Monday, June 20, 2011

Drama In The Classroom

One of the statements that I made in my last blog is a little difficult to understand without some background.  The statement suggested that an infusion of the arts into teaching is how we all learn, all the time.

 I will explain that more in depth in  later blogs where I introduce you to the work of Dr. Victoria Stevens.  Dr. Stevens,  is a licensed clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, educator and author.  Her research specialty is the study of the development and inhibition of creativity in children and adults, with an emphasis on the relationship between creative thinking, interpersonal neurobiology, emotional development and cognitive processes. 

That is a long title, but Dr. Stevens has done extensive research in these areas, especially as they relate to schoolchildren and learning.  As an anticipatory set for that discussion however, let me give you two quick examples of how the 'Arts' are already used by creative teachers in their classrooms, even in an age where institutionalized education has attempted to deny or devalue the importance of the arts.  Many of these creative teachers may not realize that it is their use of the arts that encourages their students to learn and stay focused on math, science, American History, or whatever. But as the research will show us, it is

I learned long ago that students will focus on the most interesting thing in the classroom.  If that's the teacher, they will learn.  If its the clock on the wall or the fly on their desk, that's where their attention will be.  It is critical that the teacher be interesting for students to learn .  One of the ways that that creative teachers become interesting is through the efficacious  use of drama.  

Good teachers may not realize that they are bringing the 'arts'  into their classroom this way, but drama, used effectively is a dynamic tool, and has a direct connection to student learning. Dramatic teaching  heightens important points, helps students visualize facts or events, and engages students in role-play or mini-drama's.   Classrooms where students are engaged in the learning process in this way are exciting places.  Students are sometimes 'noisy' in the sense that they enter in to discussions, laugh at appropriate places in the teachers delivery, ask questions, share in discussion groups, and can't wait for their turn to show what they have learned. Understand that this is never to be confused with chaos. Noisy kids are not being inappropriate if they are focused on learning. It all depends on what the noise is all about.  Creative teachers control their students by effectively engaging them.  Creative teachers infuse their teaching with dramatic gestures, eye contact and vocal inflections. They use melodramatic and imaginative hypothetical situations, and emotive delivery as they identify facts or features of the lesson.  

Teachers that use drama in this way are exciting, and produce directed, engaged, and focused learners. And drama is one of the Art forms that can make this happen.  At least it has been.  Drama and theatre arts are obviously the victims of the massive budget cuts that have eliminated many (most?) drama programs in primary and secondary schools already.  Can you imagine what the next generation of teachers and classrooms will be like without any exposure or experience to theatre or drama during their formative years?  Uncreative, unimaginative, monotone style of lesson deliveries, lessons read from a script,  standardized lessons,. - Whoops, - NCLB - The future is now. 

Next time we'll talk about another way that one of the arts is in use as an effective instructional device in the classrooms of many creative teachers.

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