D. Peppoloni

University for Foreigners of Siena (ITALY)
This project aims at introducing a new methodology to teach foreign languages through Drama to dyslexic people. This method was conceived to overcome the most common problems related to the acquisition of oral skills in foreign language learning. The main idea was to challenge some long lasting and deeply rooted prejudices or pedagogical mistakes: the confusion between “language competence” and “communicative competence”, the separation in language learning between verbal codes and no-verbal codes, the overvaluation of written work and grammar study, the undervaluation of an active role of the students in the learning process, the lack of creativity and use of imagination in many class activities, the inadequate self- motivation of many students who fail to reach the expected objectives. Teaching a foreign language through Drama is a way to overcome these problems through a holistic approach to language learning in which “mind” and “body” are both fully involved as it happens in any real communication situation. The pedagogical assumptions of the method can be summarized in the formula of a communicative approach with a humanistic-affective orientation.

The method relies heavily on the concept of motivational learning, focusing on a strong personal and emotional involvement typical of any theatrical performance. Therefore it employs an emotional approach to acting training, and the final aim is to free the student’s entire personality by reducing the influence of affective filters which can hinder or prevent language learning. The core of the method is the structure of the teaching unit in which the sequence “performance-reflection-performance” replace the more common “reflection-performance-reflection” pattern. In other words, the foreign language is dealt with mostly as a “language-in-action”, a tool to pursue practical aims in meaningful situations.

Artistic methodologies and tools can help people affected by language diseases, such as that of dyslexia, in accepting their problem and facing it to solve it and integrate themselves successfully in the society. The real challenge is to find an adequate method to motivate students to undertake the study of another language, after all the difficulties met approaching their mother tongue, and to support an aware and long-lasting way of learning. Applying Drama strategies in a foreign language lesson allows students on one side to focus on the contents of the lesson and to fix them and on the other side to do boring exercises in a funny and productive way.

The recourse to Drama techniques to teach a foreign language fulfill the search of different communicative codes, with respect of those used in the traditional frontal lessons, to respect different ways of learning, different kind of intellect, aiming at stimulating creativity, sociality and the skill of orienting in a new situation and a new subject.

At the end of the project we aim at testing the progresses of the dyslexic students that have followed this innovative method, instead of traditional frontal lessons and to realize a multimodal corpus containing the performances realized, to use it both as e-learning material for the students and as a repository to train those teachers who want to apply this method.