Planning and Executing Effective Sessions

You’re preparing to lead your first session at camp. You’ve got some great games and activities planned and you have all the materials you need. Does that guarantee your session will be a success? Not necessarily.

Several small details determine the success of any session you plan, whether it’s a theater activity period, a camp-aret rehearsal, or a camp-wide event. Some of those may be out of your control, but smart planning and thinking ahead can also make a huge difference in the outcome. Below are some tips for planning and executing effective sessions!

1. Structure Deliberately

Start by thinking about your goal for the session. What do you want participants to take from it? Then engineer the session plan in the way that most effectively accomplishes that goal.

For example, if your goal for a particular staff evening event is to introduce other staff members to games that they can play with their campers, consider: how can I ensure that the staff understand both how to play the games and what situations each game is best used for, and how can I keep them interested and engaged? Is it more effective to teach by telling them how to play the game, or by getting them up on their feet and playing? (Hint: it’s definitely the second option!)

Careful session structuring can help you explore your theme. One of our favorite ways to structure a theater session is to organize it like a basic thesis paper: start with an introduction (warm-up), state the thesis clearly (introduce everyone to the theme of the day), go through three main points that support the thesis (two or three activities that explore the theme), and finish with a conclusion (restating what we’ve learned and completing a closing activity). This structure is useful because it keeps the session plan cohesive and focused, and guarantees that the kids will leave the session knowing what the point of all the fun actually was!

Click here  to see a sample lesson plan structured like this.

2. Explain Your Plan

Everyone—from kids to adults—like knowing what to expect. When they enter a workshop, meeting, or rehearsal space, they are usually prepared to dive into whatever the plan is . . . provided they know what it is. So take the time at the beginning of a session to give them a short summary of what you’ll be doing, such as:

“Good morning! Today we’re going to be exploring what it means to be part of an ensemble. We’ll start with a group warm-up, and then we’ll play three different games that focus on different tools of an ensemble. But before we begin, does anyone know what an ensemble is?”

Explaining the plan for the day allows the participants to feel more secure and comfortable, because they know what’s coming next. This allows them to engage in the activities more fully, ultimately resulting in a more successful session.

3. Connect the Dots

As you’re leading a session, make sure you’re taking time to properly transition verbally from one activity to the next. If one activity leads to another, point that out, and explain how:

“Okay, now that we’ve learned the choreography, we’re going to step back and focus on the lyrics.”

If you’re leading a themed session with activities that explore different facets of the theme, take time to connect each activity back to the theme and show how the next one builds on it:

“We’ve already explored how we can create character through our bodies and voices. Now it’s time to see how we can create character by stepping into the mindset of the character.”

These connections may seem obvious to you as a facilitator, but kids—particularly little ones—don’t always get them, and while stating them outright might seem clunky to you, it may be the difference between a kid understanding that they just learned three different ways to get into character and a kid just thinking they spent a lot of time walking around weirdly and speaking in different voices. And speaking of understanding . . .

4. Drop the Mic

Include moments of realization in your sessions. You can play dozens of team-building games, but if you don’t stop and unpack the purpose of the activities, your participants might not learn much from them, or even realize that their purpose is to learn to work together.

A great way to incorporate a “drop the mic” moment is to stop at the end of an activity and ask “why do you think we did that?” or “what was the point of that game?” and then take volunteer responses. This is a particularly effective method because it allows participants to have the realization for themselves and share it with their peers, and that is always much more exciting and memorable than having an adult just tell them it outright. So set everyone up to have those drop the mic moments for themselves.

These are tips that we find useful in session plan creation. Now it’s your turn!