Teaching kids ,Tip 5 ” The Benefits of Using Drama to Teach English ” ( first part )

by | 05.06.2014
Drama and children – a winning combination

Anyone who has worked with young children knows that they learn chiefly by exploring their world using their imagination and engaging in pretend play. The link between imaginative, or pretend play, and language is particularly strong. Communicational and conversational skills develop as children develop scenarios (“this is our house, and this is the baby, she is just born and she has to sleep now”); assign roles and direct the action (“I’ll be the mommy and I’m going shopping. You’re the daddy; you have to go to work!”) and slip “in and out of multiple roles” (“now it’s my turn to be the teacher “).

This imaginary play gives the child an understanding of the power of language and, by including others in his games, he learns that words make it possible for him to tell a story or organize a game.   The importance of pretend play, points out that this process plays an important part in helping the child “make the connection between spoken and written language” Acknowledging the importance of this aspect of a child’s development, most preschool and kindergarten classrooms include a dramatic play area where children can act out their fantasies.

For children drama provides practical experience in communicating, both written and oral, gives them the opportunity to learn to work together, to develop tolerance and empathy as they begin to see the world from different perspectives, and promotes active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are still a winning combination.

Drama and language
But instead of lingering over the ‘why-not’ of drama, let’s look at the ‘why’, and, in particular, why we should use drama for teaching English.
First of all, it’s authentic. Using drama enables children to use English appropriately in real conversations, expressing emotions and ideas and listening to the feelings and ideas of their peers. In other words, English is taught in the context in which it will be used, which is far removed from lists of vocabulary and worksheets and which makes students aware of the language first and foremost as a means of communication.

This conversational use of language promotes fluency. While learning a play, children are encouraged to listen to, potentially read and then repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.

In addition, drama also teaches them to enunciate their words properly and to project their voices when they speak, helping them to become clear and confident speakers. Using drama to teach English also helps to improve the understanding and retention of a word. By the time a child has read, rehearsed and acted out a scene focusing on the word ‘frustrated’, for example, there is little likelihood of ever forgetting it. The same would not hold true if the word had been memorized by rote for a vocabulary test.

Obviously, then, the active participation required in a drama lesson involves not only the intellect but also children’s imagination and emotions. By encouraging self-expression, drama motivates children to use language confidently and creatively.

Finally, drama is an appropriate method for teaching children with different learning styles and at different levels of understanding. No one learns in exactly the same way, we all have different methods of processing information. By actively involving him in his own learning process, dramatization allows each child to absorb the language in his own way. Similarly, children whose language skills are still very limited are given the opportunity to communicate using nonverbal cues such as body movements and facial expressions. 

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