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DRAMA AND THEATRE PRACTICE AS EFFECTIVE MEANS FOR CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENT
Background of the study
“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand” (An Old Native American Proverb). I remember reading this quote at some point during my college education and thinking that there was much truth to it. Too often I sat through lecture after lecture wondering how I was going to remember all this new information. That was until I took my required U.S. Government course. This professor (whether he knew it or not) taught us using drama. The entire class was involved in a simulation of the government, in which we took on roles of real people. In school, social studies was never my favorite subject. I think that it may have bored me so much that I never bothered trying to understand it. For the first time, I was involved in learning social studies. From this point on, I decided that when I teach my elementary students, I would involve them.
I learned how I would involve my students after taking several communication and theatre arts courses. A study by Kaaland-Wells in 1994 showed that “teachers who had taken a college drama course were more likely than the others to feel that it should be a part of all teacher training, and they were more likely to view it as effective” (Wagner 12). My passion for children and teaching inspired me to do further research into this method. I wanted to reach the students as my professor did for me and bring them to a higher level of understanding of the topics I teach. My belief is that knowledge is power and students should love to learn. While I feel that all of the arts can be influential learning tools, drama is especially powerful. Betty Jane Wagner, an educator who has worked closely with and shared many ideas with Dorothy Heathcote, an expert in the field of drama in education, asserts her opinion of drama. “Drama is powerful because its unique balance of thought and feeling makes learning exciting, challenging relevant to real-life concerns, and enjoyable” (9). As educators, if we are not providing a fun and meaningful learning environment for our children to learn, then we are not doing our jobs.
Research indicates that using drama in the classroom as a means of teaching helps students learn academically, socially, and developmentally. “The use of drama as a tool for teaching is not new. Historically, both drama and theatre have long been recognized as potent means of education and indoctrination. The ways they are used today, however, are new, and they differ in a number of respects from the ways they have been used in the past” (McCaslin 271). Arts advocates and educators have recently started to explore the use of drama as an integrated way of learning the curriculum.
I strongly believe that the arts should be employed in every classroom. It can reach students who otherwise couldn’t be reached, and challenge students who have already grasped the concepts. Drama provides a fun means of learning. It brings the affective back into the classroom, an institute where emotions and learning are categorically divided. Recent brain research proves that emotions are linked with learning. When we connect to the concept emotionally, we will have a better understanding of it. When we teach using the arts we are linking prior experiences with new stimuli. Teaching using drama brings emotion and learning together.
Most importantly of all, using drama to teach in the elementary classroom gets students involved and gives them the power to have a key role in their education. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, who wrote the article,
“Drama is Imagining to Learn: Inquiry, Ethics, and Integration through Drama,” writes, “Through drama, students became a part of the learning process rather than mere observers or inactive receptacles of the rich experience of learning; in this way, their learning was deeper, more sustained, and infinitely more complex” (1). This paper will demonstrate the validity of using drama to teach students and the elementary curriculum. Through research of the arts, drama in particular, and a close look at how people learn, one can attest that teaching using drama can enrich the classroom environment.
Theatre in education (TIE) originated in Britain in 1965 and has continued to present day. Monica Prendergast and Juliana Saxton cited TIE as “one of the two historic roots of applied theatre practice”. TIE typically includes a theatre company performing in an educational setting (i.e. a school) for youth, including interactive and performative moments.
The idea of a high-impact child-centred performance for a specifically targeted school audience became hugely popular. Due to small audiences students can be encouraged to participate through work in-role and through debate. Student experimentation can be supported with resource materials and training or support for the students by teachers.
Education is becoming like rote learning. The education the students are getting is not being applied creatively in any area. Contrary to this ‘rote’ education, TIE presents a different approach including discussions, contributions and creativity through performance. It fulfils all types of learning and enhances the development process.
Difference between Drama in Education and Theatre in Education
In the last twenty years many books have appeared describing drama and theatre activities with children. These various labels are indicative of the range of the work and of the possible confusions that can arise. Some of the main areas of work are:
Drama in Education In the school curriculum, this is both a method and a subject. As a curriculum subject it uses various dramatic elements, and acting out. In many high schools drama is now a separate department. In some Primary schools it is used as a method to teach a number of subjects.
