Drama in the Classroom

Thomas N. Turner, in a chapter titled “Drama, Role Play, and Simulations in Social Studies,” emphasizes the importance of drama in the classroom. In the two years that I have been teaching, I have often invoked the metaphor of teaching as performance and teacher as persona. This idea came up in our class this week as well. Clearly, making the performance interactive also goes a long way toward making it more engaging for students, no matter what their age. Turner says, “You can be a good teacher without being a ham, but not without enthusiasm and a flare for lighting the flame in others” (169). More than the actual techniques Turner discusses, this statement stands out to me and resonates with my experience so far in the classroom. Although I am not naturally outgoing, in my performance persona, I believe I do have a knack for the dramatic, which has been nurtured by way of my other life as a musician.

Turner describes an overwhelming number of dramatic techniques for bringing drama into the classroom, but most seem entirely too juvenile to adapt for grades 6-12. However, the technique he calls “Readers’ Theater” involves adaptation of a text to something more theatrical. In addition to providing a creative outlet, it also addresses problems with adaptation and translation, as well as genre conventions. It might be especially useful when compared to another type of adaptation. For example, if students were reading the Edward Arlington Robinson poem “Richard Cory,” they might also analyze Simon and Garfunkle’s song “Richard Cory,” written after the poem. As an additional exercise, students could adapt the poem (or the song) into a short skit, play, or short story. This would allow students to demonstrate understanding of the poem’s themes, apply them to a different genre, and be creative at the same time.

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