What is drama?
The essence of drama is the making of story through enactment. The answer to the question ‘what’s the story?’ will always lead to the making of a plot (a series of actions and events) with a theme (a focus for reflection). Successful drama will reflect life in a realistic or metaphorical way and will clarify elements of real life and point up the patterns beneath it. The content of drama is, therefore, real life in all its manifestations, and the method by which it is examined is story. The making of this story is done through the enactment of selected significant moments or scenes; and the selection, enactment and linking of these scenes and reflection upon them comprises the text of the drama class.
In the context of the primary school, educational drama is not to be confused with what may be termed ‘performance drama’. This activity, familiar to many teachers, usually involves choosing a script and cast, rehearsing, designing and building a set, organising lighting, sound and other technical features, and mounting a performance for an audience.
Being involved in such an experience can, if undertaken with a knowledge of the principles and practices outlined in this curriculum, benefit children in fostering self-confidence, in giving them the opportunity to appear on stage and in allowing them to express themselves publicly. However, in undertaking such a project the teacher should bear in mind that circumstances often tend to cause the overvaluing of product and the undervaluing of process.
Educational drama, as it is envisaged in the curriculum, is a creative process that allows children to explore the full potential of drama as a learning experience. It is improvisational in nature and has as its aim a quest for knowledge that involves every aspect of the child’s personality: spiritual, moral, emotional, intellectual and physical. In making this drama the child enters an imagined context (the drama world), through enacting a fiction about characters in certain circumstances, at some particular time and in some particular situation, and so can explore in a unique way conflicts, issues, consequences, attitudes, emotions, concerns and preoccupations that are important to the understanding of real life.
The developmental and learning power of drama lies in the particular nature of the dramatic experience. In
- surrendering to the fiction
- projecting himself/herself imaginatively into a situation
- ‘knowing and living’ the circumstances, dilemmas, choices and actions of a fictitious character, and their consequences
- refracting all this through his/her own personality
the child can come to new perceptions. Drama provides a unique gateway to learning and affords a dimension of knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible.
The contribution of drama to the child’s development
Drama can make a unique contribution to the development of the child. Its purposes, and the particular character of its activity, provide the means by which the child can achieve an enhanced awareness of self and can experience a unique mode of learning. It can
- give each child the opportunity to approach new knowledge through the dimension of imaginative activity and experience
- give each child the opportunity to approach knowledge in the ways that are most suitable to him/her
- create the motivation and interest that can spur the child to research, and thus foster an attitude that views knowledge as essential in adapting his/her perception of the world
- provide the means by which the child can relate knowledge, in a special way, to previous learning and experience
- help the child to see pattern and unity in seemingly disparate pieces of knowledge encountered in different subjects
- make distant what is close and make close what is distant at both a cognitive and an affective level, so that aspects of life can be explored closely enough to afford effective examination but distant enough to provide safety for the child
- give the child a rich oral language experience and afford the opportunity to experiment with different registers of language
- give the child experience of drama as an art form
- help the child to assimilate and accommodate the experience of other cultures
- help the child to assimilate a changing environment through anticipating psychological development and through allowing him/her to transcend immediate experience by trying out other worlds through drama
- facilitate the child’s imaginative, intellectual, emotional and physical development in a contemporaneous and holistic way
- foster the child’s creativity, invention, insight, discovery and problemsolving through exploring actively the intuitive and the spontaneous
- allow the child, through the dramatic fiction, to experience, understand and practise the life skills needed in reality
- promote empathy with the ideas, attitudes and feelings of others.
The content of educational drama is life. It encompasses the entire range of a child’s experience and every facet of his/her personality; and because it constitutes a unique way of learning it should be an indispensable part of the child’s experience in school.