Theatre in Education A professional team of trained and experienced actor/teachers, who prepare relevant material/project/experiment to be presented in schools often involving more than one visit. These programmes are usually devised and researched by the team/teachers and are for small groups of one or two classes of a specific age. The aim of the programmes is essentially educational, and uses theatre, drama in education and teaching techniques for educational purposes. This work provides an educational aid, resource and stimulus for both teachers and pupils, but to do so it may vary from place to place, total participation sessions to performance and discussion. Theatre in Education can be considered as a method of work used by some companies all the time, and by others only occasionally. Many companies who use this method of work have, as their starting point, a strong left-wing or didactic approach to their subject matter, and they cannot be considered as mere tools of the education system. Rather, they act as outside questioners, looking at ideas and values in society.
The main element of TIE
These are the following characteristics of TIE
There is a clear aim and educational objective running throughout this process.
The cast should be small so actors must be versatile and often take several roles.
A low budget project has to be taken so that actors can play instruments too.
The production must be portable and the design of the production will be simple and representational.
The exploration of issues has to be from various viewpoints, so that we can see the effect of the action upon a range of people.
There should be involvement by the audience.
They are rarely wholly naturalistic because narration is often used.
As actors have multiple roles, the costumes are representational and simple.
For educating the audience facts and figures can be included.
They may have a strong message or moral running throughout the production.
How TIE can be used
TIE can create different kinds of productions:
Supported by resource materials, the production can be designed to stimulate reaction and participation from its small audience, through role play and debate.
By specifically targeting an area for a particular age group in a school’s personal, social and health education curriculum.
For the young audience the production can be based on the traditional story, allowing a range of follow-up activities if desired.
Linking the story to the given activities for very young children can provide opportunities for involvement.
For the adult age group some additional ‘dramatizing’ activities may be added e.g. learning parenting skills or preparing for employment.
It should be organised meaningfully.
The Role of Teacher
As an alternative to knowledge dissemination, memory-based teaching, Drama games and fun during lessons leads to better engagement. Instead of simply lecturing, the teacher in the TIE setting can become a conceptual artist who moulds knowledge, feelings, thoughts, sensations and experience into an active and activating educational process. This is not about an artist in a traditional way. It’s more a way of thinking, perception of the world and its needs in right – brained way as non-linear, practical, intuitive, and holistic.
The personality of a teacher influences the use of drama in lessons. According to Barucha, teacher types fall into four quadrants (see Figure 1). Barucha differentiates two dimensions depending on the teacher’s behaviour, perception, values and attitudes: the interactivity level and the level of logical/emphatic thinking. Both dimensions operate on a whole scale in between the extreme values.
The Role of Student[
In this methodology the student need to understand that the role of the teacher changes. In TIE the student himself takes the initiative and responsibility. TIE demands much greater independence of thinking. In this process of structured learning, drama rehearsals require full dedication. Due to this and closer interpersonal interaction, the process can lead to more clashes compared to traditional class teaching. There are several issues apart from memory training, courage to act, and the ability to emerge from the shell that each of us adopts at work or at school, there can be language difficulties, stage fright, newness in being expected to adopt a role, confidence etc.
Summarizing the main requirements and preconditions as follows: –
Intellectual maturity, ability to understand the play and roles
Ability to comprehend the cost and investment, but also the benefits. Openness to accept new method of teaching/ learning.
Time management or Commitment
Acceptance of guiding role of the teacher without formal authority
Performance skills/competence (active attitude to potential stage fright issues, memory issues etc.)
Collective work competence
Controlling the emotional intelligence and Ability to cooperate even in stressful moments (like a performance).
Some theatre improvisation games
This are some theatre games.
1) Alphabet conversation
Having a group of student, start a conversation one by one where each sentence begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Giving a situation before you begin will help the student. Students can also use sounds to start a sentence, for example “Mmmm” or “tut-tut”. This game can be played in pairs or small groups. Here is an example:
A: Anyone seen my cat?
B: Black one, with funny eyes?
A: Can’t say I remember.
B: Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what it looks like?
A: Every cat looks the same to me.
B: Fortunately, I found one yesterday
A: Gee, that’s great…
Try starting somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Then when you reach “Z”, return to “A” until you arrive back where you started. This technique can be combine with one word stories.
2) People poems
Divide the class into small group of four or five. To each group give a topic/word –e.g. “Time”. Now each person in an each group as to write down or remembers some words associated with the theme, e.g.- slow, fast, boredom, quickly and centuries. Now every group has to make an object out of the members, linked to the theme (such as a clock). Ideally the group object should move. Next every group has to bring the object to life and works out a way of bringing in some or all of their words-linked to their movements. And at the end they show the resulting people poem to the rest of the class, who can try and guess the theme. Themes can include:
Elements – earth, air, fire, water
Opposites – cold/hot, fast/slow, high/low
These are some benefits of TIE
Self-Confidence: By performing in front audience the student get the confidence to trust on his own ideas and abilities. This will be applied to his life, career and school.
