Are Drama Lessons Essential for Academic Progress?
Amateur dramatics and creative theatre is a subject that is deemed as unessential in some schools. The arts in general, when it comes to education, is characterised as being non-academic from the opinions of many political influences. A recent article by The Guardian suggests that many people are anxious about the drastic changes that might eliminate drama lessons in terms of keeping them as a mandatory subject in the school curriculum. Drama can be extremely beneficial for social and mental developments. Not only can this predominantly physical subject help build confidence levels in young children, it can also develop ones communication and can teach them to work co-dependently. Drama can broaden the mind-sets of everyone involved; you begin to build the ability of see things in alternate ways and begin to empathise with circumstances that you may not have understood fully.
Bearing this in mind, it is important to get everything you can out of these lessons, which can be easier said than done when it comes to teaching a class of angst-riddled teenagers. Secondary schools students begin to lose their creative spark and wild imaginations. This could be due to how there is less of a tolerance for individuality from the strict school policies and even their pressurising peers. This means it can be challenging to get a class of students to fully absorb themselves into the world of amateur dramatics. However, if you are successful, mounds of inspiration and imagination will begin to sprout again. Here are a few tips and advice on how to motivate your students and help them get the best out of your drama lessons.
The Warm Up:
It can be difficult to get your students ‘in the moment’ when it comes to performing in front of the class. Performance can be a terrifying task and mastering this skill with confidence is something that needs to be worked on. One way of helping your students feel at ease when entering your drama lesson is to show them that even when they are feeling embarrassed, everybody in the room is in the same position. Try counter this with a few quick warm up lessons. A school favourite is to act as silly as possible, get the laughter out the way and help everyone feel comfortable with acting. This is one of the few times that you can reward silly and inappropriate behaviour. Fun tasks such as: pull your silliest face, pretend to be a character from EastEnders, a competition of who can shout the loudest, are sure to get your class motivated for more activities.
Although some lessons within the drama sector may be mandatory, it is important to listen to what your students want to perform rather than simply reading from a textbook. Children will become bored very quickly if they consistently have to read lines from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If this is the script you have gone with, you could always add in modern techniques and trends to your lesson plans. Alternate endings and modern day interpretations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sprucing up your scripts.
Preparing for the ‘Real World’
Drama can be used as a form of expression. You can see a student’s point of view when they are allowed to perform on their own terms. It can be an emotional subject and can help relieve stress by overcoming certain milestones through the gift of performance. You can use these lessons as an experience, put your students in situations that may be stressful, so that when they have to experience them in reality, it may not be as daunting. Interview preparation, presentations, and performances of ‘a day in the life of’ can help people overcome their fears by rehearsing these everyday responsibilities in a comfortable and non-threating environment. You can also gain useful advice and feedback from peers and the teacher helping you improve and develop your confidence. Students can also bond with each other when they’re working in a primarily co-dependant environment. If you have a shy student in the classroom, it may be a good idea to let them work with one of their friends. This is because an individual’s lack of confidence can be strengthened when allowed to work as a group. Once they begin to feel comfortable in the class, you can urge them to work with new people and progress on their social skills.
An article written by Ann Marie Houghtalling for The Huffington Post says how her Drama degree has helped her go further in her business career. With developing skills such as improvisation, listening and responding well to criticism, it shows that drama lessons will also help students evolve in careers that are not drama related. This also suggests that keeping drama as a mandatory subject in schools will help schools students be more successful in their chosen careers.
Building a performance can be a difficult, not many people understand the velocity of work that needs to go into rehearsing and perfecting an act. Motivation and dedication are two skills that are essential when it comes to being successful in this sector. These skills can stick with you for life, whether or not you decide to stick to the arts and dramatics career path. Learning about public speaking, building confidence and working well with others are all abilities that can be taught through the drama department, it is essential that we take this subject seriously and embrace it whilst we can.