them going, I suggest using some high-energy games with some friendly competition.

The right activities will help, but your own mood is also important. High school students will reflect your own mood and motivation.

Some Tips on How To Start Your Lesson

  • High energy
  • Make it physical
  • Include everybody for the first activity - make sure everybody is on the floor
  • Make it fun

The first activity will determine the energy and focus of the rest of the lesson. So make sure you pick something that fits your goal for that lesson. If you want to work on collaboration, pick something that strengthens teamwork, like Not All At Once.

You can also use the warm-up exercise to balance out the energy in the group. If they feel particularly hyperactive or unfocused, use a focus exercise, like Collectively Counting to 20.

So let's dive into the exercises.

Collectively Counting to 20

This first exercise is great to increase the students' focus. This is the right opener for you if you feel your students aren't particularly focused at the moment, or if your next exercise requires extra focus and you want to prepare them for it.

Organization Circle
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Focus, Accepting

The players form an intimate circle, standing shoulder to shoulder. The players count in random order from 1 to 20. Whenever two players use the same number simultaneously, the game starts over.

Tip: the group will think up tricks for cheating. For example, a small cough beforehand. I found it helps to ask the students to close their eyes, or to make them look at the ground.

Mirror Sessions

Once you get their attention with a solid warmup exercise, let's keep increasing focus. With this game, we want them to be attentive to each other. Increasing awareness can be difficult for high-schoolers. I found that by increasing their awareness, they will open up and become more playful and have more fun during class.

Organization Pairs scattered throughout the room
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Accepting, Observing, Being present, Letting go control, To connect

Two players are facing each other. Player A starts to move and player B mirrors player A's movements and facial expression as closely as possible.


  • A pair in front of audience. They agree on who starts and who mirrors. Then they perform in front of their audience. The audience shouldn't be able to tell who mirrors and who initiates the movements. After the performance, the audience may guess the initiator.
  • Both players can both initiate and mirror at the same time.

Knee Tag

Knee Tag is a great high-pace exercise. It really helps to activate them, especially when energy is low. Suitable as a warmup and ending exercise.

Organization Everyone is on the floor in pairs
Works on Experiment, Fun
Goals Warm up, Fun, Quiet the mind, Spontaneity, Getting Physical

Players position themselves facing each other. Everyone uses one hand to tag and one hand to defend. Players want to tag each others knees. With the defending hand, players may protect themselves to try to avoid getting tagged.

Please note: if you end with this game, your students will be hyperactive when leaving the classroom. So make sure the next class isn't maths.

Whoosh Zap Boing

This game teaches them to be spontaneous and gets them to stop thinking and simply start acting. That's why it's a great warmup.

If you teach this class regularly, this one is great to repeat every single time. After a couple of times, they become really good at it - which increases enjoyment and engagement.

Organization Form a large circle
Works on Experiment, Fun
Goals Letting go of control, Having fun, Reacting in the present, Spontaneity, Establishing a connection, Focus

All players are standing in a circle. The game leader picks who goes first. He or she passes a 'WHOOSH' (a sweeping motion with both arms) to another player.
The players pass on the sound to the person beside them. It doesn't matter which way.

After this round, 'BOING' gets introduced. BOING is crossing both arms and facing the person passing the 'WHOOSH'. This stops 'WHOOSH' and will make it change direction.

Lastly, the game leader introduces 'ZAP'. You ZAP by forming a pistol with your hands, pointing it at someone and yelling ZAP! This makes the WHOOSH jump to the person being ZAPPED.

You want to play this game at high speed. If a player moves before they're up, or make a wrong move or sound, it's game over. Players that are out sit down on the floor.

At the end of the game, only two players will remain. The class will have to come up with their own way to determine the winner (ie. rock-paper-scissors).

This is the last warmup exercise. Now you've got their attention, energy is high and they are focused and playful. Let's take a look at some great main exercises, which will require more focus and engagement, which is why we started with these games.

Not All At Once

Now, let's get our drama on.

