INVOLVING DRAMA IN THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING PROCESS: TEACHING ENGLISH TO GREEK PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS WITH THE AID OF DRAMA ACTIVITIES
16th Primary School of Agrinion (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Incorporating Drama into an English classroom is a step forward, leading to the construction of a positive learning environment. The prevalent notion is that the learning circumstances, under which students struggle to learn the English language, are of uppermost importance and should be altered in the most beneficial way. The benefits stemming from the staging of a theatrical play are evident not only on the members of the acting team but also on the students that take part as the audience. The drama practices and methods help students learn English, express themselves and their creativity, be more self-confident and become emotionally educated.
Having all these in mind, we decided to give it a try and engage the 6th grade students of the Greek Primary School we work at in the staging of an extract from the well-known theatrical play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by W. Shakespeare. As far as the choice is concerned Shakespeare seemed to be the perfect one since it gave us the opportunity to bring students closer to the English culture.
Apart from all the previously mentioned benefits, the students’ enthusiasm about the staging of the play was so big that it was easy for us both as teachers and as “directors” to focus on our main target, which was the integration of all 4 skills, that is speaking, listening, writing and reading.
Drama activities incorporate both speaking and listening since students are enabled to use regular speech in order to participate in all the meaningful assignments and use English in context. The extensive use of English is definitely a prerequisite which is more often than not challenged by students learning a foreign language, but it is up to the teacher to help students refrain from using their mother tongue.
Listening is a part of the learning process that students find hard to assimilate, usually because of lack of interest. However, the atmosphere on stage is such an energetic one that their interest, as well as their desire to listen, increases greatly.
Although it can be said that teaching English via Drama mostly assists speaking, listening and reading, drama activities can also improve writing since the staging can be followed by a writing assignment. In our case, the students were asked to fill in a Questionnaire, providing feedback about the emotions and feelings that were generated by their performance. Filling in the Questionnaire has a dual advantage: On the one hand, the more the students write about their experience, the more they can learn to articulate their feelings. On the other hand, teachers are able to understand better the pros and cons of the Drama activities they employed and of the whole learning process in general.
The integration of the 4 skills was not the only advantage of this project, though. Students admitted that they found the lively atmosphere on stage helpful and that they felt encouraged in their effort to acquire the target language. What is more, students got the chance to love not only the English language, but also their school environment on the whole.
All in all, introducing Drama in an English classroom is an innovative step that results in assimilation of English through real communication, involving ideas, emotions and feelings. In other words, teachers can manage via Drama both to make it easier and funnier for students to achieve their goal, that is to learn English, and to construct a more vibrant and creative school environment, beyond any convention.
Keywords: Drama, English language, Shakespeare, learning process, 4 skills.