Theatre & Education: A Truly Dynamic Duo
by Lawrence E. McCullough, Ph.D.
ONE OF THE most profound concepts to have emerged in educational philosophy during
the last decade is the realization that people have different, equally valid, ways of learning.
Based on their own unique experiences, frames of reference, prior knowledge and
cognitive skills and structures, different individuals possess different “intelligences”
and will understand and utilize information differently.
Some people learn more easily by visual reference, others by focusing on auditory cues.
Some learn best by reading and rote memorization, others by hands-on doing and problem-solving tasks.
It has become clear that, along the daily journey of acquiring knowledge, there are many paths to the same goal.
The challenge for today’s educator — at any grade level — is to create an interactive and collaborative learning environment that can accommodate students’ varying “intelligences”.
Drama, with its inherent capacity to tap and synthesize a wide range of skills and expressive modes, is a highly effective way of achieving this goal.
As an aid to curriculum development during the last decade, many state education departments have adopted basic standards or “proficiencies” in each subject area. These proficiencies are goals for student learning that emphasize specific concepts and skills; teachers are free to organize methods of instruction to best meet their students’ needs.
In the State of Indiana, where I formerly taught, the Indiana Department of Education has cited the following eight proficiencies in English/Language Arts:
• exhibiting a positive attitude toward language and learning
• selecting and applying effective strategies for reading
• comprehending developmentally appropriate materials
• select and using developmentally appropriate strategies for writing
• writing for different purposes and audiences producing a variety of forms
• using prior knowledge and content area information to make critical judgments
• communicating orally with people of all ages
• recognizing the interrelatedness of language, literature and culture
Each English/Language Arts course at every grade level should contribute to aiding students in attaining these proficiencies.
Drama facilitates this process by being an elastic and inclusive medium that offers students a firm organizational structure along with the freedom to reshape that structure into a wholly new learning experience.
If you’re a teacher, plays are a great way of imparting basic knowledge to students, then inspiring them to discover more on their own.
And the learning need not end once students leave the building. For parents, at-home production of the plays helps parents and children achieve a “good goal” together.
Parents get to see their children at their most vibrant and creative.
Children get to excel for their parents, and they become more self-motivated and self-reliant, especially in terms of socializing with other children.
By going through the process of creating and interpreting a play for an audience — even if the audience is only the family or the classroom — adults and children learn to listen to each other better.
And for kids, is there really any better way to learn the rules of grammar than by playing a Dancing Participle?
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