Why it is worth the drama

How drama teaching can combine and achieve teaching objectives

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2009

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. What Drama Teaching is about
2.1 Communicative Language Teaching through Drama
2.2 Intercultural Learning through Drama Teaching

3. Focus on Participants in the Drama Class
3.1 Role of the Teacher
3.2 Students in Drama Teaching

4. Final statement


1. Introduction

During my second internship, I was given the chance to design a regular and a double lesson in a 10th grade together with a fellow student. Since the topic was “Blacks in America” or rather slavery, we decided to let the students “experience” the inner-conflict of Northerners in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. After reading and talking about the passage with the students they were divided into groups and asked to think about how the characters would handle the situation and make up a small role play. Before the next lesson began my fellow student and I were surprised when the students came to us and talked about their ideas so enthusiastically since we had been told that this class was very difficult to teach and our idea to use drama teaching would probably not work out. After the substitute teacher opened the door the students sat together in their groups to talk about finishing touches. During the presentations of the role plays we were rewarded by the students for choosing to let them act the scene in order to understand it. They really identified with their roles and had great ideas of how the characters could or could not change their attitude towards runaway-slaves. The reflection on the role-plays also showed how much insight the students had gained through these role-plays. All of us were having a great time until the last presentation was given and the substitute teacher – who was an English-teacher as well- gave her opinion on the lesson. She told the students that they really needed to work on their English-skills; especially the so-called lack of vocabulary was a major issue for her. Also the students’ attitude towards discipline was criticized because how could they have taken it serious if they were laughing while presenting? All in all, she certainly made clear that she did not like the presentations of the role plays. During her little monologue, we had huge problems to keep quiet because we had been so proud that the groups’ results had been more creative than we had dared to hope.

This experience showed me several aspects about the drama process: Drama teaching has so much potential and it is possible to have wonderful teaching experiences, even with students who are seen to be difficult. The chance to identify with characters can give students more insight into a given situation than only reading and talking about a scene could ever do. It also showed that some teachers cannot see this potential and therefore react negatively to a lesson where the focus is not so much laid on accuracy. This essay therefore seeks to show why I integrate drama teaching in my teaching philosophy. It furthermore shows how much more potential the drama process has and how compatible it is with foreign language teaching objectives or rather, is able to fulfill them in a very successful way. After giving a short overview what drama in general is about, the teaching objectives considered most important, which can be achieved with drama teaching, will be given and explained.

2. What Drama Teaching is about

“Drama is about finding out what you know, but don’t yet know you know” (Finch)

The substitute teacher had in this lesson clearly shown that she had not understood what drama teaching is about. „Es geht immer um Inhalte, die Bewältigung von Problemen und die Entwicklung von Lösungsstrategien, nicht um die Qualität der Darstellung. Am Ende einer dramapädagogischen Einheit steht als Ziel nicht ein Produkt, sondern eine Erkenntnis“ (Finch). The main aim in this lesson had been to make the students understand how difficult the situation was for the characters as well as to have the students participate actively in class. Since in a drama unit the focus is laid on the process rather than on the end-product and the students achieved to show so much insight, the learning target had been better than achieved. They were ready to perform their understanding which is an important category in drama teaching. In addition, the students were comfortable in speaking the target language what even supported the success of the lesson although some words had not been used in the proper way.

The substitute teacher had also shown that she was not willing to suspend her disbelief regarding the drama process. By analyzing what she commented on the lesson, one can say that she sees her responsibility in making her students perform English properly but how are they supposed to get there if she only tells them to learn their vocabulary?

In drama teaching, the teacher has to see himself from a rather different perspective. Here, you as a teacher are asked “to stop thinking of yourself as a teacher of languages and to start thinking of yourself as a teacher of something through languages – a teacher of people and not of nouns, verbs, etc.” (Hamilton et al. 2003: 11). Only through feeling comfortable while speaking can students train their fluency and work on their accuracy. There are different ways of achieving this, however, drama teaching seems to be a very effective way, since here, the students are asked to talk a fair amount of time. Because drama is a bottom-up approach, students are also given the chance to talk about their own thoughts which makes it easier for them to respond because they do not have to be afraid that the answer could be wrong.[1]

2.1 Communicative Language Teaching through Drama

“[Students] have to use language in order to learn about language, rather than

being told about it” (Verriour 1993:45)

Given that communication or the communicative competence is one of the main objectives in a FL classroom, drama teaching is a promising way of achieving it. In the drama process students are asked to speak in situations that are not frightening, in which they can feel comfortable performing the language. Through these experiences in drama lessons, students can gain confidence in speaking which will positively affect lessons that are not focused on drama, as well as the competence of speaking English in their future lives. I therefore believe the most important part of the job as an English teacher is to keep students communicative and active in order to prepare them for real-life situations and not only for the next class-test. “Communicative language teaching sets out to involve learners in purposeful tasks which are embedded in meaningful contexts and which reflect and rehearse language as it is used authentically in the world outside the classroom.” (Hedge 2000: 71) English lessons which focus on letting students reproduce phrases and structures by only repeating what the teacher or the schoolbooks tell them without orientation on what is important for coming real life situations, will never give those students a chance to communicate properly. Only through practicing can students develop a good deal of English-knowledge and become fluent as well as accurate. However, “in order to achieve language acquisition, the teacher has to create a language environment, which is as natural or authentic as possible, i.e., which resembles a real communicative situation in the target language” (Ronke 2005: 47). Furthermore, the activities in a foreign language classroom need to be created in a way, which refers to more than seeing a language as a linguistic system. “But also to demonstrate to pupils that [the rules of a grammatical system] are a code of communication through which they can access different cultures, different attitudes, different ways of thinking and doing” (Hamilton et al. 2003: 1). Therefore the task as a foreign language teacher is to create situations in which students can “communicate their needs, ideas and opinions” (Hedge 2000: 44-45) in order to get a lot of opportunities to train their spoken English in contexts which are focused on students as an enrichment because they can contribute knowledge, which is already inside of them.


[1] This will be discussed in more detail in chapter 3.2

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Why it is worth the drama
How drama teaching can combine and achieve teaching objectives
University of Frankfurt (Main)  (Institut für England- und Amerikastudien)
Stepping stones: Drama in education and cooperative learning methods
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
520 KB
Fremdsprachendidaktik, Drama Teaching, Dramapädagogik, Rolle des Lehrers, Kooperatives Lernen, Kooperative Lehrmethoden, Teaching Philosophy, Thought Tapping, Dramakonventionen, FLT, EFL, Interkulturelle Kommunikative Kompetenz, Interkulturelles Lernen, Communicative Language Teaching, Intercultural Learning, Cultural Awareness, Drama Contract, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Fugitive Slave Act, was ist dramapaedagogik, speaking skills, Definition, ICLT, ICC, IKK, Fluency
Quote paper
Sarah McCarty (Author), 2009, Why it is worth the drama, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/160925


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