In my drama teaching experience, there are learners who clearly love drama and there are others who are not inclined towards it. However, I endorse drama as a necessary pill for everyone.
According to educators Alan Duff and Alan Maley, drama is useful in many ways.
Based on my teaching experience, every use is accompanied by a vignette that practically justifies the use.
• It integrates language skills in a natural way. Careful listening is a key feature in drama. Spontaneous verbal expression is integral to most of the activities and many of them require reading and writing both as part of input and output.
When we used the mime technique to elicit present continuous tense, learners used the language naturally and had a better grasp of the form and use as opposed to isolating the grammar point and teaching it out of context.
• It integrates verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication, thus bringing together both mind and body, restoring the balance between physical and intellectual aspects of learning.
When we used dramatization in poetry, the learner got a better grasp of the intended meaning underlined in the poem and he was able to talk about the motivation of the poet.
• It draws upon both cognitive and affective domains thus restoring the importance of feeling as well as thinking.
When talking about “double consciousness” to understand how the character was feeling, we asked the learners to relate this to a feeling they felt when they felt like an outsider and show us a role play. The learners were able to connect to the character’s feeling when they reflected it to their own setting. They had to connect the feeling cognitively and the affective filters of being able to relate to the character helped the outcome.
• By contextualizing the language, it brings the classroom interaction to life through an intense focus on meaning.
Using a dramatized interpretation of a proverb that had several hidden meanings enabled the learners in groups to have a meaningful interaction entirely focused on the target language and they immersed themselves in the act of doing it.
• The emphasis on whole-person learning and multi-sensory inputs helps learners to capitalize on their strengths and to extend their range. In doing so, it offers unequalled opportunities for catering to learner differences.
No learner is equally capable. In our improvisation workshop we encouraged learners to tap into their potential so if a learner was good at voices he/she could provide background noise to the scene and those who were good speakers could lead the dialogues. Allowing a learner to explore their own potential was possible due to the drama.
• It fosters self-awareness, self-esteem and confidence, and through this, motivation is developed.
Putting herself out there in front of an audience, boosted the confidence of a seven-year-old so much that she emerged into an eloquent speaker and now regularly participates in drama and elocution activities in her school.
• There is a transfer of responsibility for learning from teacher to learners which is where it belongs.
By shifting my role from a teacher to an observer and facilitator, I could direct a group of learners to successfully create a skit and present it in class. The learners felt a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the task and the outcome was achieved successfully.
• It encourages an open, exploratory style of learning where creativity and the imagination are given scope to develop. This in turn promotes risk-taking which is an important life skill.
When learners decided to depict different shades of the same character with three different actors, my initial reaction was that this is not going to go down well, but their creativity proved me wrong. They kept a constant accessory and a twitching habit that was characteristic of the character and their risk turned out profitable.
• It has a positive effect on classroom dynamics and atmosphere, thus facilitating the formation of a bonded group, which learns together.
I often get requests for one-on-one sessions. Personally, I am not in favour of those because what learners can learn from peer-to-peer interaction is more valuable than teacher input. During our play ‘Persephone’ the group of actors became a cohesive unit that improvized and helped co-actors to thrive and perform.
At Eager Readers, a teaching, training and language school, we have embarked on a quest to explore Shakespeare with our young learners and teenagers. We have planned an immersive 30 hours Shakespeare drama workshop for learners aged 12 plus.
Why do Shakespeare?
The playwright Ben Johnson said, “He was not of an age, but for all time.” Themes that do not stand the test of time but will stay relevant as long as human race survives are what Shakespeare plays are made of. Themes of love, revenge, hate, ambition, racism, exposure to literary devices such as persuasive language, descriptive language are available. The beauty of Shakespeare’s language will help learners dig deeper into the meanings and explore the hidden meanings, a key skill in language learning.
A famous Chinese proverb says, “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”
So let’s all get involved and immerse ourselves into drama, there is no better way to understand something.
The author is an educator and runs a language, drama, and teacher training school – Eager Readers – in Hyderabad. She caters to learners across all age groups. Sessions are available online and offline. She is pursuing her Master’s in TESOL and has completed Trinity College London certifications in Communication and Speech and Drama. She is also part of the Academic Council team of Trinity College, London, India. She can be reached at [email protected].