Imagination: Thinking out of the box, and interpreting familiar material in new ways. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Empathy: Acting in a roles for different situations, time periods, and different cultures promotes compassion and it develops tolerance for others’ feelings and viewpoints.
Collaboration: It combines the new ideas and abilities of its participants. This cooperative learning includes discussing, sharing, negotiating, rehearsing, and performing.
Concentration: Performing in a play develops a constant focus of mind, body, and voice, which also helps in life and in school subjects.
Communication Skills: In a play a student enhances verbal and nonverbal expression of ideas. It also improves voice projection, articulation of words, and fluency with language.
Emotional Outlet: In the play the student is allowed to express a range of emotions. Sadness, aggression and tension are released in a safe, controlled environment, reducing antisocial behaviours.
Relaxation: Theatre activities reduce stress by releasing mental, physical, and emotional tension.
Physical Fitness: Movement in drama improves body balance, coordination, flexibility, and control.
Purpose of Research
“We conduct research in order to understand our field, to learn how to become more effective teachers, and to explain to those outside our field why we use drama as a way to educate students” (Wagner 1). The purpose for researching drama in education, is to determine whether using drama is an effective method for teaching elementary students. The research will demonstrate to educators and the like, why they should integrate drama into the elementary curriculum. This paper will not attempt to advocate drama as the only method of teaching, but rather as a supplement to traditional teaching methods. Through further examination on recent brain research and how people learn, one can conclude that using drama can be a successful way to teach elementary students. All educators can employ the method of using drama to teach all subject areas. Children learn in different ways, so an effective teacher will employ many different teaching strategies in attempt to reach all of his or her students.
Today’s elementary classroom is very much controlled by the state. It is an age of standards and benchmarks. “Brain-based research validates that learning is individually specific. This implies that standardized materials, instruction, and practices may actually diminish or inhibit learning” (Lawson 2). The specific curriculum benchmarks and standardized tests provide very little leeway for teachers to deviate from. Since funding for the schools depends on whether the students meet standardized test score requirements, many educators find themselves teaching to the test. This can cause educators to cover a significant amount of information over a short period of time. This will result in students gaining a large quantity of knowledge with very poor quality.
This exact phenomenon is proven by a study done by Preston Feden and Robert Vogel who compared textbooks in the United States to those in other countries:
According to one study, math textbooks in the United States cover
175 percent more topics, yet German students outperform American students in math achievement. Why? The answer is that the human brain can only absorb so much information at a time. By concentrating more on less information, students are better able to retain and use knowledge (2).
Research on drama in education will inform future and present elementary school teachers the benefits of maintaining a dramaintegrated classroom.
JUSTIFICATION OF STUDY
My major reason and intension of writing this project, is to draw the attention of our leaders today to know the effectives and importance of drama and theatre activities in the lives of our young ones and its contributions to the growth and development in society.
Also to know the usefulness of theatre for young people in child’s development. Using the University Demonstration Secondary School as a case study.
I wish to inspire the use of this method and system of child development and education in other schools.
This project will go a long way to inspire the spirit of professionalism and the relationship between teachers and student in child oriented activities. This work will be a contribution to the purpose of Drama and theatre practice as a tool from children development.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
For meaning development to take place in any given society the education of the citizenry is considered to be of immense significance. This is particularly important with regards to the youth who as usually considered the leaders of tomorrow. It is against this back of drop that this study sets out to examine the effects of drama and theatre practice for children’s development using university Demonstration secondary school as a case study.
This study among other consideration, shall examine how and why drama and theatre are used for child’s upbringing and in the Nigeria secondary school system with a viewed to determining the benefits derived from such an undertaking.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION
This study concern essentially with the benefit that can be derived from the practice of drama and theatre in the secondary school system.
In this regards, this research shall focus on the potency and effectiveness of using drama and theatre practice in bringing up children to be responsible members of the society.
Whereas, this work shall attempt a general over view of drama and theatre in the Nigeria school system, University Demonstration Secondary School University of Port-Harcourt shall constituted our point of particular references.
The materials used for this project work haven been gathered through collection of ideas, filed work, library method of research and through the use of internet.
With regards to field work, this study has an oral interview with persons closely associated with drama and theatre programme in University Demonstration Secondary School (U.D.S.S) University of Port-Harcourt; also from my own pasted experience during my teaching practice with some student in the school. Apart from interviewing student and teachers alike this researcher has also depended on empirical research methodology through direct personal observation of the student in their participation in theatrical activities.
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