A close similarity lies between a teacher and an actor. But a teacher is more than an actor as he is more innovative and has the scope to show and utilize his innovation in his class to draw the attention of the students which an actor cannot. Drama can be defined as activity involving people in a social context and there is no doubt that effective communication in social situations involves other forms of communication that go beyond language competence and includes the use of gesture, body posture, intonation and other prosodic features. Effective teachers know the impact of dramatic techniques upon students and always look for opportunities to incorporate these into their lessons. Today’s classes hold students from diverse background which seems difficult for a teacher to hold their attention in the classroom. So, adopting a variety of dramatic skills to win the attention and interest of the students has become a successful means to successful teachers. Teachers can use appropriate body language to create the desired atmosphere within their classrooms.
Walking towards the person who is talking, even if it is only one or two steps. This can have an incredibly positive effect on individuals, boosting self-esteem by physically demonstrating an interest in what they say. Keeping eye contact with the student who is talking and showing enthusiasm with facial expressions. Walking around the room during a discussion so that the whole class feels involved. It is easy to forget that students absorb more information from what they physically see than from what they actually hear. It is also important to remember that nonverbal communication is generally thought to be more ‘honest’ than verbal communication; if your body language is positive then students are more likely to trust you.
Narrating a story or playing a character within a story when reading to students will obviously interest them more than a ‘straight’ reading. Using role-playing techniques in order to attract and hold students’ attention. To convey information, to stimulate discussion and to better communicate with students. In many subjects, role-playing can be used to develop empathy and to enliven discussion.
Great actors improvise so impressively that it is virtually impossible to tell that they are improvising. Similarly, effective teachers can improvise so well that they always appear to know exactly what they are doing and everything seems to be carefully planned and well thought-out. These teachers often bring exciting ideas into the classroom in stimulating and original ways. They also use humour to help establish a rapport with their students, as well as to diffuse situations and to deal with difficult moments. Good classroom improvisation, however, does not mean having to be outrageously funny or wild, it simply means being capable of appearing natural and confident in every situation. Improvisation is one of the most important skills for a teacher to learn. Learning to improvise convincingly means putting students at ease and encouraging them to take risks, improving your classroom ‘performance’ tenfold.
James Hanley is head of drama at a London comprehensive school. Before becoming a teacher, he worked in children’s homes and hostels across London as well as running drama workshops for children and adults with disabilities. He says ‘while some teachers may be apprehensive about using drama in ESL lessons, many students enjoy drama lesson, role-plays. It also boosts their speaking confidence and fluency, giving them real contexts to react in the safe environment of the class.
We must consider the fact that drama is an active approach to learning where participants identify with roles and situations to be able to engage with, explore and understand the world they live in. This goes beyond language, as social interaction involves communication on multiple levels that cross cultural and language boundaries. Humans are physical, mental and psychological beings. When encouraging our students to learn another language we need to recognize and address their physical, mental and psychological as well as purely linguistic needs. Drama is a way of unlocking the ‘whole-person’ and developing physical, creative, imaginative and emotional responses to learning contexts.Drama liberates the student from the confines of the conventional classroom environment and structure and gives the student the opportunity to draw on their own experiences and imagination, in creating the material on which part of the language class is based. These activities draw on the natural ability of every person to imitate, mimic and express him or herself physically. They are dramatic because they arouse interest by drawing on the unpredictable emotional power generated when emotional memory is triggered by a stimulus and when a person is brought together with others. One of the main aims of drama in a language course is to provide an active, stimulating, fun and creative environment in which to develop the student’s language learning potential. Students are encouraged to explore English through their imagination and creativity and to express this through language and other forms of communication.
Teachers who work in a traditional environment and follow a very structured syllabus are often afraid to experiment with more student centered activities. These fears are usually based around the apprehension that the class will become noisy, unfocused and the teacher will lose control. The reality is in fact the opposite: a learner class where students are working collaboratively in groups, if carefully organized and well set up, is easily managed and apart from monitoring then groups the teacher is free. Tell you students why you are doing these activities. if the aim is to develop oral fluency then explain to your learners that it is important for them to try to speak in English and not their first language. Only by practicing speaking in English will develop their oral fluency.
It’s a common experience and phenomena that after years of English teaching, the learners do not gain the confidence of using the language in and outside the class. This output in the language is limited to writing some answers of some set questions. If we really want our learners to use language in their practical life, we must prepare them accordingly. Using drama to teach English results in real communication involving idea, emotions, feelings, appropriateness and adaptability, in short an opportunity to use language in operation which is absent in a conventional language class, such activities add to the teachers ‘ repertoire of pedagogic strategies giving them a wider option of learner centered activities to choose from for classroom teaching.
Drama deals possibilities to make learning a language more effective and brain friendly. No matter what you teach, if you do not relate it to emotion, the effect will be very poor. Drama excites our visual, auditory, spatial and motor functions. Drama involves a message and portraying and communicating them through gesture, eye-contact, and movement, positing and communicating them through gesture, eye-contact, movement, and so forth.
Einstein says, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” The proper use of humor in the classroom often replaces complacency or fear with positive feelings and attitudes. Drama is a powerful method of teaching which incorporates the above-mentioned principles and makes learning very personal, holistic and creative. So, we cannot afford to neglect this tool to make our class real funny and effective.
Berry C (1973) Voice and the Actor London: Harrap
Hodgson J (ed) (1972) The Uses of Drama London: Methuen
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Pisk L (1975) The Actor and his Body London: Harrap Dr. Alicja Gaazka- Drama in the Classroom: Nov-Dec.2012 issue 229, VOICES)
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President: Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.