Just a few drama activities can bring an EFL/ESL classroom to life. The trends in English Language Teaching (ELT) lean heavily toward communicative and authentic language use. Drama provides lots of immediate resources and is fun for teacher and students alike. The fear factor for a new drama user is the hard part to overcome.
Some traditional style teachers are afraid they will appear unprofessional and even risk being fired if they focus the lesson on ‘playing’ instead of serious study. Some language teachers feel comfortable only when using the course textbooks and feel that drama activities could take away from their position as the language “role model”. Instructors can be wary of focusing too much on “drama” and not the real subject; English. There is also the issue of control here. A class of 25 students who are working in groups on a drama activity can be a nightmare for a leader who wants to control the timing, language use and focus of the unit.
“If drama can really enrich the language class in all these ways, why are so many teachers reluctant to use it? Many still think of drama as ‘theatricals’, because this is their only experience of it. Often the fault lies not with the individual teacher, but with the training that he or she has received; a training that presents education as the one-way transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the student, rather than the creation of a learning situation in which the student is also the teacher.” (Wessels: 14)
“Drama demands enthusiasm- not only for the lesson, but also for the students. And this in turn depends on the formation of a relationship of mutual trust in which neither teacher nor student feels ‘at risk’, but they willingly change roles and status to achieve the aims of the lesson.” (Wessels: 15)
‘Drama can help the teacher to achieve ‘reality’ in several ways. It can overcome the students’ resistance to learning the new language:
- by making the learning of the new language an enjoyable experience;
- by setting realistic targets for the students to aim for;
- by creative ‘slowing down’ of real experience;
- by linking the language-learning experience with the student’s own experience of life
And drama can create in a students a need to learn the language :
- by the use of ‘creative tension’ (situations requiring urgent solutions);
- by putting more responsibility on the learner, as opposed to the teacher.’
Being involved in a School Christmas play is great fun, whether the play is religious or secular, a variety show, drama or pantomime. It is also good experience for children as it develops confidence and communication skills.
I have been staging Christmas plays from many years now…And I just love it!!
There are so many recources out there for all teachers but, I personally believe that, the teacher could better use the students’ own talents in organising an original dramatic production or variety style show. The children could be involved in designing scripts and mimes, thus enhancing their creative literacy.
The creative teacher or community group leader has a number of choices when organising their end of year or Christmas play. Traditionally certain types of plays have been popular during the Christmas season. These are the types , I choose from:
1. The variety show
- This simply showcases the children’s talents in the best way possible. To be successful, a variety show should contain some instrumental performances, jokes, comedy skits, simple dance routines, group and solo singing.Not really easy when it comes to my school which lacks all the basics! It’s my DREAM, to stage such a school show one day soon, though….
- Novelty acts such as magic tricks, juggling, gymnastics and puppet performances may also be included.
- This type of concert is ideal for introducing a multi-cultural element allowing students to share and experience music and dance from different countries.
- They have been traditional Christmas fare fro many centuries. They feature comic characters and are really easy to stage with almost all classes and under all circumstances!
- Pantomimes are comical and rely heavily on masks (or face painting) and costuming for their effect.
- Plot wise pantomimes are very simple. Easy to use even with students whose english is limited!I also like them , because they depend on improvisation!
3. The Traditional Nativity Play
- Christmas plays which present the events surrounding the birth of Christ are popular with private schools . The acting is simple and the play may be narrated from a modern version of the Bible.
- The narrator, must combine several sections to create a script. Carol singing by the children and audience may accompany the play.
4. Secular Christmas themes
- A secular Christmas story such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the poem Twas the Night before Christmas has been dramatised several times so far by my students in different schools!
- Dr. Sues’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas has been made into a movie, but could be simplified for a school play, as could Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol – both of which, I intend to put on stage soon…in an ideal school of course!
5. Fairy Tales and Other Stories
- Many Disney cartoons and the folk tales underlying opera could thus be adapted into scripts for a school play. Easy to stage, too…And FUN since they are familiar to the students!
- Pirate stories may form a rollicking theme for Christmas plays. The original classic pirate stories have been eclipsed by offerings such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Peter Pan (by J.M. Barrie and also a Disney cartoon) are examples of a child suitable pirate play.Why not?…
6. Ballet themes
- Ballet performances such as The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty are associated with the Christmas season. If you have children with dance skills they could perform small dances, otherwise the stories could be transposed into dramatised scripts for acting.
A selection of plays of varying quality are available on the web from: http://www.dramatix.org
- Rehearsal Christmas Plays. Simple Step by Step Script.
- Browse the Net on your own, to find out more…I do so, every single year!
- After all, drama, is crucial when it comes to foreign language teaching, isn’t it?