Dramatic Times Call for Dramatic Methods – Acting out Drama in an EFL Literature Classroom
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity."
What is school for? There is a consensus in the literature that schools have different func- tions.1 On the one hand, learners are to be given qualifications so that they can then be re- leased into working life. On the other hand, the integrative function of school, which is sup- posed to stabilise the socio-political order and contribute to the democratisation of society by imparting values and norms, is also a subject of German educational contributions.2 The latter was experienced by the students in the "lockdown" as particularly important, as they missed their peers above all. They missed meeting their friends and learning together with them. They missed experiencing learning and developing in community. This loss of the social aspects of learning is to be interpreted as a new, unique, multidimensional and poten- tially toxic stressor which threatens the psychological health of learners.3
During the Corona crisis, it became clear how important the social aspects of learning are. In both primary and secondary education, it has become clear that the social skills of learners have fallen by the wayside in front of the screen, resulting in deficits in other skills as well. Languages are social phenomena – and especially in foreign language teaching, the linguistic exchange between learners in the target language is of great importance in order to learn to communicate in it. This communicative component, which is naturally particu- larly important in English lessons, can be realised in multiple forms of use. Therefore, liter- ature, theatre, drama, creative writing, performing arts and visual arts, for example, are included in many English curricula. 4 Wolfgang Gehring emphasises the importance of the arts in English teaching in this context by pointing out that:
“Kunst beeindruckt, provoziert, sie regt zum Widerspruch an, ist verstörend, anmutig. Kunst nimmt gefangen, zeigt ungewohnte Perspektiven, lässt Blicke zu in neuartige Welten und kulturelle Äußer- ungsformen. Reaktionen auf Kunst schaffen interessante, didaktisch ergiebige Kontexte für das Ler- nen einer Fremdsprache. Die SchülerInnen veranlassen sie dazu, sich auszutauschen, zu kommuniz- ieren.“5
Art addresses the affective level of the learner. It can impress, disturb, inspire, contradict the established and focus on foreign perspectives. Furthermore, it favours changes of perspec- tive that develop intercultural communicative competence.6 One form of the arts that can be used in English literature education is drama. Experiencing drama via acting is one method of turning the reading of dramas into a speaking opportunity in class. In the curricular guide- lines, Shakespeare, for example, is listed as a subject area for the teaching of courses at the higher level. Apart from that, drama as a text type does not play a major role in the Kern- curriculum of upper secondary schools. Still, the didactic potential of acting out dramatic texts is increasingly emphasised in literature didactics. Not least because it promotes sus- tainable social experiences.7 Finally,
the importance of the school and the school class as a social system, the teacher-pupil rela- tionship as well as the peer culture for the success of the educational mission has been proven ex negativo during the challenging times of Covid19.8 At the same time, the shocking find- ings that the social dimension of education has fallen by the wayside during the pandemic offer an opportunity to focus on the social aspects of learning in the future. One way to compensate for this loss of social learning in the ELT literature classroom is to use staging methods of dramatic texts. As a prospective English teacher with an enthusiasm for drama,
1 Cf. Fend, Helmut. Neue Theorie der Schule. 2006. 49-51.
2 Cf. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Schubarth, W. https://www.bpb.de/politik/innenpolitik/corona- virus/317803/wir-wollen-wieder-in-die-schule-schule-als-sozialen-ort-wiederentdecken#footnode25-25. 2020. n.p.
3 Cf. Brakemeier Eva-Lotta et al. “Die COVID-19-Pandemie als Herausforderung für die psychische Gesund- heit.“ https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/pdf/10.1026/1616-3443/a000574. 2020. n.p.
4 Cf. Gehring, Wolfgang. Mit den Künsten Englisch unterrichten. Bad Heilbrunn: Verlag Julius Klinkhardt, 2017. 9-15.
5 Ibid. 9.
6 Cf. Kerncurriculum für das Gymnasium Englisch. 19.
7 Cf. Ibid. 121-23.
8 Vgl. Walter Herzog, Schule und Schulklasse als soziale Systeme, in: Rolf Becker (Hrsg.), Lehrbuch der Bil- dungssoziologie, Wiesbaden 2009, S. 155–194; Birte Knierim/Diane Raufel-der; Alexander Wettstein, Die Lehrer-Schüler-Beziehung im Spannungsfeld verschiedener Theorieansätze, in: Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht 1/2017, S. 35–48.