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Gr8 Drama Unit 3-Clowning Around

Page history last edited by Frank Curkovic 10 years, 9 months ago



Unit Title: "Clowning Around" (Comedy & Clowning)

Students are evaluated on knowledge, process, participation as well as product.

(8 weeks x one 80 minute lesson a week)




By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • create a clown walk and persona
  • use a clown hat, prop, costume in variety of circumstances
  • create a comic character voice
  • develop a clown routine based on a particular conflict and essential ingredients of clowning
  • interrelate with a younger audience




By the end of this unit, students will understand:

  • the history of clowning, types of clowns and the work of key clowns, both theatrical and cinematic
  • the basic clown routine: entry, greeting/meeting, conflict, resolution, exit
  • the six essential ingredients of clowning: mimicry, discovery, trickery, stupidity, slapstick, falls, surprise
  • how exaggerated movement and voice create a comic character
  • the importance of working together as an ensemble to create a routine




Formative:  Students show their physical clown walk with attitude leading by a particular part of the body.



  • In a group, students prepare and present a clown routine for younger students including the five part structure of a routine and the six essential ingredients of clowning. (Criteria B)  
  • Students will also plan and evaluate their routines and approaches to clowning in their Developmental Workbooks as well as submit a final self-reflection. (Criteria A)  
  • Write a final self-reflection (Criteria C) 
  • Personal Engagement & Interaction in class (Criteria D)  



Key vocabulary: 

  • clown routine
  • stupidity
  • slapstick
  • mimicry (imitation)
  • trickery
  • discovery
  • surprise (blow off)
  • slow burn
  • take; double take



*Activities are subject to change at teacher's discretion


Week 1: Comic Walk (week of Jan 16, 2012)

Watch this video.

In groups, brainstorm "What makes us laugh?" (5min)

Brainstorm - Groups (Five): Have students discuss; What makes us laugh? They can form a spidergram on a card or visualise it on the card. After they have gathered enough ideas, have them categorise each idea as either physical, visual or verbal; what is more prominent? Gather stats from the class

Introduce outline etc.


What is a clown? What are their attributes? Field answers & discuss as class; many different concepts; make class wall chart (10min)


Warm-up (Whole class) 10min: Red Elbow

Place some large coloured card in various random places around room; call out commands such as ‘yellow foot’; everyone then has to find a yellow object or card and place their foot on it; last one in or someone who falls over and can’t keep strange position is out; vary the commands


Activity (Individual): Centering Body

Get students to find their own  free space and stand with feet together; go over correct breathing; now ask them to sway without falling, like a bowling pin, a little at first, then gradually increase rate; see if they can reach extremities with lean without falling to front, back and side.


Activity (Individual): Character Pull

Have them image they are standing and a rope is attached to their nose, you pull thatimaginary rope and they will gradually move their head forward, but their feet should be the last to move, so have them explore the extreme threshold of being pulled by the nose with out losing balance; how did it feel? Have them reset and pull again this time, they need to walk toward you, as you pull the rope; after ask - what kind of character would walk like this? nosey? pushy? pesky? Try also with the torso (proud) and knees (lazy, calm); they should have three comic walks; can they suggest other parts of body? chin; head; hands, hips, feet, bottom? what characters are they?


Group (Threes): Party Scene

Have students prepare a party scene where one is the host and the others are guests. They should have three characters who walk leading by the nose, torso or knees, who would the nose character be? etc. Students are not using voice, just actions, movements and facial expressions.

Prep; present and debrief

If left over time - have them invent a new scenario with different leading points.



Week 2: Comic Voice (week of Jan 23, 2012)

Warm-Up (Pairs): Echo - Have students pair up and face each other; A speaks series of simple sentences, sounds, B echoes; reverse roles; have them move normally around the room and see if they can maintain the echo or vary it according to distance (5-10mins)


Discussion: Extreme Voices - what character would have an extreme high pitched voice? Which a low pitched voice? Experiment with demos (10mins)


Activity - Pairs (A/B): Speaking in One Voice - Have students sit on floor and face each other; A and B try and say alphabet speaking at the same time with no one following; have them then try simple sentences (5-10mins)


Activity - Groups (Four): Speaking in One Voice - Join two pairs to make a group of four have one become interviewer and the others

the one person, interviewer asks questions such as ‘what’s your name’; ‘where are you from?’; ‘what do you like to eat?’; combined students answer with general beginning such as ‘my name is...’, but last word(s) will be technically gibberish as they will be all trying to follow each other; they should ensure they are watching each others faces as they speak and keep together as one person;

Rotate interviewer around, so all have a chance to speak in one voice. have some groups present their character to the class and the class asks random questions with them answering in one voice. (This was in last unit; try to vary with more unusual, extreme voices, varying pitch, pace and inflection) (10mins)


