Communicative language teaching through Drama 

Ana Luisa Castillo Méndez 
Colegio de Inglés 
ENP Plantel 6 “Antonio caso” 
Plantel 1 “Gabino Barreda” 


Abstract

The purpose of this presentation is to describe my experience of having had my students perform two plays in English. Activities such as role play may benefit the student´s performance. One of the most significant aspects of Drama is learning in a natural, uncontrived manner, focusing not on form but on communication and meaning.

         Key words: drama, role play, enthusiastic, experiences

First of all, most language teaching course-books already use or try to use drama techniques to some extent. They include dialogues, role plays, simulations, games and songs. Students enjoy doing these things.

Secondly, Drama plays a role on the improvement of the four skills, but particularly in the acquisition of correct pronunciation, rhythm and intonation. There are lessons in ‘spoken communication skills’, and here the role of Drama is obvious in getting students to speak (Wessels, Charlyn1997).

According to Gai Jones, a theatre educator with over forty years of experience, who has been recognized by the American Alliance of Theatre and Education and The Educational Theatre Association amongst others states “Theatre benefits children´s education and development in five general areas: physical development/kinesthetic skills, artistic development/drama and theatre skills, mental development/thinking skills, personal development/intrapersonal skills, and social development/interpersonal skills” (Haynes, 2012).

On the other hand, Alan Maley, Director General of the Bell Educational Trust, Cambridge (1988 to 1993), currently senior fellow in the Department of English Language and Literature of the National University of Singapore says “Drama is now readily accepted alongside simulations, information- gap activities and problem solving in a way which would previously have been inconceivable”.

When using Drama there should be an introductory period by using techniques you feel at ease with until you grow confidence. Students ‘resisting’ a foreign language are not new. Drama can be a good ambassador for the new language. It creates a need to speak by putting learners in situations where they are compelled to speak. The most basic reward of Drama is that it is enjoyable, other than that, spontaneity would be blocked.

Based upon the information above, the very first approach to our project started out by using ‘ice breaker games’- games played at the beginning of a lesson as warm-ups or introductory activities as a core to encourage students to act out a part. For that purpose different methodologies were used, amongst them –

Puppet on a string- The game is played in pairs. Student A is the puppet, Student B the puppeteer. A, cannot walk, move or speak without B´s help. B has to support A, moves A´s limbs, and is A´s voice. Together, they move around the room, interacting with other puppets. After five minutes, the roles are reversed.

Robot- Similar to the previous one. This time A is a robot, and B her programmer. A has to do everything B tells her to do. The programmers can also direct the robots to do things with or to other robots. After five minutes, the roles are reversed.

 “Drama involves action, exercises the imagination”. A drama game involves both ´learning and acquisition’, conveys the idea of practicing the language rather than just the core structure (Castellanos, Songua-Barke, & Milham, 2006).

In addition, mime was used as another important aid to improve the learners’ performance. Even the weaker students can increase in confidence through its use; it can as well help them gain understanding of the lesson without having to use words. Important as well was the use of ‘Speculation of feelings and thoughts’ of the characters, paying attention to these aspects which helped students to empathize with them and to see beyond the page – Why does he slam the door? Why does he use certain words?

Bearing in mind that the goal was to eventually being able to perform, some stage directions were added, together with the use of features such as -gestures and facial expressions that helped sensitize them to the ways in which various feelings had to be expressed according to the character being represented. However, there is a fact of prime importance. When we are tense, our bodies become stiff and rigid, so proper attention was given to relaxation and posture. Our rigid bodies affect the way we breathe. Because of that, several relaxation exercises were done starting out by standing up straight, legs slightly apart, shoulders relaxed, and head upright. Then they were instructed to roll shoulders, rotate their necks, and do vocal warm ups.

 Vocal warm-up exercise (that should be repeated five times with increasing speed and volume).

Whether the weather is cold

Whether the weather is hot

Whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not

Eventually, after readiness was showed, a decision was made on which plays were to be performed. Two different plays were selected by them. Such plays were- “Alice in Wonderland” and “Shrek 2”. Since humans tend to be more engaged and interested when they have taken part in decision-making, both classes helped by providing opinions. As a result, a diverse amount of ideas were taken advantage of. The variety meant that every single member of the class contributed with his/her personal taste and feeling.

A casting took place; students interested in playing a part participated. They had to convey by means of their acting out the various speech acts in the scene i.e. apologizing, begging, asking for permission, and express the different activities contained in the scene i.e. fighting, painting a wall, etc.

After having decided which part would be played by each student, the rehearsals started out. Corrections were made continuously and students little by little got familiar with pronunciation, intonation, stress and moods to be used. Time was given to watch both plays and listen to the music. The songs were sung until they came out as expected. After several rehearsals they were asked to learn their lines by heart. This contributed to the improvement of their performance. They started to show confidence and were able to feel the character they represented.

As time went by, they started to get used to speaking before an audience, stress syllables wherever it was needed, use the proper intonation, rhythm and stress and comprehend what feeling the speaker had in each sentence (happy? sad? worried? Every single rehearsal made it possible for them to acquire the necessary confidence that was required for the task. There was a combination of nervousness together with satisfaction. There was eagerness to show everybody who attended the play that they were important, qualified enough as to be able to entertain an audience.

Since not every student was eager to act some were in charge of looking for the appropriate costumes to be worn, some others selected the music corresponding to each play and others recorded some rehearsals. Eventually they performed the Play before a live audience at ENP #6 “Antonio Caso”. Despite the difficulties that were faced due to a lack of resources and time for doing the planning and rehearsals the plays were successful.

To sum up, not only did my students improve the four skills, but they also learned in a natural way. Their education and  their development in several ways such as physical kinesthetic, artistic, thinking skills, inter/ intrapersonal and social development were accomplished. Having read and watched the plays gave them great opportunities for vocabulary acquisition and pronunciation awareness.

The audience gave my students a very enthusiastic response that helped them realize the potential hidden within them. They became empowered; their self esteem rose, and they became self assured.


References

Bolton, Gavin. (1984). Drama as Education: An Argument for Placing Drama at the Centre of the curriculum.London: Longman

Castellanos, Songua-Barke, &Milham, (2006). Applied Strategies for spoken language. English for Academic Study.5:70-71.

Haynes, Kimberly. (2012). What Drama Education Can Teach. Education. Fecha de   consulta 4 marzo 2013. Disponible en http://www.education.com/magazine/article/What_Drama_Education_Can_Teach/

Krashen, S.D. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon

Semrud-Clikema, Margaret. (2010). Teaching Strategies. Michigan State University. 1(1):78-79

Smith, Stephen M. (1984). The Theatre arts and the Teaching of Second Languages. London: Addison-Wesley.

Wessels, Charlyn.(1997). Drama. Resourse books for teachers. Oxford University Press.