Want something fun and creative to do with your kids at home? In only a few simple steps, Drama for Learning provides a creative outlet for your children which will foster their imagination, self-confidence and language development. Let us take you on a journey …
This weekend, why not indulge yourself and the children in a bit of fun play by enjoying a spot of Drama for Learning. This is also known as process drama and draws on the disciplines of music, movement, storytelling, dance, puppetry, literature, poetry and the visual arts. Drama for Learning relies on imagination to make sense of reality, and can be viewed as the valuing of the journey rather than the arrival at a destination.
The drama itself is generally an extension of the child’s own dramatic play and the adult’s role is to scaffold and enhance it by engaging with the child’s imagination and by ‘complicating’ the context of the play. This consists of the adult introducing a made-up context and presenting a problem that needs solving, or an obstacle or attitude that prevents a solution to a dilemma. The adult then gives direction to the drama by helping the children identify, clarify and discuss the details by asking questions and taking on a role. The adult also encourages and challenges the children’s ideas and, where necessary, ensures the children stay focused.
Drama for Learning aims to assist children to develop and express their understanding of themselves and the world they live in. It is concerned with self-discovery by empowering children to make decisions, and providing a safe arena to experience the consequences of those decisions. In doing so, it allows children to develop a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and to value their unique individual way of being creative and their personal learning style.
The use of imagination encourages skills in creativity, language ability, perspective taking, empathy, impulse control, and cognitive development. Most importantly perhaps, drama for learning often sparks children’s curiosity in a way that fosters life-long learning.
- Choose a theme: inspiration might come from nursery rhymes, special occasions, children’s literature, moral dilemmas, myths and legends, a school theme, a seasonal celebration, an outing, a current event or use a social issue that is relevant to your child.
- Loosely map out a storyline that relates to this and choose a role that you can take on to facilitate the drama.
- Find a song that associates with the theme and think about opportunities to integrate the visual arts or poetry. Incorporate movement vocabulary, for instance, don’t simply say “be a cat”; rephrase this as “stalk like a cat” or “pounce like a cat”. Modelling what you expect is essential. Teach children to observe and appreciate other people’s efforts, and experiment with a variety of music styles.
- As you proceed, ask questions to facilitate the drama. Open-ended questions promote the most thought and “W” questions (why, what, where, when) help to deepen children’s understanding of a situation. The use of “I wonder …” before posing a question invites speculation, as opposed to giving the children an impression that you are expecting a particular answer.
- Throughout the drama, discuss various ideas and trial them. This teaches children that every choice has a consequence. Allow all the children’s ideas to be validated
as legitimate contibutions, and encourage the children to provide reasons for their suggestions.
- Don’t be scared to stop and rediscuss the rules if behaviour becomes inappropriate.
- Allow children to participate once they feel comfortable. Some children will simply observe at first, but will be participating in their own way.
- Go off and play! Enjoy providing your child an experience of performing arts in a fun environment.
An Arabian princess (adult in role) pleads with the children to help her after all the people in her kingdom have been turned to stone by an evil sorcerer. She knows that she must find and rub a magic lamp to free a genie (adult in role) who will grant her a wish to break the spell. The lamp however is on a deserted island in a cave, which they can only get to by flying on a magic carpet and is guarded by a snake that they must charm.
- The adult in the role of the princess explains the situation to the children and requests their help. A simple hat or scarf will suffice as a costume for the princess, as the richness of children’s imaginations will conjure up the rest of the image.
- Elicit the children’s prior knowledge of Arabia and locate the region on a map, as well as googling information about it.
- Source a suitable piece of Arabic music and play musical statues to symbolise the idea of the people in the kingdom being turned to stone.
- Lead the children to a rug and ask them to suggest magic words that might make the carpet fly. Imagine the carpet rising into the air and ask the children to describe what they can see below.
- Pretend to locate the island, and land the magic carpet (with a suitable crash landing which is always fun), then set about exploring the location by marching up hills, hacking through jungle, slogging through swamps, avoiding hidden tigers and dodging coconuts thrown by naughty monkeys, etc. Let the children’s and your own imagination run wild. You will be surprised how easily ideas flow.
- Discover the cave and creep inside. Perhaps set up an imaginary cave with a blanket over some chairs beforehand and have a ‘lamp’ hidden inside. Pretend to find the lamp, but as you go to retrieve it, scream in dismay about the snake guarding it.
- Have the children take turns as snake and snake charmer playing a hypnotising tune on a real or imaginary flute. Once the snakes are suitably mesmerised, grab the lamp and let the children take turns giving it a rub.
- Explain to the children that you are now taking on a new role and, as they watch, adorn yourself with the genie’s costume (which can be something as simple as a towel arranged on your head as a turban). Pretend to ‘appear’ and ask the children what it is they want (acting irritated at being awoken from a century of sleep). As the genie, agree to grant their wish if they each bring you a special gift. Provide paper and pens and have the children draw the gift they would give and present this to you. After the gift-giving, as the genie, tell them to return home with the lamp and their wish will have been granted.
- Repeat the journey on the return across the island and back on the magic carpet all the way to the kingdom.
- You then take on the role of princess again, thanking the children profusely for their help at restoring her people and, as a show of gratitude, granting them a rub of the lamp to make a wish of their own.
This scenario will work for any age group, as the children will provide the level of detail they need to make it relevant to them. There are no rules or boundaries, just have fun and see where your imaginations take you!
Paula Galey (M Ed Psych (hons) Hdip Tchg) is a teacher who specialised in working with students with learning and behaviour difficulties. She currently writes educational resources while raising her three children.