Discuss (Whole Class): discuss physicality, if you were being led by the nose, how would you talk? Think about body position, breathing and restriction of lungs, voice box etc. Have students demo


Activity - Groups (Three): Go back to the original threes for the party scene we did last class - explore this scene again adding unusual voice to your extreme movements. Think you are being led by the hip. You may have a silly or restricted walk. Think of an accompanying voice to match. Prep and present, discuss. Your scene should simply be 3-4 minutes. (20mins)


Time permitting:

Brainstorm - Groups (Five): Have students re-discuss; What makes us laugh? They can form a spidergram on a card or visualise it on the card. After they have gathered enough ideas, have them categorise each idea as either physical, visual or verbal; what is more prominent? Students can record this in their notebooks.


Homework: (none)



Week 3: Comic Relationships (Status) (week of Jan 30, 2012)

Warm-Up (Pairs-10mins): 60 second Master/Servant - A is master, B is servant; master should order servant to do jobs (in the bounds of reason) in their honour; servant should react with melodramatic affection/worship (both physically and vocally); switch roles B is now master, A is servant; how did you feel as character?


Activity (Pairs): A as Master, walks around the room as though shopping at markets for a banquet; B follows as servant; every time master faces servant, servant is very loving, doting and admiring but every time master turns away servant becomes cheeky, disrespectful and naughty. If master turns around and discovers servant doing something strange, servant should freeze and then try to give an excuse of why they are in that position.  Servants should risk themselves both physically and vocally. Allow this activity to run 2 mins, then switch roles.


Performance Activity (Whole Class) - 20-30mins: "I am the King" - have three chairs set up beside each other; central chair is for the King/Queen (this character remains constant); two chairs on either sides for the servants (these characters could be eliminated and will be replaced).  King then gives commands to servants and acts in space, they may leave their throne and move around. Servants follow orders but only when King is looking at them; same objectives as previous activity, they should try and play up or disobey King, when he is not looking; if King spots a servant not doing their job or misbehaving, they ask “what are you doing?”, if servants excuse is in appropriate/lame they can decide to eliminate them by saying “Off with your head!” plus striking the servant with the inflatable sword in the torso area (not head). Rest of class should be audience and be numbered to take over from eliminated servant. Servants should be challenged to risk their physicality and vocals behind the King’s back. King may be changed after half the class, use an audience member who has already been a servant; try to create comic characters, even with the King 

3 chairs


Inflatable Sword


Scene work (Four): Create a scene with a King/Queen and three servants, one clumsy, one sneaky and one very loving. Give them a scenario - kingdom wars; preparing for banquet; marriage of princess etc. Characters should use leading points and comic vocals, plus over exaggerate their attributes e.g. clumsiness etc

Prep, present and debrief. How could this become clowning?



Week 4: Mirroring, Mimicry & Morphing (The 3 Ms)

Warm-Up (Pairs) 10mins: Throw a Face - A and B are neutral faced looking at each other; A sculpts his face into an exaggerated face e.g. extremely happy, grabs his expression and throws it to partner’s (B’s) face, B immediately takes on that expression. This requires extreme observation of B, they have to copy every detail of A’s expression. They should both now, have the same extreme expression. Now A and B wipe their expressions clean and B starts the process.

Try this a few times with different extreme expressions, it is better to often move from positive to negative to positive expressions


Continue Warm-Up (5mins), this time have class walk randomly around room not colliding or interacting with each other - on the count of 3, they freeze with an extreme expression, have them now find another with the same or similar type of expression and interact. Try this a few times; also try alternative, find another with the opposite expression.

Ask: What makes this funny? How does expression show character?


Input: Define Mirroring, Mimicry & Morphing - what’s the difference? (10mins)

 What do the students know? 

 Mirroring - Facing another and copying everything they do, but obviously in opposite; they raise right hand, you raise left hand

 Mimicry - Copying another, but over exaggerating what they do

 Morphing - Changing both physical posture and movement from  from an extreme emotion/state of being/attitude to another

 3 Ms important in clowning. Why? We’ll explore now


Activity (Class): Mirroring - teacher does basic actions, movements, e.g. waving, pointing; class mirrors teacher’s actions, movements

Activity (New Pairs): Mirroring - A is mirror, B is person; try some basic movements and everyday actions e.g. looking at watch; take your time; detail is important; Switch roles


Activity (Four): Basic Copying - Students gather in a line, first person goes through a series of basic movements and everyday actions. Once they complete four actions, number two takes over and the original first student goes to the back of the line. The student should always copy the person in front of them, not the leader of the line (unless they are behind the leader). You can advance this to include walking around the room and copying walks too if you wish.