The following exercises go a little bit more deeply into drama techniques. I like to spend the majority of the class on these exercises.

This exercise focuses on the group instead of the individual. Also, it requires them to pay close attention to each other, which means they will become more attentive.

Organization Everyone scattered throughout the room
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Collaboration, Being present, Being open

One person walks. The rest of the group stands still. There needs to be one person that walks at all times. It's the group's responsibility to ensure this.

Whenever the Walker stops, someone else needs to start walking immediately. The transition needs to be seamless. Also, whenever someone starts walking, the Walker needs to stop walking immediately.

Teacher's tip

The group will quickly find its own rhythm. After a while, they will probably walk and pause for the same amount of time every time. So make sure they stay present and switch it up.

No Empty Spots

This next exercise is an excellent follow-up, because it ups the tempo, reducing the time to think. This exercise focuses more on the individual player as part of the group (instead of the entire group).

Organization Everyone scattered throughout the room
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Collaboration, Connecting, Soft Focus

The players walk across the room quickly (but they don't run). At all times, they want to keep the same exact distance between them. At the same time, they try to fill up the space entirely.

Naturally, the players shouldn't touch each other. When a player discovers a 'hole', he or she tries to fill it.

Every now and then, the game leader shouts "stop!", at which point everybody stands still. The game leader then checks whether the room is filled evenly.

Ideally you want that the players form one liquid mass, that fills the room without stopping, agile, and at an even pace.

Spicing It Up

Stop the group in the middle of a run, let them close their eyes, and ask them where a specific person stands in the room (make them point). This challenges them to be aware of their environment.

Follow the Leader

This is a main exercise that may require a bit more time.
It can take a while for students to get the hang of it - so it's probably a good idea to allow them more time.

Organization Everybody on the floor - group chooses their own starting position
Works on Experiment, Spontaneity
Goals Being present, Reacting to each other's impulses, Taking initiative

The group starts at their starting position. One of the players then starts a motion. The rest of the group mirrors the motion.

There is no fixed group leader. It's a dynamic role. Whoever starts the motion, becomes the temporary leader.

Ideally, the group and leader move as one. If the exercise is performed perfectly, you shouldn't be able to tell the leader from the group.

To Spice Things Up

After doing this exercise collectively, it's great fun to split up the group and let one half of the group watch the other half play the game. Make sure to discuss it afterward.

What will happen is the audience will see a narrative develop. Which is funny, because it's just a series of made-up movements.

This will teach them that on stage, everything gets a meaning attributed - whether you want to or not. So it matters what you do there.

Word Associating

If your students are prone to overthinking, this is a great game. It helps them to relax the mind and start to play.

Organization Players in a circle
Works on Experiment, Spontaneity
Goals Being present, Improvisation

All players are standing in a circle. The teacher says a word, and the person to the teacher's left immediately responds with a new word, based on their own association. After that, the next player responds with his or her word.

You only associate on the last word mentioned. Ideally, you don't think of anything in advance, and every word is stated spontaneously.

Telling a Story Simultaneously

High schoolers can be notoriously selfish. I like this exercise because it teaches them the opposite. It's a great way to learn that not everything is about YOU. The group is valuable as well.

Organization Two players on the floor, the rest as audience
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Being present, Being open to others, Support each other unconditionally

Two players both tell a different story to the audience. They tell it simultaneously. Afterward, you test both narrators by asking them to tell the other's story as if it were his or her own. You will find that both narrators are practically unable to retell each other's stories.

In round 2, the game leader asks two new players to tell a story simultaneously. This time, the game leader will pause the first story and start the next, then pause the second and start the first. Please note that they shouldn't react to each other's stories. They should only tell their own.

In round 3, the narrating pair determines when to pause their story themselves.

Ideally, you want the narrator to remain aware of the other narrator while telling his or her story.

Depicting a Word

High school students can find it extremely important how others perceive them. This exercise teaches them to let go control, and surprise yourself (by acting a little crazy).

