Here at Prague Youth Theatre, we firmly believe that drama is not just reserved for stage and screen but in fact, has a powerful place within lots of other aspects of our lives; especially within the school classroom. Using drama to teach ‘core’ subjects such as maths, science and English can not only boost students’ speaking, listening and comprehension skills, it can also encourage children to have a more confident and curious approach to learning, which can be especially beneficial to those who may struggle with aspects of the curriculum.
Using drama activities and methods in teaching can contribute to a fun and exciting learning environment, and can make even the scary or boring aspects of learning more approachable and engaging. It might mean that teachers place a larger emphasis upon ‘doing’ rather than memorising, allowing students to engage with the subject in a more collaborative and hands-on manner through reading scripts, storytelling and acting out historical events or even scientific and geographical processes!
Teaching subjects with the guidance of drama methods and approaches can also help students to gain creative problem-solving skills and provides them with a platform to question and respond to issues and ideas without undergoing written activities all of the time. Through working in group work, drama techniques in the classroom can develop both verbal and nonverbal communication by providing them with space to exercise their voice and body language, as well as building cooperation which can help students to feel less isolated and encourage them to help one another in the learning environment.
How can we integrate drama into the classroom?
Drama and other creative approaches to learning can be provided in a myriad of different ways for a variety of purposes. Here are just some simple methods that you could adopt when considering the use of drama in the classroom:
- Drama Warm-ups: Teachers might consider theatre and drama-based warm-ups to help students to relax and focus on the lesson ahead, or to simply set the atmosphere. Warm-ups can be a fun and stimulating way of easing students into learning without jumping headfirst into trigonometry or coastal erosion! Drama warm-ups are also useful in enhancing creative thinking skills which can be especially beneficial if your curriculum doesn’t make much room for creative subjects. Luckily, there are thousands of free resources on the internet to help you out such as Drama Resource, Drama Toolkit and Drama Notebook, or have a look at some of the warm-ups that we have shared on our blog.
- Monologues: Monologues also enable students to step inside a key figure’s shoes or embody an entity. One way of doing this could be to encourage students to write a monologue using the first-person from the perspective of the person or entity that you are studying. This provides a fresh way of understanding the topic, and staging the monologue to their peers will also help to develop their presentation skills and their confidence in talking about the topic.
- Historical Re-enactment: Re-enacting historical events is another popular way of seeing events and eras in history from different sides, and it also encourages teamwork and cooperation amongst your class. Being assigned roles can give young people a sense of purpose whilst the theatre element is less pressured due to not having to perform to an audience. Perhaps you might re-enact a famous battle (safely!) or voyage or even a trial, as long as you have an open space big enough for your class to move safely in, the classroom is your stage!
Where can we get started?
Not all teachers will have drama experience, and the thought of integrating these methods into teaching may seem like a daunting task to some. However, incorporating drama into the classroom does not have to be achieved through the most extravagant of teaching plans or through large-scale and time-consuming projects, and it is definitely not performance art. Sometimes, even the smallest activities can make a huge impact.
You also definitely do not need to be an actor to pull off a successful lesson either. As long as you are passionate about your subject and confident and assertive when directing and working with your students, then your students will be able to trust your new classroom direction. Building a secure classroom environment where students feel safe to voice their views and actions is also very important, so as to ensure that students are comfortable enough to express themselves and to interact with their peers in a new way.
Once you are ready to put your activities and plans into action, don’t expect things to run smoothly on your first go, or even your second or sixth! Some things might not work for all children and drama is often all about adaption and reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work for your group. Collaboration is also key and so you might consider going to speak to the drama teacher at your school for some advice on how to lead drama or theatre-based activities.
Attending workshops and meeting with other teachers interested in drama and creative approaches is another great way to get started. Following the success of our first seminar for teachers, Prague Youth Theatre are hosting another free interactive seminar for preschool and elementary teachers in Prague on Monday 12th November (18:00-20:00) at Limpid Works. The session is led by, Rebecca Humphries, a PYT acting teacher and Silly Fish Learning founder, and will uncover some of the drama techniques that teachers can adopt to engage young learners and manage behaviour as well as strategies for directing a performance with young learners. It will also give you the chance to ask for some advice and also to exchange thoughts and ideas with other teachers. To register your interest, please click here or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send an email to Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
Teaching resources that we recommend and other useful links:
- Silly Fish Learning is an exciting creative education resource which provides drama games, craft ideas, worksheets and teacher tips. It was founded by PYT’s Rebecca Humphries, who has vast first-hand experience of drama and education for young people, so make sure you check it out!
- The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow have produced a super useful hand-out for teachers which provides some handy tips and tricks for introducing drama into the classroom.
- An article on 12 reasons why the school curriculum can benefit from drama at Teachhub.com
- Craig Mason at Theatrefolk shares some exciting ways that drama can be used to teach Science, History and English Literature
- Teachers TV have made an insightful video on the benefits of building drama into learning from the perspective of a teacher
Prague Youth Theatre
English-speaking youth theatre in Prague. Empowering students aged 3-17 to connect with one another, develop confidence, and create impactful stories. www.pyt.cz