Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Drama as a Teaching Tool

Drama is a performing art, an outlet for self-expression, and a way of learning.  Drama is an effective learning tool because it involves the student intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally.  Activities in improvisation, pantomime, play-making, and scene reenactment serve to develop the creative potential in the participants and help to develop critical thinking skills. 

In answering the question, "Why teach drama?'", theater director and teaching artist Matt Buchanan has this to say: "Dramatic Arts education is an important means of stimulating creativity in problem solving. It can challenge students' perceptions about their world and about themselves. Dramatic exploration can provide students with an outlet for emotions, thoughts, and dreams that they might not otherwise have means to express. A student can, if only for a few moments, become another, explore a new role, try out and experiment with various personal choices and solutions to very real problems-problems from their own life, or problems faced by characters in literature or historical figures. This can happen in a safe atmosphere, where actions and consequences can be examined, discussed, and in a very real sense experienced without the dangers and pitfalls that such experimentation would obviously lead to in the "real" world. This is perhaps the most important reason for Dramatic Arts in schools."

Educational Objectives
The benefits of using creative play as a teaching methodology coincide with the
established goals of education.  These include:
§         developing the imagination and creativity
§         fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills
§         exploring and evaluating ideas
                  §         discovering positive ways of dealing with conflict
§         expressing feelings and interpreting the feelings of others
§         enhancing communication skills
§         improving literacy skills



Participation in drama activities provides the teacher with another way to assess the student. Through dramatic play, students reveal how they organize ideas, solve problems, work in a group, deal with conflict, and use their imagination.   Observing how students dramatize an event offers valuable insight into how they perceive, interpret, understand, and analyze the material at the core of the lesson.

Classroom Applications
Drama has many practical classroom applications for teaching curricular material.   Important concepts, ideas, events, and people can be dramatized through improvisation, pantomime, and playwriting to stimulate interest, convey knowledge, gain comprehension, and improve retention.
Drama can be the vehicle for the following applications:

§                     Role play situations to model/observe
            new skills or behaviors.
§                     Develop scenarios to introduce new
            concepts.
§                     Dramatize a meeting between characters
            or historical figures.
§                     Reenact a real event.
§                     Dramatize a scene that might have happened in a story.
§                     Improvise a scene that expresses the topic or theme.
§                     Act out scenarios as a way to approach writing dialogue.
§                     Create literary sketches.
§                     Stimulate ideas for composing essays, poetry, or fiction.
§                     Portray famous people.

Drama is a teaching tool that allows students to participate, demonstrate, and observe in a "controlled," or non-threatening, environment.  In other words, it provides another "non-traditional" opportunity for students to learn and to demonstrate learning.  At the same time, drama helps students get in touch with their creativity and spontaneity as well as to develop confidence in the expression of their ideas.  Finally, it teaches self-discipline, acceptance of and positive response to criticism, and cooperation with others. 

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