Using Performance Skills in the Classroom

Effective teachers must know instinctively how to use performance skills to gain and hold students’ interest. Image source: dreamstime.com
Effective teachers must know instinctively how to use performance skills to gain and hold students’ interest. Image source: dreamstime.com
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

In order to continue raising academic standards, we need to constantly examine and explore our methods of teaching. We need to observe other teachers’ lessons at your school and let other teachers do the same in our classes. This will help each other learn the classroom’ performances’ giving and taking necessary feedback. Some teachers do have similar qualities to good actors and are totally convincing in what they do. Effective teachers must know instinctively how to use performance skills to gain and hold students’ interest. They also need to be aware of the impact that dramatic techniques can have upon students and are always looking for opportunities to incorporate these into their lessons. Perhaps it is time for us all to adopt a variety of drama skills to win the attention and interest of our students, to convey information effectively to our diverse and demanding audience. These skills might include the use of body language and voice, role-playing and improvisation.

Body language plays a significant role to create the desired atmosphere within their classrooms. Walking towards the students is very important body language. This can have an incredibly positive effect on individuals, boosting self-esteem by physically demonstrating an interest in what they say. Students’ response should be welcomed, embraced with a smile and proper encouragement. Keeping eye contact with the students who are talking and showing enthusiasm with facial expressions is an important part of body language. A teacher should walk around the room during a discussion so that the whole class feels involved. Avoiding ‘closed’ body language (such as folding arms) and physical signals that can distract from the learning process, for example, constantly checking the time or looking at paperwork that has nothing to do with the lesson. 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 a teacher’s body language is positive then students are more likely to trust him/her. 

Using voice like good actors is very important in terms of classroom performance. Like good actors, teachers need to use their voices appropriately in a variety of situations. It can be in terms of narrating a story or giving a character in a distinctive accent. Effective teachers incorporate variations in vocal pitch and deliberately raise or lower their voice in order to make a point or simply to communicate more effectively. Narrating a story or playing a character within a story when reading to students will obviously interest the learners more than straight reading.

Attracting and holding students’ attention in the classroom by using role-playing occupies a significant portion of the better performance skills of a teacher. To convey information, stimulate discussion and to better communicate with students role-playing is very important and effective. In many subjects, role-playing can be used to develop empathy and to enliven the discussion.

Improvisation is one of the most important skills for a teacher to learn. 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. 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.

Many teachers adopt a variety of performance skills to reach, hold, and convey information to a diverse and demanding audience. Tauber and Mester stress the essential qualities that make up a good teacher/actor: deep familiarity and understanding of the subject matter use of a battery of communication skills, enthusiasm for the subject matter and evidenced love of the art and craft of teaching/learning. The enthusiasm with which we speak should come from a genuine commitment to the teaching-learning process and to the subject matter. Just as the best actors evoke a meaningful expression of lines due to their devotion to their craft, the best teachers convey enthusiasm because of genuine devotion to their students and to the importance of the subject matter to be covered. Lessons taught involve the use of physical and vocal animation, classroom humour, space, teacher role-playing, suspense, and surprise. Students will be more engaged and behave better when educators teach with enthusiasm, using acting techniques such as physical and vocal animation, role-playing, and the use of suspense and surprise.

The book titled “Acting Lessons for Teachers: Using Performance Skills in the classroom’ by Cathy Sargent Mester and Dr. Robert T. Tauber tells ‘Both teachers and actors must fundamentally capture and hold listener attention. This goal is particularly crucial in the classroom since attention is a prerequisite to learning. Both professions also share the goal of having the listeners be able to perceive readily which parts of their messages are the most important, in other words directing the listeners’ attention by their nonverbal expression. Finally, both teachers and actors want to present the material so that it sticks with the listeners for some time. Actors and teachers, even seasoned ones, share some of the same thoughts and feelings before they step across that threshold onto the stage or into the classroom. They worry whether they will “forget their lines” and “will the audience accept them.” They feel anxious, apprehensive, inadequate, and ill-prepared. Physiologically, soaked armpits, knees like rubber, and butterflies in the stomach make matters even worse. Their shared goal is not only to overcome these debilitating thoughts and feelings but to get on with their job of entertaining.” 

We must be aware of the fact that today’s students are more visually oriented, more technologically sophisticated and more challenged in their academic orientation than the students of previous generations. So, we will consider those teachers best who can adapt to their students varied learning styles. Teachers have always had to adapt to changing times and the 21st century. Like actors, teachers have a message to convey and this is best accomplished by incorporating proven acting skills such as animation in voice and body, use of suspense and surprise, role-playing, props, classroom space and humour.


Berry C ( 1973) Voice and the Actor London: Harrap

Hodgson  J ( ed) ( 1972) The Uses of Drama London: Metheun

Johnstone K ( 1981) Impro London: Mehuen

Pisk L ( 1975) The Actor  and his Body London: Harrap

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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