Drama makes constant demands on a person’s imagination and develops the learner’s ability to think more effectively. The activities based on drama techniques involve inventing, generating, speculating, analyzing, selecting, and assimilating.
“Drama provides a motivating, social forum for the development of children and young people as conscious, active and interactive listeners, speakers, thinkers, movers and image-makers-that is, as active learners, not as passive recipients simply trying to remember and then recall someone else’s passed-on thinking or knowledge or simply re-enacting someone else’s existing story” (Baldwin: 69)
It is important to teach our students not only what to learn but also how to learn, to be willing to learn, to perceive themselves as thinkers and lifelong learners. Drama classes offer the possibility for the students to enquire, to imagine, experience, explore, generate ideas, recognize differences and make generalizations. While in a role and out of role in drama lessons, children are creating and developing their ideas individually and collaboratively by communicating; they plan their presentations, in this way developing their thinking and understanding skills.
Sternberg (1996) distinguishes among three types of thinking: analytical, creative, and practical. Patrice Baldwin considers that schools tend to emphasize and give greater focus to analytical thinking and less opportunity for creative and practical thinking, while drama requires and develops all three of these types of thinking. Good drama is active and interactive, both cognitively and affectively demanding.
Pupil’s voices about drama and thinking:
In drama you have to think about who you want to be, why do you want to interpret that character, what should you say, what should you do. (14 years old)
When playing the role you have to feel that you already know everything about your character, you need to imagine what that person should feel and sometimes you really feel what you wish to play. When I played the role of a homeless person freezing on the street, waiting for somebody to give her some food, I started shivering, thoughts came into my mind…it was something strange that is difficult to be explained. (16 years old).
I consider myself rather shy but when I came in front of my colleagues to interpret my role I felt so powerful, my voice was loud, I didn’t think that I could make mistakes and not speak English very well, the words just came into my mind, I did things that I’d never thought of doing before. (17 years old)
When I act something out, I tend to feel like, “Ah, this is rather like me”, like my character does this and that, she likes these or those things, and I begin to know more about myself. (14 years old)
I used to be embarrassed of talking to people, but drama helped me talk with more people and not be scared to express myself. Now I can tell my friends if something is not good or if I don’t agree with something. (13 years)
The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) considered language to be a socio-cultural construct that’s purpose is not solely communicative. He saw language as a means of developing and internalizing thought as inner speech and as a way of directing problem solving. Speech becomes thought when internalized but conversely internal thought can be expressed through speech. He saw pretend play as a way for the child to gain knowledge, organize thought and move to the next stage of development and competence, with the support of an adult or more mature peer. (Baldwin: 85)
The teacher can be co-participant, talking partner, a model for speech within the drama. The teacher’s use of language both inside and outside the drama lesson pays a vital role in enabling and supporting the pupils’ use of language, their interaction, their thinking.
For example, at any point in drama, the teacher may freeze the action and ask the students who interpret the characters to speak their individual character’s thoughts aloud. They can explain what the character feels, what the character thinks about himself/ herself or about the others. The students have the opportunity to be creative, to justify their roles, to demonstrate and explain their actions or even to ask the audience to brainstorm the next step, the next action, the next thoughts. In this way, the whole class gets involved in the process of playing drama. It is important for the teacher to listen and value the children’s thoughts and ideas, and the children to listen and value each other’s contributions. The teacher is acting as a mediator and facilitator, listening to what the children say and encouraging them to reason verbally.
Bruce Mc Conachie points out that “thinking cannot occur without emotional involvement. The chemistry of emotions first occurs in our brains, and all cognitive scientists now recognize that emotions cannot be divided from even the most abstract of thoughts” (p. 2). He also underlines the fact that theatre artists and scholars have been aware that thinking and feeling are intertwined and he suggests that the term bodymind should be adopted to indicate how cognition really works.
Drama is based on the direct experience of the participants through acting and that is why it develops the whole personality of a learner, effecting on creativity, sensibility and sociability of each individual. Drama used in education gives participants the chance to take different roles, try things on their own, form their attitudes towards reality in a motivating atmosphere which is very effective for learning.
1. Baldwin, P. (2012). With Drama in Mind- Real Learning in Imagined Worlds. London Press;
2. Jackson, T. (1980). Education or Theatre. In Jackson, T. ( Ed.), Learning through Theatre. Essays and casebooks on Theatre in Education, ( pp. 16-23). Manchester University Press. Retrieved from books.google.ro/books; (17.02.2014)
3. Johnston, C. (2010). Drama Games for those who like to say no. London: Nick Hern Books Limited;
4. Philips, S. (1999). Drama with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press;
5. McConachie, B. (2013). Theatre and mind. Palgrave Macmillan;