For two years and in very diverse contexts, the SIMELTA team sought out their target audience and monitored experiences in the classroom and other spaces, using theatrical practices as a strategy for teaching and learning foreign languages. They wanted to observe the impact of this type of approach on students, but were also interested in knowing about teachers’ acceptance of the methodology, trying to identify the reasons why they postpone or exclude the use of theatrical activities in their teaching practice.
Through online surveys, interviews with teacher groups, exchange of ideas in training sessions and diverse testimonials from students and teachers, it was possible, on the one hand, to enumerate a number of consensual advantages associated with the use of theatrical practices, and, on the other hand, to list the main constraints that still inhibit teachers regarding their integration in the classroom.
Focusing on these inhibiting factors and finding solutions for them, helping teachers to DARE to walk the path of innovation, while making them feel self-confident, was one of SIMELTA’s main purposes and should remain a concern of all those who recognize the benefits of these practices. not only in terms of language acquisition but also of personal and social development, constituting a privileged tool at the service of interculturality, inclusion and insertion in the labor market.
In the work developed in Almada, it was possible, in the school context and according to the reactions of the teachers who constituted our sample, regarding the use of theatrical practices in the classroom, to identify three different groups:
- the group of open advocates of its introduction as a positive strategy to be explored in foreign language teaching and learning;
- the group of resistors who find reasons not to adhere to or delay their adoption ;
- the group of undecided people who, although believing in the advantages of the methodology, feel that they need more security to leave their comfort zone and launch into innovative experiences.
More training and more direct contact with the methodology will undoubtedly be important. However there are barriers that only teachers can break, on their own: fears, that block and contradict innovation.
SIMELTA helped break down barriers and encouraged teachers not to be afraid of:
– making mistakes when it comes to using new and manifold strategies;
– replacing traditional methods by innovative ones, just like incorporating theatrical
practices in class ;
– adopting new methods and strategies that increase motivation, a prerequisite to the joy of
learning and teaching;
– allowing “chaos” among the students, since that is part of the process when you start using
an innovative approach. Little by little, calm will return and the learners will get used to a
new method that stimulates creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking
and strengthens self-confidence, self-esteem and self-satisfaction;
– changing the classroom’s atmosphere, which, instead of being that of a neutral place,
becomes an enjoyable space of well-being. Through language, gestures, movement and
different interactions emotions come out, bringing learners together and awakening a
mutual interest that stimulates the need to communicate;
– spending “a lot of” time using theatrical practices – they won’t delay the pace of learning.
Quite the opposite, the progression will be much faster and with more success thereafter;
– being misunderstood by those who associate having fun in a relaxed atmosphere with low
profile and lack of quality. On the contrary teachers and learners are doing a very serious
work and all the necessary language skills can be trained and acquired by using theatrical
In short, teachers have been encouraged to innovate, to ask for training, if necessary, to network and build partnerships, since we all believe that the use of theatrical practices in the classroom can lead to a more successful and enjoyable foreign language acquisition and a good learning environment can promote wellbeing and social inclusion due to the creation of positive and lasting bonds in the group.
SIMELTA, through its practices, materials and close contact with teachers and students has sought to convey a positive and compelling message:
THIS IS THE KEY TO INNOVATION!
“Do what you fear, and fear disappears”
David J. Schwartz