Organization Three players on the floor
Works on Experiment, Spontaneity
Goals Linking image to text, Spontaneity, Associate visually

Player A says a word. Without thinking, Player B and Player C quickly depict the word. The depiction can be either concrete or abstract - literally or figuratively. Player A claps his or her hands whenever he or she thinks the image is complete. Player B and Player C relax (at ease) and wait for Player A's next word.

The goal of this exercise is to loosen up the students. I've found that whenever they are able to let go, and not be afraid of what others might think, all of a sudden they start having A LOT of fun.


The next three games are great endings for your lesson.

This first end game is great for boosting self-esteem and positivity.

Organization Everyone in a circle
Necessities hi
Works on Safety, Trust
Goals Trusting each other, Positive feedback, Fun, Spontaneity

Everyone is standing in a large circle. One by one, a volunteer steps into the circle. He or she does or says something that takes at least five seconds. In response, the rest of the group applauds fiercely - regardless of what the volunteer did or said. The volunteer steps back into line, and the next one enters.

It can feel awkward at first, but give it a try. After a couple of rounds, people will stop wondering what the heck they are doing and start to feel great after their round of applause.

Teenagers can have low self-esteem, and especially drama lessons can be quite intense and demanding. So this exercise ends on unconditional positive note. It's also a great warmup. Ending your class this way will help them to remind it as positive instead of challenging.


This game is so much fun because it engages everybody every single time. It's my absolute favorite.

I like this game the best:

  • it challenges them to act out / visualize without overthinking it
  • activates a lot of game fun, humor, laughter
  • it introduces them, in a very playful manner, to who, what, where

Who What Where is basic drama theory.
Who are the roles - the relation, who is this about?
What is the problem that needs to be solved or object. This is what fuels the scene.
Where is the location - where does the scene unfold?

Organization One team of four
Necessities Stopwatch
Works on Experiment, Spontaneity
Goals Quiet the mind, Letting go of control, Being present

Of the team, three people go outside the classroom.
The last person remains in the classroom (this is player 1). The class collectively thinks up the following (the game leader decides):

  • a murderer (a profession or famous person)
  • the murder weapon (arbitrary item)
  • the location (specific spot)

The game leader starts the stopwatch. Player 1 collects player 2 from the corridor. He or she portrays the murderer, murder weapon and location.
Player 2 then collects player 3 and portrays all three points.
Player 3 then collects player 4 and portrays who, what and where.
Player 4 in turn rapports to the group who was the murderer, what was the murder weapon, and where the crime was commited.

The team that's the fastest and with most correct answers wins.

Quick tip from experience: pick a person, an item and a location that are easily portrayed.

Chair Thief

My other personal favorite.

Very high energy game. Because of the time pressure, the students are really engaged and generally have a lot of fun playing this. They also have to collaborate in order for it to work. I find that they always start collaborating at one point - it kind of forces them to do so.

Organization Everybody on a chair
Necessities chairs
Works on Safety, Collaboration
Goals Collaboration, Connecting, Attentiveness, Fun

All players sit on a chair, scattered throughout the room. There is one empty chair.

Player A gets appointed as the Chair Thief and stands at the opposite end of the room. Player A's goal is to sit on a chair. However, Player A may only walk slowly.

The group wants to prevent Player A from sitting on the empty chair. Contrary to Player A, they are allowed to run.

Whenever Player A walks towards the empty chair, they quickly switch chairs, leaving a new empty chair somewhere else in the room.

In Conclusion

Now you know 13 great exercises to get your high school students going. Pick the ones you like or think will fit your group. Feel free to adapt, change and adjust. After all, you are the teacher, and you know your group best.

One last tip: always keep one trump game up your sleeve, in case one of the games you've picked doesn't work out after all.


Tish Becker

Thanks for the info/exercises…I start teaching drama in September at a high school that has been teaching theatre from a book and calling it drama - I want to bring a ton of energy in hopes of recruiting a lot of students to join the performing club. Would welcome any other advice!

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