teaching tech theatre to 5 and 6 graders


Fight Leukemia
Hello all,
I have been reading the board for a while and need to ask for some advice.

They are doing an arts festival at our intermediate school (grades 5-6) and they have asked me to present a 15-20 minute session on the technical end of theatre.
Does anybody have any ideas or suggestions on how to explain what we do on a level that is understandable as well as suggestions for something interactive to do with a few of the kids.


Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
I would set up a small lighting thing that you can show what light can do to a person, even just doing to flashlight thing. I would focus on more what technical theatre and design can add to a performance, then the actual doing. I would not have them hanging lights and trying to teach them how to build a flat. You might also what to do a "tools of the trade" type thing showing them power tools and stuff like that. Try to get their minds moving so when they get to middle school or high school they might have an interest in doing it.


CB Mods
Premium Member
I always like starting off with some light theory with kids that age. I think a quick overview of the light spectrum and the old "red, green, blue. Three sources makes white light.", is a good way to get them interested. That was usually one of the first classes I would teach with my younger classes. Whatever you don't underestimate that age groups' ability to grasp what many might consider too complicated concepts.
You could also teach a class using my "moving silently with a purpose" exercise. set some spike marks, teach the kids what they are for why we have to put things in exactly the same place every time, Then have them practice placing stools or chairs or mic stands as quickly, silently, and conservatively < Conservtive as far as minimum movements> , as possible.
Hope that helps.


Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
Two fun ones...
Build a lighting instrument. Take a household table lamp with a 75 watt light bulb and remove the shade so it's just a lamp. Turn out the lights and talk about what light is and how it spreads out. Then talk about how much light is on a wall or on a person... the room needs to be dark by the way. Then take a mirror and put it on one side of the mirror and show how reflection increases the light intensity... it's nice if there's a good white surface to shoot the light at. From there you need a lens out of something like an old Altman 360 (preferably an 8 inch lens if you can find one). Holding the mirror on one side of the lamp and the lens on the other. Finally hold up a Fresnel in front of the lamp as well and look at the difference. When you are done turn on the lights and have a couple of instruments out and opened up so the kids can see what's inside them.

Another fun one is a lesson in Black Light. Talk about the visible light spectrum. White light being all colors, and then work your way around to fluorescence. Then break out a small black light tube light you get at a part store. You then break out a ziplock bag full of Tide Laundry Detergent. Show them how the manufacturers make clothing seem "whiter" by putting fluorescent material in the soap so that it sparkles just a little extra. It's also fun to look at glow tape under black light as it charges significantly brighter and faster. Then you can talk about black light on stage and glowing scenic paints. Nothing beats a dark room of kids playing with a black light. You'll be the coolest guy ever.


Active Member
Set up a display of different tech areas. When I do this I usually use 2 8' tables with cardboard tri-folds with information on them about: Lighting, Sound, Costuming, Props and a general one on Production. I also set out several different fixtures, microphones, costumes etc. Let them touch, see and read about tech theater.

for the 20 minute talk, I would suggest that you touch on the importance of theater tech. You can create a sort of mini-monologue where you are standing center stage giving a talk. While talking you can have some crew members running boards making various lighting and sound cues happen (both good and bad to stress what can go right and wrong) as well as different costumes and props mixed with lighting and sound (again both good and bad... example... do you want the evil person standing in a bright pink spotlight while talking about his/her upcoming dasterdly deeds?). This can even be made to be an activity to get some of the audience involved.

They're fifth and sixth grade. They're not really going to understand the heavy theory behind lighting and sound (unless they're advanced for their age). They'll see you do some cool stuff with lighting and sound and ooooh and ahhhh, but the majority will not understand why light bends or why blue, red and green make white (because in art class it will make mud... a tactile experience you'll not overcome in a 20 minute talk). I'd stray away from those topics.

Another idea would be to stand behind a wall of 4 x 8 flats (about four of them) and one 4 x 8' flat in the middle made of scrim material. I would then magically appear in front of them because I'd be standing behind the scrim flat. I would use that as my grabber saying..."Do you want to learn more about the cool things you can do in technical theater?"

Sounds like a fun evening. Good luck with whatever you decide!
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