Drama in Schools Can Improve Student Learning

Drama in schools can be used effectively in classrooms to enhance learning and improve memory. It's about imagination. If children are unable to imagine what it is like to be a character in a story, a famous inventor, or a historical figure, they are going to be unable to comprehend what they are reading.

There is a wide range of activities which may be used to incorporate drama in schools, and kids love them all!

Reader's Theater

Reader's Theater is a well known and widely used strategy for improving reading fluency. It works by giving children repeated practice reading the same text until they are able to read it smoothly.

It also gives them an opportunity to experience and express emotions and to emote - to show or pretend emotion - which is central to the case for aesthetics in schools.

Children learn to read with prosody and as they assume their roles as characters in the scripts, they discover what it is like to be someone other than themselves. They learn to imagine.

Improvisation

Improvisation gives children a chance to create characters and dialogue and is a wonderfully fun and spontaneous way to bring drama into the classroom. There are many excellent resources on the internet where games and exercises may be found, our favorite being Freeze.

This game begins with two student volunteers who come to the front of the room. The remaining students suggest places where the action could be, and when several have contributed, you might try to combine two or even three of them to create an interesting and funny setting for the action, such as "in the bathroom at a Walmart in the jungle."

Actors are not allowed to plan but must begin the dialogue at once, creating characters and developing the storyline or plot as they go along.

When the action has progressed and the storyline is established, you will say "Freeze" or give a signal (I use a bicycle horn) at which time the actors must freeze in position.

Moving through the group, tap two students gently on the shoulder to signal them to exchange places with the first two actors, assuming their exact position.

The first two volunteers will take their seats, and at your signal, the second pair will create a completely different storyline with completely different characters which they will develop in a different setting of their own choosing.

Students often collect props like shoes or purses along the way which they must pass to those who follow.

Do not expect all students to be comfortable with this game when you first introduce it. It is up to you to create an atmosphere of acceptance and a safe learning environment that encourages children to take risks without fear.

Charades

Playing charades is a fun way to review vocabulary, particularly when the words are readily available on word walls. Students take turns acting out the words on the wall while the other students try to guess the words.

It is a simple yet effective example of the successful use of drama in schools.

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Subject Area Plays and Skits

A fun way to incorporate drama into any subject area is to have students work in groups to present information in the form of plays or skits.

I have done this with groups in both science and social studies and have seen some of the most creative student work of my career.

Each group chooses a topic, perhaps from a list you have created or from a certain unit of study. They must then create a script for a play or skit to include a specified number of facts about that topic. (I have always required 25 facts.)

Give students time to write and practice their skits and allow them to bring in their own props and costumes.

When the time comes to perform them for the class, be sure to video them. Kids love to watch themselves perform, and they are much more expressive when given the freedom to present their own work.

You will be amazed at how much they learn and how creative your students can be!

Drama Resources on the Web

Puppets and the Education of Young Children

Great resource for making inexpensive puppets for young children.

Improvisation Resources

Good collection of websites offering improvisation games and ideas.