Reasons to Include Drama in the Curriculum
The Theater Arts are included in the most collaborative endeavors in life. Successful productions require people of a variety of skills.
Teaching strategies that include drama activities and lesson plans guide students to work better as a team and to appreciate each other's contributions. Exposure to drama is a necessary element in educating the whole child.
Growing up, children have ample opportunity to compete. They compete in spelling bees, debates, sports, the list goes on. As parents, teachers, and people who care about the education and upbringing of children, we need to give them opportunities to collaborate.
Children who are performing a skit together must work as a team. In order for the skit to be successful, each teammate must do his or her part. Therefore, it is most beneficial for the children to help each other succeed.
When a team competes against another team, there is a strong temptation to hold the weakest players back so that they do not hurt the team's chances of success. When a team's common goal focuses not on competition, but rather doing well intrinsically, then the strongest players take it upon themselves to teach and to help the weakest players improve. So, the child who cannot remember her lines does not sit out the performance, but rather the other actors take the time to help her practice her lines until she can remember them.
When the goal of the team is to make every player strong, the weaker players become more confident. It means a lot to a child to have their peers take an interest in how well they do, and show faith that they will do well. Children working in collaborative environments gain self-esteem.
It bears mentioning that the self-esteem gained in drama classes does not originate solely from the experience of being onstage and performing in front of other people. It also originates in the support they feel from their fellow players.
The joys of pure collaboration and the theater arts are not lost to those who do not wish to perform onstage. As I said, theater productions require people with a wide variety of skills. Theaters need electricians and lighting designers, costume designers and seamstresses, make-up specialists, people to build props, backstage support... There is lots of technical work to be done!
But how do you incorporate technicians in a 3rd grade skit? It may take some creativity, but it is easily doable:
* Will there be costume changes? Maybe your cast needs a dresser, not only to help but to keep track of costumes.
* Do you need an assistant director or stage manager? I'll bet you do.
* Or maybe your skit would be improved with a painted backdrop. Your technicians could work on that while your actors rehearse.
I once had a gig at a middle school as a Guest Artist in Residence. I taught five different classes to 7th and 8th grade students. Some of those classes were mandatory for the kids to take. I had one especially shy group that did not relish putting on a performance. They did a wonderful job of crafting props, and their work was necessary to the success of the entire endeavor.
Learn to Give and Take Feedback
Last but not least, another great reason to teach drama in your classroom is that it gives students a perfect opportunity to learn to incorporate feedback. After rehearsals, directors give notes, and then the group rehearses again. Follow a few simple rules and your students will benefit greatly from this exercise:
* Keep it positive.
* Start by telling the child what he did well.
* Then, make a suggestion about something he could do even better than before.
If you exude confidence in your students, then they will want to make your suggested improvements. This is a positive and fun way for children to learn to incorporate feedback and follow directions, two necessary life skills.
Teaching drama in the classroom gives kids the opportunity to collaborate, to support each other, to gain self-confidence, and to learn to incorporate feedback. Drama is a necessary component of a well-rounded education.