Part 8 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – EMPATHY EMPATHY defined: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is something that we as parents and educators try to instill in our kids from a very early age. Understanding what another person is going through or feeling can…
Part 7 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – CONFIDENCE
Confidence in children can be shattered so quickly and many times we don’t even know why. But, what we do know is that confidence can be built. Confidence can have an incredibly strong foundation for the future of a child, if nurtured correctly.
The DEFINITION of confidence: A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
Let’s break that down – “self-assurance” and “one’s own abilities” – it’s about believing in yourself and your skills. The other key phrase to note here is “ARISING from one’s appreciation” – ARISING, or emerging or becoming apparent. This doesn’t JUST occur, it takes time, repetition.
That’s one of the great things that drama brings to the table – the ability to give you time to work on something until you feel confident enough to go in front of people to present it. And only when those people appreciate what you have accomplished, whether it be your parents, director, peers, or whomever you deem important, does your confidence in your own abilities become a growing foundation for you to build on.
There’s a good reason many kids do more than one play. One of those reasons IS self-confidence and being proud of their work.
I directed a kid once, whose parents made him join one of my drama classes. He said he wanted a small part because he was scared to go on stage and be embarrassed. So I gave him a part with just 3 speaking lines, and a lot of opportunities to come on stage with no lines. (It was Treasure Island for Kids, pirates were always being killed on stage, and hey, kids LOVE to die on stage!) He had so much fun with his peers, and he nailed his part and made the audience laugh. He came back to do five more of my plays over the next three years. Each time, getting a bigger and bigger part. Until yes, he got the part of Hamlet.
He quickly realized, as most seasoned actors do, “There are no small parts, just small actors”. In other words, even with no lines, his pirate “deaths” were AMAZING… and had the audience laughing every time. This laughter fueled his confidence.
There are no “small” parts just small actors – Constantin Stanislavski
This kid did not want to do drama because he was worried about what his friends would think of him. Once he realized that he could make them laugh, he came back for more. He is a very different kid today than the one who reluctantly came into my class three years ago. All, because of the continued growth in confidence he had in himself.
Having confidence in yourself and abilities to go in front of an audience, whether that is a group of peers, your class, your boss, or whoever, takes courage.
Another way to improve confidence is through improv. Practicing improvisation increases and builds confidence. As well as impromptu speaking skills which come in very handy at business meetings and social gatherings.
As we know, many adults have a fear of speaking, and the fact is it’s not the fear of speaking but rather the fear of making a fool of ones’ self in front of others, or not being believed. Much of this fear could have been curbed by doing drama when they were younger and giving them confidence in their abilities.
Drama is amazing for giving us life skills without even realizing it. These are the tools that we need to give our children so they can go on to be fabulous, independent, and confident adults.
To learn more about all the positive aspects of drama in school, please see the article: Why Drama is so Important in School
Part 6 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – TEAM BUILDING Working together is so important in life, yet we don’t teach this skill anywhere in school. Sure, many kids get some of this piece from sports, but not every kid plays sports. Hence the reason we need more team building…
Part 5 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – EDUCATION One of the best byproducts of drama is in-depth education into a specific subject matter. There are two sides to this: On Stage Backstage ON STAGE Whatever you are performing, there is always a place and setting for it. Many…
PRESENTATION SKILLS – is part 4 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so Important in Schools. No matter where you go in life, you’re going to have to Get up in front of a group, a class, or an audience and present an idea for a project, a report, a paper, or some other…
Part 3 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – SOCIAL SKILLS
In a day and age where we see more and more kids with their noses buried in a phone screen, the social skills naturally generated on the school and play grounds are drifting away. We are creating a society that will physically come together in a room and not actually BE together. We need to create opportunities that allow our kids to be in environments that help foster social skills. Enter drama.
Drama is fantastic for social skills on a variety of levels. Let’s think about it, how often is an actor on stage by themselves? Answer: Hardly ever. It’s typically about back and forth communication between two or more individuals and the constant practice of that skill.
Drama is naturally social. From simply hanging out with the same kids week after week, to interacting on stage with other actors, to drama games which create personal interaction. They all focus on the same piece, how to interact socially. Kids learn social skills such as:
- Probably the biggest piece of being social, is having the self-confidence to put yourself out there where you can possibly be rejected. Bringing up a suggestion in class or with a group on the playground can sometimes be intimidating, if you don’t have the confidence to do so. However, in drama, when you have a suggestion, and your peers and director agree, it builds self-confidence. When you perform and the audience applauds your work, it builds your self-confidence.
- Reacting appropriately in a social situation:
- Many people will tell you a good actor is a “re-actor”. In other words, how you respond to what someone has just told you or has physically done. The best part about drama, is you get to practice this again and again (rehearsals) with the help of a mentor (director) so you can work on this skill and react appropriately in a given situation. This may be something as simple as someone walking in a room and saying, “Hello.” and reacting to it. It could be something more complex such as Hamlet saying, “I’m going to get you Claudius!” where Claudius has to react appropriately to the situation.