Activity (New Pairs): Mimicing - A is waiting at bus stop; B is copying them from behind, but over exaggerating; when A becomes suspicious at anytime they can look around and B freezes. Switch roles; present some to class; debrief - uses in clowning?


Activity (New Pairs): Morphing - A and B stand side by side; A is one extreme attitude, B is the opposite extreme, both in posture and gesture; Slowly in ten counts A morphs into B and B morphs into A

Examples: Proud <> Humble; Angry <> Afraid; Serious <> Joking; Outgoing <> Shy; Sophisticated <> Rude; Happy <> Unhappy

Present some to class, debrief - uses in clowning?



Week 5: Attitude & The Hat

Warm-Up (Class) (10min): The Shakes - students stand in circle and one starts with a particular part of the body shaking e.g. leg, they keep shaking it until it erupts and they throw the shake to another student; who in turn shakes that body part, but then transfers it to another part, shakes then erupts that and throws it to another student, and so it goes on, until everyone is shaken out.


Input (5min): Recap - mirroring, mimicry and morphing + attitude


Activity (Pairs): Linking the Morph - go back to original pairs who attempted the morphing last class; try to develop an action or interaction between the two characters; that may have lead to the characters changing their attitude. e.g. Happy character has ice cream and unhappy character doesn’t, happy character drops ice cream and unhappy character laughs at his misfortune. Thus the morph is complete from happy to unhappy. Try to show this change with the interaction/action in between the two attitudes, ensure there is exaggerated expression, actions, and postures. Present some to class and debrief - how has this changed/extended the morphing? 




Input: The Hat - the clown’s everything, a changeable object/being; their friend, their bowl, their umbrella, their pet; their handkerchief 


Activity (Class): Hat Morphing - In a seated circle, demo a way of making the hat into something (you could pretend to eat from it as a bowl), then pass the hat around the circle and have each create something with the hat; remember as they pass it on they should acknowledge the previous person’s idea, so if you’re handed it as a bowl, use it as a bowl, then transform it, then pass it on to the next in the circle; try not to copy another person’s idea for your hat morph 




Distribute hats to students, make sure you stress the need for care of the hat; the hat is the clown’s second, their muse, their soul, their partner, you should never destroy the hat or harm it unless it’s in jest,

and it comes out positively in the end


Activity (Class): With their selected hat, they need to look at it and form a bond; what is it’s shape, colour, texture etc.? Now try it on, how does it feel, how dos it make you want to move? Don’t think, jus walk. What are your impulses? Now, act a series of relationships/partnerships. Teacher can call out this (allow them time to improv it): Act with it as a friend, enemy, roof, toy, obstacle, handkerchief, steering wheel, weapon, pacifier, symbol of wealth, symbol of poverty, pillow, costume, pet, cooking pot, symbol of affection 




Scene (Pairs): Meet and Greet with your hat; use your hat as something; no voice, just exaggerated actions, movements

Prep; present some to class, debrief; Why is the hat imp in clowning?


G8 Funny Guys from YIS Arts on Vimeo.


8B Estia & Caitlyn from YIS Arts on Vimeo.



Week 6: Slapstick

If you are not confident in teaching slapstick 

(basic physical stage fighting), please skip this lesson

and try alternate lesson on Tricks



Warm-Up (Class): knee slap or extreme freeze tag

This is open frame workshop with demos followed by practice 

  1. meaning of slapstick
  2. victim is in control
  3. safety distance
  4. basic slap
  5. basic roll and fall (trip, squat)
  6. basic hair pull
  7. basic kick (push, stomp)

Apply at least two of a slap, fall, hair pull or kick to a short scene, ensure there is a reason for slapstick, as it shouldn’t be there unless it is needed. Slapstick should never be used with extreme aggression in clowning, it should always be whimsical and playful.

Pipkin p.63


8B Slapstick JoviaEstiaMaxence from YIS Arts on Vimeo.


8B Slapstick AskaAndreasSaimon from YIS Arts on Vimeo.



Replacement lesson for slapstick.

See Pipkin for good tricks

This would be a workshop lesson too; demos and practice.

  1. Balance a Ping Pong Ball on Nose p. 8
  2. Trick handshakes pp. 12-13
  3. Bag Trick p. 19
  4. Spring Loaded Hat pp.24-25
  5. Flower Trick p. 43
  6. Bouncing Hankie p. 45
  7. Bunny napkin p. 46
  8. Sword Swallower p. 72
  9. Levitation pp. 72-73
  10. Olive Balance p.82

You may be able to find more on the net, even some how to videos.



Week 7: Clown Routine

Recap & Review: Essential Ingredients and Clown Character


Warm-up (Class): In circle, say ‘Hello’ and each student has to repeat it but over exaggerate it both physically and vocally as it moves around the circle. Change lines, directions and starting points.


