A graduate in English literature and a post graduate in psychology, Mrs. Sandhya Uday is the Vice Principal of Shanti Asiatic School, Ahmedabad. She has a vast teaching experience of twenty-four years and believes in constructively contributing to the field of education.
In this article, Mrs. Sandhya speaks of how drama can be effectively used in the school curriculum to help children learn language and life skills.
There are always challenges before a language teacher, to channel the naturally exuberant imaginative energy of the children into activity that is not merely enjoyable, but also has a language pay-off. They need to develop a repertoire of concrete activities, which appeal to the children; failure to do so will result in chaos or boredom.
Drama-project is one such activity that offers ample opportunity to cater to almost all types of learners. It creates situations wherein higher order thinking skills, life skills and emotional skills can be developed along with command over language. Above all, it fulfills the major objective of studying literature i.e. enabling the child to be emotionally empowered.
Drama: not merely ‘acting’
‘Dramatization is not merely ‘acting’ as it is perceived to be. There are so many other facets of it that do not immediately come to mind’, says Chippy Gangjee. Dramatization by its very nature has a few important aspects that are imperative for young people. Especially in today’s India- teamwork, oratory skills, self-confidence are merely the tip of the iceberg.
By taking on a role, children can take a break from their everyday identity and lose their inhibitions. This is useful for children who are shy or children who don’t like joining group activities. Giving them special roles can encourage them to be that character and abandon their shyness or embarrassment.
Process is important!
Drama is not only about the product (the performance) but also the process of language learning. It infuses confidence in the children and gives an opportunity for them to explore another character. Dramatizing means that the children become actively involved in a text. This personalization makes language more meaningful and memorable than drilling or mechanical repetition. It allows children to add an emotion or personality to the text that they have read or listened to.
Whole language experts Keneth Goodman, Lois Bridges and Yetu Goodman, in their classic work ‘The Whole Language Catalog’, define whole language as ' rich, authentic, developmentally appropriate school experiences.'
The whole language is as real, relevant, and easy in school as it is outside school. It means reading real literature, not workbooks and work sheets. It means writing when you need to write, because you have a real purpose and something to say. It means problem- solving, answering your own real questions in an environment that encourages you to take the risks which is necessary to learn. It means supportive teachers who take time to know each pupil, who work collaboratively with their pupils in learning, and who can make every day at school to be cherished and remembered. In whole language classrooms, there is time for thinking and time for growing. “It means putting tests and textbooks in their proper places since they are no more than tools for professional teachers to use as they serve their pupils”, says Goodman. The drama project keeps pace with ‘whole language concept’ very well as it includes all four essential basic skills i.e. reading, writing, listening and speaking. The students write the script, draft notice, and make posters to put up in the school premises. After the drama presentation, the entire class/school can write the review, report and critique the dramatization which they have actually enjoyed, thus making the activity real and relevant.
All the three life skills recommended by the CBSE, i.e. thinking skills, social skills and emotional skills, are intricately woven in dramatization and it can be easily developed and assessed.
Preparation in dramatization can be beneficial to improve the life skills. It gives a platform to build confidence level, assertiveness, verbal and non verbal communication, visualization, presentation and organizational skills, etc. to name a few. Looking into the activity deeply, we can notice the higher order thinking skills woven beautifully along with life skills. When the children are involved with the ‘characters’, they explore the realms of those characters’ personalities and analyse the characters themselves. They appreciate, realise, empathise, compare, construct, differentiate, judge and often form their own opinions regarding those characters. In addition, the drama project has been proved to be the strongest tool to impart values and thought provoking ideas.
It’s not a mere assumption, as I have seen my children grow wonderfully through this highly productive activity (drama project) year after year.