- Simple back and forth communication:
- Just working with someone else practicing a dialog back and forth that may cover 10-20 lines is enough to help some kids break the fear of social communication. In drama, you get to practice and practice a skill until one day, when you don’t even realize it, you generalize it outside of drama. It’s all because you have mastered a skill.
- How to communicate using body language:
- For many, this is one of the fun parts of acting. Saying a line, then following that line with a certain hand motion, or some type of body movement which suggests to the other actor what they are supposed to do. Talking without words. For example, the crossing of the arms, the stern look, and tilt of the head to show disappointment. Learning how to use your body to communicate is a skill we use throughout our entire life.
- How to read and react to facial expressions:
- As with the previous point, being the actor that sees the facial expression, you need to react correctly to it. Learning to read facial expressions and body positions is another great social skill.
- Being aware of others:
- When on stage, we are always practicing when to say our lines. What is our “cue”. For some, it’s the line before theirs, however, many times it’s an action or a character entering a room. If we are not paying attention on stage, we miss these cues. We have to practice again and again in rehearsals to be aware of our surroundings, to make sure we see and catch these cues. No difference than when someone enters a room, we need to be aware and address them, “Hello!”
- As with the previous two points, many times on stage an actor misses their line or cue. At that point, we have to react and respond appropriately to keep the story going until we are all back on script! Being aware of our surroundings and reacting to them is all part of the social skills we learn in drama.
- How to talk in front of a group of people:
- Yep, you’re on stage… and there’s a lot of people watching you. Wait, you’re in front of the class, and there are a lot of kids watching you. No, wait, you’re in the board room, and the board is watching your presentation for your new project. No, wait, you’re on the playground and the 6 kids around you are listening to you explain directions to the game. Getting used to being in front of an audience and speaking is another great social skill to learn.
- How to properly be within someone else’s “personal space”:
- Almost always you are on stage with someone else. Learning how to orientate yourself to the other actor is sometimes challenging as many kids don’t know how to do this in day-to-day life. Another social skill we are always working on.
From a social perspective, this list can go on and on…
Over the past 12 months, I’ve taught 16 different theater productions with kids. Ranging from homeschool to after school to week long camps. From Hamlet for Kids to Christmas Carol for Kids. One thing is consistent, social opportunities are ALWAYS presenting themselves. So, be sure to get your kid into drama, and have fun improving those social skills!
Part 2 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – CREATIVITY Sherlock Holmes once questioned what the point was of filling his brain with useless facts, in this particular case, the Earth revolving around the Sun. As he would rather fill his brain with useful facts. Although I don’t completely agree with his philosophy,…
Part 1 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – COMPREHENSION
I received an email a few weeks ago from a teacher using my books/plays for her students because she wanted them to improve their skills in reading comprehension. She wrote the following to me:
“I used your Midsummer Night’s Dream as reading material. I couldn’t get my high school special ed students to reread anything. Their thinking was, “I have already read that once and do not need to repeat.” But, by introducing this as a play that needed to be word-perfect and beginning on page 1 each day, they were willing to participate. They were rehearsing for a show, not simply earning a grade for the reading class. Your materials made all the difference. Most important, reading skills improved.”
— LaVelle Brown, Special Ed teacher
Many schools are missing or losing performing arts classes due to budget cuts. I’m writing a 12-part piece about why we do drama in school, where I present valuable reasons why we need theater in our education systems and why it’s critical to continue supporting it.
One of these reasons is COMPREHENSION. I’ve had a number of teachers and parents use my books or enroll their child in my classes to boost their understanding of language. Drama is amazing for this development!
Think about it:
- Do kids only read a passage once in class? Typically, yes. Therefore, perform a play!
- Participating in a play or a skit allows students to read the passages multiple times. By learning their lines they support their growth in comprehension.
- Do you want kids to understand the storyline, theme, or see the “big picture”? Be in a performance!
- We rehearse dozens of times before we actually perform on stage or in front of an audience. Didn’t get the concept on the first pass… how about the 30th? Yep, comprehension increases with every pass through the material.
- Do you want to learn about a time in history? Do a play!
Through rehearsals, performances, costume creation and design, comprehension is assimilated often without the participants even realizing it.
From a purely scientific perspective, repetitive review of a script creates new neuro-pathways in the brain, which leads to long-term comprehension skills. Isn’t that one of our goals as teachers, to help improve the brain?
It’s more than just “doing a play”, it’s about creating a more robust child that will make a difference in our future.
I would love to hear your thoughts about drama in school!
Over the next several weeks and months I’ll be writing a 12-part series about why drama is so important in schools. I’ll be covering several different aspects of the benefits of why we do drama, what it gives our kids that very few extra-curricular activities can give, as well as ideas and suggestions on to how to make theater…