We are fortunate to have Dr. Rosalind M. Flynn, the head of the Master of Arts in Theatre Education Degree Program in The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC to share her expertise in the field of drama.
She presents 10 powerful Benefits of integrating Drama in your classroom activities. Drama also goes well with brain based learning principles as it deals with emotions and movement.
Before you read my list, please note that each benefit applies only when the drama is well done. Like any other learning strategy, if drama is delivered poorly, it will not be effective anywhere—especially not in a classroom full of young people. Drama teaching and learning methods do not generate free-flowing undisciplined chaos; they have the structure and rigor required in any activity that encourages productive creative thinking. So, when the classroom drama is strong, here are the first ten benefits that come to my mind:
Student Engagement: The students pay attention and most want to be a part of the dramatizing. Those who choose to observe instead of participate are still strongly engaged in what’s happening because it’s still compelling to watch and in the theatre, the audience is always an important collaborator.
Collaboration and Cooperation. Most drama activities require students to work together to create and produce the scene, improvisation, script, tableau, interview, or story dramatization. They work together as actors, directors, playwrights, audience, and even as critics who help one another design and deliver something that an individual cannot accomplish alone.
Active Learning. In drama activities, the students are doing something with information as opposed to receiving the information. They move, create, experiment, question, discuss, write, sketch, revise, rehearse, and perform.
Creativity within Limits. Drama/Theatre has many strict rules for quality of delivery. Drama done well requires students to follow instructions, concentrate, control their bodies and voices, move purposefully, and focus their energy. Within these constraints, students use their imaginations to engage in a creative activity or produce a creative product.
Flexibility. Drama demands that students remain flexible and open-minded. They will experience offering ideas that may or may not be taken. They must remain open to the ideas of others. Such flexibility is crucial because in any creative process, there is no right or wrong answer. There is just the choice or direction the particular creators choose to solve the artistic problem. Without flexibility, there will be no progress—and no drama.
Investment in Learning. Drama activities have the power to motivate students to invest in their own learning. Because they are both participants and creators, students take ownership of the learning activity. They become excited about their work, they care about how it turns out ,and the role that they play in its success.
Higher Order Thinking Skills. Drama rapidly moves students beyond “Who?” “What?” and “When?” and into “How?” and “Why?” They must analyze what they know and apply it in new dramatic contexts that become a synthesis of their understanding. Just the facts are not enough; the facts contextualized within the drama push the students to greater comprehension.
Discipline. When students have practiced drama skill-building exercises, the qualities of good actors—concentration, focus, self-control, knowing and playing your part, working in ensemble, purposeful movement, maintaining silence or stillness, projecting your voice at the appropriate times, and so forth—all contribute to stronger classroom management. In the best of circumstances, the students evolve into managing themselves.
Showing Appreciation. Everyone knows that when actors do a good job, the audience applauds. Drama activities provide students with opportunities to show appreciation to others and to receive appreciation for the hard work that they do. This may come in the form of applause, but it also comes in the form of laughter, groans, smiles, sighs, and gasps from observers who enjoy the drama. It comes in the form of compliments the students give one another because drama is a shared learning experience.
Fun. An old saying goes, “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” Drama is fun. The students have a good time. They enjoy themselves and in turn, they enjoy the learning. There’s nothing wrong with fun in learning; in fact, there’s everything right with it.
Do you have more to add to my list? I’d love to make it even longer.
Dr. Rosalind M. Flynn
Head of the Master of Arts in Theatre Education Degree Program
The Drama Department
The Catholic University of America