Genres of Drama
Genres of Drama
When traveling back in time, say six years, I see myself at school, a twelfth grader then, practising for a theater play. Those were the days of "king Kreon" from "Antigone," and there is a great deal of what I would give to live them once more - so much fun and joy, - and what an amount of text to learn! Whereas today? For four years already I am preparing myself to become a teacher.
There is a saying, "school is supposed to be fun." I have been to six different schools in my life, where I had to deal with different kinds of difficult situations: several psychological injuries by fellow students causing grief to me. Maybe because I was not easy to be dealt with. It is the responsibility of a teacher to deal with all sorts of students and problems, resulting in the change of lives.
In the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" the quotation: "A teacher's job is to encourage his students", is found. Does that not tear the heart? It does, for, how can something partly so emotional be achieved? From my personal experience I say it depends as much on the chosen recipe as on the correct measure of ingredients. Most certainly, do I want my students to live moments of fun and joy, such as I experienced a few years ago. My assistants: drama games applicable to attain educational aims.
There are different categories and subcategories to drama games: e.g. figure theater, simulation, charade, mime, dance, magic, as well as fantasy travel. Three major streams are distinguishable from a simulation dividing it into gaming, computer simulation or role play, which is probably the drama game known to teachers and students all over the world. The figure theater also has subdivisions, statue - or puppet theater, for instance. Depending on the age, the students could choose from the latter in between shadow-, finger-, hand- and stick puppets, or even puppets on strings, like Spejbl and Hurvinek.
If those are the games, then what can actually be dramatized with them? Much choice: dialogs, everyday situations, fairy tales, feelings, paintings or photographs, poems, songs, stories. Of course, every single one of these has to find the drama game(s), suiting it best. The reason is easily comprehensible: not every drama game is fit for everything just mentioned! By matching subjects with games in class, school is able to turn into an institution of "learning by doing."
This phrase reminds me of how I learnt to rope. It must have been in September 1996, when I was on a guest ranch in Arizona. So badly wanting to learn how to rope, I was first shown how to do it and then insisted on practicing on my own. No word can express the pride I felt the moment I had done it correctly for the very first time! A look at different studies similar to this experience show that a positive effect like this is of common occurrence, thus why not teach senior students something about the American legal system and then ask them to apply their knowledge in examples of gaming, because if the same happened to them, they would not only enjoy learning, but also school!
However, all of this may be easier said than done. Many aspects are to be considered in a drama game. Drama techniques, for example, demand a teacher's attention. They are supposed to make learning fun and have to involve the whole learner! To achieve this, linguistic -, cognitive -, social -, affective - as well as physical objectives need consideration. Aims are: to build confidence and autonomy, to communicate, to coordinate body movements, to develop empathy, to encourage working in a team, to experiment with language, to extend the memory capacity, to imitate actions, to improve pronunciation and intonation, to increase concentration abilities, to learn words, to overcome prejudices, to practice grammatical structures, to provide a positive feeling of experience and development, to reduce anxiety, and to train listening. Yet, despite the long enumeration, this listing is only an extract.
The big question is, how does a teacher lead his students to reach those goals? The answer can be found in words like action, imagination, emotion, learning and acquisition. There is no drama game that does not involve action. Why not let the students walk around and communicate with as many fellow students as possible? Is it not true that they sometimes know so little about each other. Teachers, ask them for their own ideas, have them invent new situations so they can see they are able to make a difference, that they are part of a changing process in language learning! Open themselves up to these activities, make them free in their reactions!
Students must be given the freedom to express their emotions in a way they feel comfortable with, no force, no pressure. They should involve their whole person whenever dramatizing, whether person or situation, which may happen sooner or later to some students or others, especially since everybody is a one of a kind. Furthermore, students are to be enabled to use and practice the foreign language and to interact more naturally. These features point them the way to a less troublesome language acquisition, yet moreover, to a much better language command. Consequently, the students may not only become more self-assured, but may also overcome any reluctance towards the foreign language. Wouldn't that be great: achieve all the aforesaid, making everybody happy?
Leaves the question of when to use drama games. Generally speaking, for as will be seen, there are always exceptions to the rule, they can be used at three stages of a lesson: at the beginning, within or at the end of it. In the first case they are called "warm-ups" and therefore aim at relaxing the learner, making him willing to work with fellow students and creating readiness for the learning. Also, a warm-up is supposed to introduce the main lesson topic. There, drama games can have the aim to revise or reinforce material taught a few lessons before. Or else, and very important, they clarify this taught material through direct experience, questions can be answered or problems be solved.
When included in the last part of a lesson, they should last about five minutes, giving time to revise the language taught in the lesson, to 'unwind' students after intense learning or to enliven them after some less exciting activities. However, no matter in what lesson stage used - warming up, main part or cooling down -, when implementing a drama game attention always has to be paid to the target group, its size, the teaching aim and the lesson topic!
When it comes to drama pedagogy, the subject at hand is an approach using techniques practiced in a theater for educational aims and purposes. Emphasis is put on the learning process and its different dimensions: from a physical - via an aesthetic - and an emotional - to a cognitive involvement. Drama pedagogues are of the opinion that there are many parallels between acting and language learning:
A human being has the inborn need to play, so that performing in a theater and taking on a role, is considered a natural process, but due to certain norms in society this inborn need is repressed. Drama pedagogy aims at rediscovering it by offering speaking contexts that establish a link between acting, thinking, speaking and a person's identity. After all, a baby first experiments with sounds, then plays with words and later forms sentences. The development ends in the ability to communicate with others. By turning to a familiar environment and leaving enough room for creativity, drama pedagogy facilitates the learning of this ability to communicate.
 vgl.: Dr. Marita Füchtner (WS 2000/2001) Drama Games in Education, Dresden: Arbeitsblatt, 19.10.2000. & Dr. Marita Füchtner (WS 2000/2001) Drama Techniques, Dresden: Arbeitsblatt, 26.10.2000. & Dr. Marita Füchtner (WS 2000/2001) Drama Activities ® Drama Games, Dresden: Arbeitsblatt, 09.11.2000. & E. I. Tselikas (1999) Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht, Zürich: Orell Füssli Verlag AG.
 vgl.: E. I. Tselikas Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht 1999.