Actor Life Hack: How to Learn Lines with Kids
It isn’t unusual to get invited to an audition with less than 24 hours notice. When child actors are working, they are expected to memorize pages of dialogue, no matter how old they are. If your child is getting coached for an audition they need to be “off book” In order for the coach to effectively work on the acting choices.
How do you get kids to learn an entire script that quickly? Don’t panic, here’s how:
We suggest starting with your child’s learning style: auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) or tactile/kinetic (physical movement/touch). If you need help determining your child’s learning style, try taking this quiz with your child: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml
Knowing this information will help you quickly choose a memorization strategy (or combo of strategies) for your child. Make sure to pick at least one tactic that fits their learning style.
Remember that your goal is just short term memory—unlike school, your child doesn’t need to retain the information forever. They can, and should, forget it quickly after the audition.
Most experts say that kids should be off-book for auditions, but not so committed to the way they are saying the words that they can’t be redirected or coached.
Here are some ideas to help your little ones to memorize their lines without over-coaching:
–Early in the process, try the scene once by having your child say their lines in their own words. That ensures they really understand what they are saying, so that if they get redirected they can easily adjust.
Redirect: when a casting director or director asks the actor to try it a different way, with a different emotion. This doesn’t mean the first way was wrong. Often the adult just wants to see if the child is capable of taking direction). Don’t do his too many times though…they do need to learn the lines as written.
–Read lines right before bed. If your child is too young to read, you may read it to them. For older children, a combination of you reading (auditory) and their reading (visual) works well. Do it right before sleep, while lying in bed. The mind solidifies while sleeping so it will do the work for you.
–Practice by switching roles— you read their lines, and they read the other person’s lines.
–For visual learners: let your child highlight their lines with different colored pens. They could use a code (blue for sad lines, green for happy, etc). Tell them to make slashmarks where they should breathe, adding exclamation points, happy faces and other visual notes. Drawing pictures in the margins is OK, if it helps them associate an emotion or find their place in the scene if they forget in the room.
–Have your child rewrite the lines on index cards.
–Ask your child to “teach” the scene to a baby sibling, or even to their dog. Any listener will do as long as they won’t interrupt or criticize them.
—Record your child doing the scene and allow them to play it back with headphones. There are apps for this. See below.
–Practice in funny voices — British accent, like a lion would say it, a stuffy nose, as an old lady, or anything funny you can think of. Great for auditory learners!
—Speed lines. This works best at the end of your process, in the car on the way to the audition or job. Do the scene with them as fast as possible, with no acting. Justreallyreallyfasttalking. It forces the mind to recall quickly.
–If they are having trouble with a particular sentence, have them do that on sentence 5 times a row, like a tongue twister.
–Recite the lines as if they are song. Have your child choose a style of music that fits the scene (a ballad for a sad scene or rap for a playground scene, or example).
–Have them do an active thing while learning — jumping rope, bouncing a ball, snapping fingers, walking/jogging, or even (cringe) a fidget spinner. You want to bring in as many learning styles, as many senses, as possible. Bouncing a ball for instance, uses touch, sound (the ball bouncing) and the sight (reading the lines).
–Use the scent of oranges or an essential oil when practicing. Then bring that scent with you (like an orange smencil, or a dash of essential oil on their wrist before . Orange is a scent that is known to keep the mind alert and create associations. SCENT is the most powerful of the senses so use it!
–Studies have shown green tea be a memory enhancer. You might want to consider allowing your child to sip some while studying their lines.
–Check out these 3 bonus tips for learning lines from from Jeopardy champion, Joyce Hsheih! Compliments of Heidi Dean, Social Media for Actors (9 min.video)
There’s an App for That
Several apps are out there to help a child memorize.
Rehearsal Pro This allows you to record your lines, play them back while watching the script text like a teleprompter.
Memorize Anything Lets you record and then listen back as you rehearse. You can set the audio to fade out then back in if you make a mistake.
Line Learner This app allows you to listen to the full recording while you learn your part. You can then select to leave gaps in the recording for you to speak your part aloud. A prompt button is there to remind you of your line if you forget.
Scenebot Owned by CD Krisha Bullock and her husband Stuart Alexander, this app started as a showcase function for child actors, but has expanded to a new service called Act Back Track where kids can do their favorite scenes with celebrity actors doing the opposite character. Good practice, even if it doesn’t help you learn lines for THIS audition.
We Rehearse Instant access to a live rehearsal partner that you can work with. This is kind of the Uber/Lyft of actors. $10/mo membership fee. You choose your partner and they may charge for their time, or you can tip them. The site is NOT available for child actors – it is 16 years and up only. That said, we felt it was worth mentioning because parents often buy a membership for themselves and have their child utilize it in their presence. They do have a Krekorian Bond, but the coaches are all over the world and do not have CPS permits, so practice good safety protocols.
When You Get the Job
Auditions are just a tiny fraction of the real work! Learning lines gets tough and stressful on an actual set. To relieve some of the stress ask production for a couple of documents, keeping in mind that changes happen. Flexibility is key, but you can plan a little bit if you have:
— Full script: if you don’t already have this, now is the time to ask. For TV shows, they often don’t have this ready in advance because they are still writing up to the shoot days, and many edits will happen between now and then. But for film, they have it. As soon as you get the script, read the whole thing in a general way.
–One-liner. This is a list of scenes in the order they will be shot in, with the locations. This allows you to find your child’s scenes and prioritize which scenes they need to know first.
–DOOD: Day Out Of Days chart. This is the list of shoot days and the number of days they are estimated to be shooting. This will help you see when your child is projected to work and how many days they will have inbetween to learn lines for the upcoming days.
When on set, they will leave you the scenes for the day in your dressing room. They will be on a particular color paper, on small half-sheet sized paper so actors can take them to set with them. The color is updated with each new version of the script. That color is important, because it allows you to make sure that you and the rest of production are using the same version and are literally, “on the same page”.
In all cases, be flexible and understand that rewriting and changes happen. Don’t have your child engrain these words on their soul. They should know their lines, but be flexible enough to change slightly on set as they are given direction.