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Drama Across the Curriculum

An argument for Drama in Education in relation to the greater Ontario Curriculum

Vivian Thomas

on 17 February 2012

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Transcript of Drama Across the Curriculum

Across the Curriculum
Social Studies
“Imaginative involvement in drama can be a powerful stimulus for writing, and that writing, in turn, can serve several different purposes in the drama work … Through the process of writing in drama, participants can give form to their feelings and ideas and learn not only to express their views, but also to re-examine and reassess themselves in light of the reading audience who is working in role.”
In his book Story Drama, David Booth explains that:
Three Easy Ways to Use Drama in Language
in the classroom
Character Hot Seat
This is a great way for students to play a character from a story and for the whole class to be involved in finding deeper meaning from that character
Teacher in Role
A student takes on a role and is questioned by the rest of the group. The questioners may speak as themselves or in role. A chair is ussually designated as the hot seat, a place for characters to sit and receive questions. (Bob Barton, Drama Conventions)
With the teacher directing the flow of an in class drama by being in role, students are transported into the world of the story. This can truly bring a story to life in the classroom
When a teacher works in role, she or he adopts a set of attitudes to work with the students. Acting skill is not required, but when a teacher chooses to take on a role, he or she must alter his or her status in the classroom to help students explore issues or examine possible directions that a drama may take. (Bob Barton, Drama Conventions)
Writing in Role
This is the ultimate reflection. It can be done after a drama has taken place in the classroom or after a story has been read. The student takes on the role of the character in their writing and therefore gains deeper meaning and insight into the story.
When students write in role, they adopt the personality of a character and write a letter, journal entry, statement, blog, poem, rant or reflection from that characters point of view. This can be done before the start of a drama, after a story has been read, or after a drama as a reflective piece.
“Turning word problems into good stories requires some imagination, but the result is more than just an interesting math lesson. The result is a cross-curriculum learning experience that mixes language arts and math in a meaningful, productive way.” (Joseph GR Martinez, Nancy C Martinez, "Teaching Math with Stories", Teaching Pre K – 8, 30.4 (2000): 54-56)
In their article, Teaching Math with Stories, Joseph and Nancy Martinez discuss using stories to make math problems more engaging for students
Right now you are probably thinking, "I can easily see using Drama for Language, but there's no way I can see using it for Math!"
What is Effective Math Instruction?
Effective math instruction “emphasizes skill development in the context of meaningful applications to real-world situations, while cultivating students’ interest and confidence in using math.” (Charles Cornell, "I Hate Math! I Couldn't Learn It, and I Can't Teach It!", Childhood Education 75.4, 1999)
What is the best way to demonstrate "real-world situations"?
If you've ever taught a Primary school lesson on currency, than you probably have already used Drama in teaching Math!
Take this idea a step further...
In teaching students long division, for example, we can dramatize a scenario where students go shopping for bulk food items or bulk gift items.

In their dramatization of a shopping experience they have to use long division in order to find out how much of a product they need to buy.

Connecting their mathematical learning to a real-world experience using drama would both affect and effect their skill development, interest and confidence in using math.
Drama can have tremendous cross-curricular value when it is applied to Science.
“The drama may be structured in a way where students enact roles within the known framework of scientific theories: for instance playing electrons in a circuit to illustrate the scientific concept of electricity.” (Marianne Ødegaard, “Dramatic Science. A Critical Review of Drama in Science Education”, Studies in Science Education, 39.1 (2003): 75-101)
Marianne Ødegaard gives an example of students dramatizing a living ecosystem.

“Once they have experienced a personal involvement in a living system, the affective domain has been brought into play and a sense of responsibility in environmental matters may well be initiated.”
When teachers apply drama strategies to teaching scientific concepts they are incorporating kinesthetic learning. Students are conceptualizing their knowledge of the lesson through drama and therefore increasing their learning as well as developing a new way in which they can be assessed. The dramatization of a science lesson allows for a teacher to assess students’ learning immediately as they represent the concept dramatically.
I used the drama game “Atoms” as a minds-on activity when introducing the concept of Atoms and Molecules for the Grade 5 Science Unit on Properties of/Changes in Matter.

While the grade 5 core classroom students were engaged in the activity, I simplistically explained to them the concept of atoms, how they are the smallest of particles and that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. As they walked around the classroom waving their bodies around, personifying the atom, I explained that every thing on this planet, every thing that we know of, is composed of millions of tiny atoms. With the sound of my bell the students/tiny atoms “froze” and when I called out a number, “Atoms 3” for example, the atoms/students formed groups, which were then used to create bigger objects using their combined bodies such as a “chair” or a “blender”. With another ring of the bell the atoms separated and dispersed, only to form more groups and then more objects. This warm-up activity lasted 40 minutes because of instruction and organization and served as both a drama lesson as well as a science lesson.
The next day, during our first “formal” science lesson, I referred back to the Atoms Game and immediately all of the students were able to tell me exactly what an atom was. One by one students raised their hands and gave me details on how small the atom is and how every single thing is composed of atoms. That is when I introduced the concept of Particles and Matter.

The smooth transition from drama into science was an absolute success, not only because every student was engaged in their own learning but also because every student was able to internalize the concept, which he/she had learned.
The same Drama conventions that are used in a Language lesson, can also be used in a Social Studies/History lesson.
Linking History
and Drama
Bob Barton teaches us how to employ Teacher in Role when creating a drama of a 17th century village under attack by a vicious illness
In this drama, based on the novel "A Parcel of Patterns" by Jill Walsh (written about a true story taking place in the English village of Eyam), The class plays the residents of a 17th century village and the teacher plays 3 roles: a servant to the baron, a physician and a parson
Drama Theme:
In their book, Drama Schemes, Themes and Dreams, Larry Swartz and Debbie Nyman explore War and Peace, Death and Loss, Heroes and Enemies, Arrivals and Departures.
"There has never been a time in history when the world has lived without war." In this incredible chapter, Swartz and Nyman introduce 3 trust games that students can play to capture the feelings of being at war.

A photograph is used to "Frame the Theme" and convey emotion. Students are asked "Where would you want to be in this photograph?"
These are just a few of the many examples
of Drama conventions that can be used in a Social Studies or History lesson. Almost every story and every theme can be explored using Drama.
The possibilities are endless...
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