Through drama, students became a part of the learning process rather than mere observers or inactive receptacles of the rich experience of learning ; in this way, their learning was deeper, more sustained, and infinitely more complex. Jeffrey Wilhelm
Drama is a way for students to access the curriculum using several of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Recent brain research and theories of learning have shown that dramatization is an effective teaching strategy. When we talk about using drama to enhance learning, we are not talking about putting on a play for an audience. Rather, we are talking about improvisational role play or simulations that are unscripted and allow the learner to come to new understandings.
Many of the following Ideas come from Teaching Literature. Check out their website for full descriptions of these activities.
Small groups of students can create skits involving characters from a short story or novel. The skits might focus on a phase of the characters’ lives that was not part of the story.
Working in small groups, students brainstorm ideas for a skit derived from interpersonal conflicts or difficulties. For example, students may create skits based on tensions with peers and or parents.
Have students plan an oral interpretation of a poem or an except from a story. Students determine the meaning they want to convey and decide on the kind of performance that will best express that meaning.
Students chose a partner and tell them a story. Give the story a beginning, middle and end. Include details. Topics should be something that is relevant to the student, such as a childhood memory, a surprise, a challenge, etc.
Role play can help students develop a deeper understanding of a variety of viewpoints. Even young students can explore familiar themes and characters through improvisation and role play.
Select a scene in a text or an issue portrayed in that scene. Small groups of students can create a role play situation around the conflict or tension. For example, the characters themselves having to cope with a problem or make a decision related to an event in the text or some hypothetical event.
At the completion of the role-play, students step outside of their roles and discuss:
Working as a pair, select a scene or scenes in a story or novel or an entire story and adapt to a play with only dialogue and stage directions. The dialogue alone must portray characters’ traits, attitudes, agendas, and goals.
Literature-based Mock Trial
Groups of students will work together to act as the prosecution or defense for the selected characters, while also acting as the jury for other groups. This activity encourages students to work together to create their own meanings. See the entire activity at ReadWriteThink.
Hotseating puts students “on the spot” in the role of a character, so they can be questioned by the group about background, behaviour and motivation. This technique helps students improve their ability to analyze characters, and draw inferences. It is also useful for developing questioning skills. Find out more about Hot Seating here.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. “Drama is Imagining to Learn : Inquiry, Ethics, and Integration through Drama”
The website Drama Resource has a number of excellent drama activities for ELA teachers.