Susan Riley | May 2013

Actor’s Toolbox Script

Looking for a simple, yet highly effective, strategy for working with students?  Then you need to try the Actor’s Toolbox Strategy.  There are a total of 5 tools: Voice, Body, Imagination, Concentration and Cooperation.  Each of these are used by professional actors when working with character exploration and presentation.

I first learned about the Actor’s Toolbox from Sean Layne and have used it as a powerful access point for students in embedding drama into the classroom experience.  However, I noticed that with my elementary students, they needed a way to both get them into the routines and as a way to remember all of the tools and their uses.

To help with this, I created a script that I use with my students each time we prepare to engage with the Actor’s Tools during an arts integration lesson.  It’s part of our warm-up and sets the right frame of mind for my students as we get ready for a meaningful lesson.  Today, I’m sharing this script with you, along with a video to see this simple script in action, to help you in using these incredible tools with your students.

Actor’s Toolbox Script

Teacher explains that they will speak the line first and the students will echo.  As you are speaking the name of the tool, demonstrate it in some way. For example, voice = use your voice in a new way, body = wiggle your body, etc.  Repeat the script twice and then ask students to explore each tool individually with some examples.

I take my box…

Open it up wide….

I look around….

and see inside….

My voice….

And my body…..

My imagination….

My concentration….

and my cooperation!


As you view the video demonstration, notice the ability for students to explore each of these tools on their own terms.  First, you’ll see that students pick this up very quickly.  I modeled this for them one time before having them echo me.  They echoed me one time and then we were all able to do it together.
Also, once students have picked up the script, we then moved into the strategy itself.  Start by providing examples for each tool yourself for students to explore. For example, in the video, I start with using the “Julia Childs’ voice”.  But from there, we move into students choosing different ways they want to practice using the voice tool.  We did a similar process with each of the tools.  This provides student ownership and high engagement.


This strategy alone isn’t a full lesson – obviously.  However, it can be a great warm up for class or a way to connect into literacy or math concepts.  For example, I will often have students use their cooperation tool to create a pentagon with only 4 people in their group.  Once they do it the first time, I have them find a new group within 15 seconds.  The second time they have to do the exercise, they aren’t allowed to use their voice tool – so no speaking.  This makes the process a bit more challenging, and also showcased why each tool is important in and of itself.
You can also use this as a way into the Tableau strategy.  Tableaux are a wonderful way to dive deeply into a character or scene in a story.  This helps with character traits, tone and author’s perspective as well.  By encouraging students to select their actor’s tools, you’ll get a richer tableau experience.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan