It’s their way of working out how the world works, people, animals, objects, relalationships….everything. When a child sees a duck at the park, they are the duck, they waddle, they quack, they are finding out what it is to be a duck. Nonverbal infant have needs meet by using their acting skills…we all know what the elevated, outstretched arms signals.
Drama is an inbuilt learning tool. An effective teacher will use these tools to support learning. One of the easiest ways to begin is with rhymes. Every culture has their rhymes; mostly a child first hears them as they are rocked to sleep. Many of these rhymes use the comforting rhythm of a heartbeat. Then they become more playful, with the content of the rhymes acted out as finger plays and peek-a-boo games. Acting has begun.
Once the child knows some of the phrases to the rhyme their acting takes over. To extend this the teacher can provide a few props; a stool for Little Miss Muffet, a bucket for Jack and Jill, a wall for Humpty Dumpty. The children will know what to do. They’ll say the rhyme over and over, and act it out. again and again. They’ll change the characters and the ending, they are adapting the content to their world view.
As their acting skills grow, they will seek more challenging roles. Now the teacher needs to extend the opportunities to act. Traditional Tales offer a great progression from Nursery Rhymes. The teacher should now tell the whole story, with as much enthusiasm as they can muster, and repeat this over and over. Children enjoy and need this repetition. They want to predict, as they listen what will know what happens next, and it’s exciting and empowering them to get it right.
Again providing the props will stimulate the action. A plank of wood for The Three Billy Goats Gruff, three chairs for The Three Bears and a pile of blocks for The Three Little Pigs to build their house. Now retell just part of the story, the favourite part and the children will do the rest. Keep the props simple, this allows for greater imagination.
Once activities become a natural part of the everyday programme, the teacher can use drama for learning about other thing:
For Science: How spiders move, how ice melts or how flowers open
For Social Studies: Understanding peoples' roles in the community, a farmer, a firefighter, a dentist
For Mathematics: Role play shopping and trading, problem solve… which one is baby bears bowl and why.
For health: How does happy, angry, frightened or excited look and feel
Through all this the child is gaining a fuller and deeper understanding of their world. That’s why drama is not just important, but vital.
Noeline Anderson, Director of Pixelhouse