The Role of Drama in Education

Motivation is a key component in learning. Unless we know the reason why we have to learn, we cannot get involved in the process of learning. By using drama, teachers become the facilitators and the monitors of the lessons, which are built round practical and authentic situations like asking for information, complaining, participating to a job interview, telephoning etc. Drama as an effective application is based on Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory which helps teachers realize the students’ diversity, their talents, their abilities, their potential and get them all involved in the process of learning. Cooperative language learning is considered the best facilitator of language acquisition, it replaces the idea that students have to work competitively and, therefore, against one another; on the contrary, they have to cooperate. For ESL students, drama offers chances to use language effectively.

Use of songs and games are encouraged and provide natural environment to promote language and enhance correct pronunciation. Moreover, the texts used are more often authentic rather than artificial, emphasis is on communication and meaning while  grammar tasks are often hidden, for example, students are more likely to be engaged in role-playing an interview in order to revise Present Perfect Tense than doing some grammar exercises with the tense. Another example could be that using drama can also help to improve understanding and storage of language. By the time a child has read, rehearsed and acted out a scene focusing on the phrase “I’ve noticed that…” there is little likelihood of him/her ever forgetting how to use it in context. This thing would not have happened if the verb “to notice” had been memorized by heart for a vocabulary test.

When teaching Past Tense Simple, a good idea would be to choose fairytales together with the children, than try to act certain scenes from the plots.

Drama lessons involve not only the learner’s intellect but also his/her imagination and emotions. By encouraging self-expression, drama motivates children to use drama confidently and creatively.

Role playing comes naturally to children and they can overpass their shyness and inhibitions, even the most shy children can come out of their shells when they are given a role that they are capable of handling, and here is the role of the teacher who monitors the whole activity and knows her students very well. Pupils develop self-confidence in both speaking and performing with control and expressiveness. The most important thing for the teacher is to get the students involved in activities, not the performance itself because the teacher does not teach drama, he/ she teaches through drama. Drama helps students develop a variety of abilities: communication skills, physical development and emotional intelligence. The teacher needs drama techniques, pedagogic strategies and has to be prepared for surprising results at the end of the class, teaching drama being very challenging but also effective.

When using drama with secondary school children, the teacher should be aware of the huge creativity and imaginative force of these students who, at the same time, know some English words but still need to improve their vocabulary. The teacher has to provide vocabulary and grammar knowledge, to correct the scripts, to be the guide of the lesson. Furthermore, highschool students have a considerable knowledge of English words but are less motivated and sometimes less creative. This is where the teachers have to elicit answers, to motivate the students, to come with interesting themes and subjects, talking-points, images, newspaper headlines, meaningful teaching materials to moderate the class and encourage self-learning. When teachers are not comfortable with the idea of using drama during the entire class, because they might be afraid of loosing class control, or because of the variety of students with different personalities and different English levels, they can use it at the beginning, as a warm – up activity, or when the students are bored or even tired, in order to make them focus on the subject.

There are many problems that can appear when using drama activities in class. Teachers who work in a traditional environment and follow a very structured syllabus are often afraid to experiment with more student-centred activities. These fears are usually based on the idea that the class will become noisy, unfocused and the teacher will lose control. The problems that may arise in drama based classrooms might be that learners do not want to participate, they might make a lot of errors, there could be dominant students and very shy students, learners can get confused and cannot understand what to do, there is a lot of noise and sometimes even chaos. Nevertheless, this kind of problems may occur in many other learner-centred communicative activities. The teacher is the only one who can find the solutions by explaining the reasons why the activities are taking place, by telling the students that it is important for them to try to speak English and not their first language in order to improve their oral fluency, by preparing the students for the speaking tasks, by helping them with the language structures and pronunciation, by giving models and demonstrating the activities, by monitoring students and helping them if necessary, by allowing plenty of preparation time.

Good performances need a lot of preparation time and if students do not have enough time, the performance can be of poor quality and this can lead to frustration and disappointment. The teacher should also pay attention when planning the groups to balance strong/weak learners because strong learners might dominate and weaker learners could lose motivation and interest.

Offering feedback is also very important. After every drama task, the learners should reflect on their performance. The teacher should focus more on the progress and the development that the students are making in their communicative competence and less on their errors or language accuracy.

The lesson should end in a positive note with students leaving the class with a smile of accomplishment on their faces.

Drama takes advantage of the basic theatre methods such as role play, improvisation and interpretation, but also traditional methods used by other disciplines, such as debate, description and interview.

There are a variety of drama activities such as: role-play, drama games, guided improvisation, acting play scripts, short written sketches, prepared improvised drama. These are the methods that I often use with my students and I also ask them to keep diaries in which they write their opinions about the theatre experience together with the recordings of their plays.

References

1. Baldwin, P. (2012). With Drama in Mind- Real Learning in Imagined Worlds. London Press;
2. Case, D.,Wilson, K. (2003). English Sketches from the English Teaching Theatre. Macmillan Heinemann;
3. Gardner, R., C. (1985). Social Psychology and Second Language Learning.The Role of Atitudes and Motivation. In Giles, H. (Ed.), The Social Psychology of Language 4. Great Britain. Retrieved from publish.uwo.ca; (17.02.2014)
4. Gomez, I. D. (2010). Using drama to improve oral skills in the ESL classroom. International school Journal, volume 30. Retrieved from connection.ebscohost.com; (15.06.2014)
5. Philips, S. (1999). Drama with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press;

 

prof. Liana Todoran

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/liana.todoran

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