Nowadays there are so many innovative methods and techniques in the teaching process that it is becoming easier for teachers and learners to find the most suitable instruments for their needs and interests. Besides, living in the 21st century, one has a great opportunity to use modern technologies in order to get positive results in the learning process.
By all means, communication plays an important role in everyday life of individuals, and the ability to communicate effectively is a common goal of every learner. However, in recent years it has become more difficult to encourage and get learners interested in their studies. Therefore, the lack of motivation and unwillingness to master the language brings negative results in the language learning process. Therefore, it is important to find a good way of getting learners involved, so that it would not be just a passive sitting at a desk.
Drama is only fun: a fact or a stereotype?
The use of Drama and Theater is getting popular in foreign language learning, and it is widely practiced in English-speaking countries as it helps to master the language in a creative way. However, there are some limitations in educational establishments connected with syllabus and programme restrictions in Latvia. Besides, some people believe that Drama is just having fun and is suitable only for young learners’entertainment.
This stereotype causes misunderstanding and a wrong perception of Drama itself. It is essential to remember that the word drama derives from the Greek word meaning “action”. Further, it is performed in various media such as theatre, radio, film and television, as it is often combined with music and dance. Therefore, Drama and Theater give an opportunity to experiment with language and to use it in a very practical way. Since adult learners are more critical towards the learning process, it becomes more difficult to encourage them and to be active during the lesson. And exactly Drama may help in such situations, as Drama is motivating itself and makes both young and adult learners positive, imaginative and open in using the language unconsciously.
Innovative way of getting learners involved in the learning process
As it turned out, Drama helps to keep learners active all the time. On the one hand, Drama and Theater bring enjoyment and positiveness in the language learning process, as learners use their personal imagination and artistic creativity while trying out ”new roles”. On the other hand, it is crucial for the teacher to select appropriate and useful drama activities which would be valuable in the language learning process.
It seems that in this case the main task for the teacher is to create a positive and friendly atmosphere taking into account not only learners’ needs and preferences, but also some cultural, psychological and emotional aspects of every learner in the group. This exactly could be achieved with the help of Drama technique, where play is essential because it enables learners to escape from reality and become another character at least for a while.
Drama and Theatre activties
Analysing different Drama and Theatre activities, I would recommend to use such activities which provide some practice of stage speech and stage movement, voice variation, articulation, correct breathing, relaxation and body-awareness, imagination and artistic creativity, memory, logic and concentration, mime and gestures, feelings and emotions.
The examples of such activities would be as follows: warming up, tongue twisters, intonation training, role-plays, mirroring, window effect, story dramatization, pantomimes, poetry, public speaking practice, stage performance and many others. Also, it is important to have discussions after each activity which enables learners to use the target language and develop their linguistic skills unconsciously.
Moreover, learners get used to working in a team and supporting each other in every Drama and Theatre activity, as team work is an integral part of the process. As a result, Drama brings a sense of responsibility and a feeling of importance for every individual involved in the learning process.
English Drama Club
The idea of creating English Drama Club was born through my passionate interest in Drama and Theatre. Many years I was researching Drama in language acquisition, which results prove the usefulness of having Drama as a motivational tool both for young and adult learners.
First, English Drama Club was organised for young learners in Summer School where children felt absolutely free from studies and were ready to experiment with the language in a creative way. No theories, no boring activities, no sitting at a desk. And then, it was considered to be important to continue the research and offer a Drama Course for adult learners. As a result, first year students studying English Philology at the University of Latvia became new participants of English Drama Club. It was expected that the offered drama course would encourage the students to work on their language proficiency and artistic skills.
Both English Drama clubs had the same motto, a Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.” The selected Drama activities were based on the theories of Stanislavski, Chekhov, Meyerhold and others as well as on the teacher’s experience of theatrical art being an actress of the Classical Theatre. All the students participated not only in drama activities, but also in a final theatrical performance which allowed them to feel themselves as real actors on the stage.
At the end of the course, the students were thankful for the opportunity to participate in the English Drama Club, as they never had any experience acting on the stage doing it in English. They admitted that it was an interesting way of practicing English, working on their personal growth and creativity.
By all means, the Drama course also helped me to more fully reveal my personality in created materials as well as it developed my skills in understanding teaching and learning.
Now I feel a strong urge and need to continue working in applied theatre research and at development and adaptation of Drama and Theatre methods to language acquisition, so that they could be implemented in educational establishments of Latvia.
English language teacher, an actress of Classical Theatre, a researcher of Drama in Language Teaching