Have you ever wondered why some of your students love drama so much at school? Because it is different to every other subject they study.
Collaboration and Problem Solving
The very nature of the contemporary classroom in most subjects demands collaborative learning. From group discussion to whole-class projects, students today are familiar with collaborating with others in order to get work done. Much of what makes drama different is that a large number of student learning tasks involve collaboration amongst students, problem solving and critical thinking. How many of your tasks in the drama classroom this past week have been group activities? Nearly everything we do in drama involves collaboration.
Some of the more traditional barriers are broken down in the drama classroom. If your school has rows of desks in most classrooms, the very fact that the drama room does not have this physical structure when your students arrive for their lesson, makes it different. For many students, they thrive on the unrestricted or semi-restricted nature of the drama space. Sitting in circles, lying on the floor, jumping on rostrum blocks; however your drama space is set up, it is probably nothing like most of the other learning spaces in your school. Before you open your mouth as teacher, many of your students have happily arrived at drama excited and engaged, simply because the space is different from the rest of their day. They look forward to drama class as if they have suddenly been set free from their other classes. On the flip side, if your students arrive at drama hyperactive, unsettled and out of control (don’t worry, it has happened to us all), then you may want to set down a few guidelines. When the physical space is different, the rapport between teacher and student is often a healthy one. Also, the very nature of drama naturally encourages a true teacher-student rapport to develop, as the subject of our enquiry is the human being as character.
Respect and a Sense of Community
Drama allows for a sense of community in the classroom more than most subjects at school. Partly due to the way learning in drama is structured, true friendships between students form somewhat easily, respect often occurs organically, and sometimes whole classes feel like one group of students with a common goal. I’ve had Year 12 drama classes all hug each other after an assessment performance and Year 9 drama classes so frightened of doing solo performances, they realised the only way to get through it was to do it together and support each other along the journey with applause and words of encouragement. These are the times when you sit back as their drama teacher and appreciate how special these moments really are.
Drama is Fun!
Let’s face it, most of the other teachers in the school are jealous because drama class is so much fun! They struggle to understand how students in drama can learn so much while having heaps of fun at the same time. I often tell my students if you’re not having fun in my classes, then raise your hand and tell me! This doesn’t mean my drama lessons lack academic rigour, it simply means if as a drama teacher you cannot find the balance where your students can learn and have fun at the same time, then Houston, we have a problem. Hell, on occasions I’ve made theory for a junior drama lesson interesting by putting on a bunch of silly accents (c’mon, own up, I’m not the only drama teacher on Earth doing this!) and I can engage senior students during a heavy theory class simply with my passion and enthusiasm …. and all of a sudden, it is interesting and fun for them in an academic way. Getting into costumes, writing scripts, putting on plays, applauding in the classroom, playing games … does learning get any more fun than this? No other subject lends itself to fun and pure enjoyment in learning than drama does.
And that’s why our students love it!