Input: Basic Hello! Clown must have a signature hello introduction; e.g. shy, laughing, tip hat, singing, sneezing, waving frantically etc


Activity (Pairs): Experiment saying Hello to each other; watch some


Input: Basic 3 Part Routine  - Entry, Greeting, Exit - has to be reason for entry and exit e.g. swat a bug, escaping from someone, innocent discovery (see Stolzenberg p. 31 for more ideas) Demo one?

Remind with routines - everything should be BIG, SIMPLE, EASY!


 Activity (Pairs): Practice 3 Part Routine; watch some selected ones


Input: 5 Part Structure - Entry, Greeting, Conflict, Resolution, Exit -

Importance of double takes, exaggeration, interaction with audience.

Emphasise the seven essential ingredients (see Stolzenberg pp. 122-23 + p.137-8)


Activity (Pairs): Experiment with the 5 part routine to show the class.

Remember, the routine should not be aggressive or violent - children will watch it. See some selected routines. (this could bleed to a second lesson


Teacher Notes: 

Stolzenberg pp.26-34; 136-139 

Examples of routines pp.66-125


Homework: Read History of Clowns (take notes) and be prepared to discuss it in class.

You will choose one of the tools below to create a digital timeline. Embed this on your blog and email the URL entry.

DUE MAY 17, 2012


Time Rime

























Week 8: History of Clowning (Circus to Cinema)

 This lesson need to look at different types of clowns and their styles.

 (Lesson 8 and 9 could be joined/edited to the one lesson)


  1. Auguste
  2. Tramp
  3. Whiteface
  4. Character/Fantasy


See some websites here:

History of Clowns

Clown History

History of clowning from the ancient pharaohs to the modern day

Types of Clowns


Show the videos of cinematic and circus clowns.

See if students can analyse them for the seven ingredients of clowning - mimicry, discovery, trickery, stupidity, slapstick, falls,

surprise > which type of clown are they similar to?



Charlie Chaplin: Roll Dance (below) Lion's CageEating MachineThe Kid

Buster Keaton: Running LateTop Hat (below), Bad LuckLove You


Laurel & Hardy: Busy Bodies (below), Pie FightPiano DeliveryOther Clips


Three Stooges: Dizzy PilotsFunny ClipsCurly in Court


Abbott & Costello: Pack that GripSandwichRoutines 1Routines 2


Donald O’Connor, Make em Laugh


Martin & Lewis: The ThiefLocker Room


Jerry Lewis: PhonesElevatorTypewriterNutty Dance


Mr. Bean: The PicnicThe Dentist


Jim Carey: Liar LiarLiar Liar 2

(up to Judge)

Ace Ventura


Circus:Circus Clowns


Week 9: The Clown Look

Costume and make-up workshop, but depending on how much time you have, this could be the second half of the last lesson.


 Costume Ideas

 Make-up Ideas


 We keep it simple

 Costume: one bright jacket, coat, shirt, pants, scarf or tie + clown hat

 (the rest of costume should be all black)

 Make-up: one symbol on cheek, red smile line, line around eyes

 (no heavy shading - takes too long)



Stolzenberg 1p41-149


 Clown Task

 Face Paint

 Make-up Chart

 Video: Auguste





Week 10: Routine Rehearsal

Planning and Rehearsal Session 1: Students practice their routine under guidance from the teacher. Routines should have a five part structure and must be no longer than 5-6 minutes. They should have a dress rehearsal in front of the teacher.




 Routine Plan

 Routine Rubric



Week 11: Clown Visit

An expert in clowning will visit the school and show a short clown routine, he will then watch the students routines and offer tips.

 They should have questions ready about tricks, interactions and characterisation or any problem areas.


Rene Bosman 


Week 12: Routine Rehearsal

Planning and Rehearsal Session 2: Students practice their routine under guidance from the teacher. Routines should have a five part structure and must be no longer than 5-6 minutes. They should have a dress rehearsal in front of the teacher.




 Routine Plan

 Routine Rubric


View previous student work for inspiration/critique:




Week 13: Performance


 Students will perform for selected Grades 1/2 (perhaps no more than three classes), these classes will come to your classroom and watch the show. Allow at least 15 minutes set up time, so students can apply their make-up and costume, and the room can be readied. You may select one student to be MC.


Performances are usually done in the semi-round like a circus, with the performance area marked out with masking tape, so the audience knows where to sit. You will need to make arrangements with the younger classes at least 2 weeks before this date.




 Blog Reflection


Student to write reflections on their blogs.

  • Describe the progress have you made so far (you may need to review the skills and knowledge area for the unit, either on your cover sheet or at the top of this wiki). How effective was your planning skills? Please compare your final speech to your first.
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses in your final speech?  Please consider content, delivery, voice etc.
  • What could you do to further improve your work process and speech?   (Please provide details or examples for this)





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