So, what do we mean by ‘drama activities’? We act out real-life experiences as best we can in the controlled environment of the classroom. This enables students to develop vocabulary and practise conversational language.
All students can draw on experiences from their lives and can relate to the role-play.
When using drama in the classroom, we make use of our students’ native ability to impersonate other people using speech, gesture and facial expressions. Then we build on this to produce the target language.
Drama activities give a valuable context to language work, making it memorable and authentic (real); it also can be fun. This really does enhance learning for the students. As the language lesson is, probably, the only time in a week when the students get a chance to practice English, it is essential to keep teacher talk time (TTT) to a minimal.
Drama activities (role plays) do this. They increase student talk time (STT) and keep the students active; a bored student does not learn as well as an enthused student. The freer practice activities will allow you as a teacher to find out more about the students as rounded people, not just as names on a register.
This is important for building a good student-teacher rapport in the classroom. Also, you are made aware of any language problems, which you can take note of and pencil in for another lesson. However, you must not correct students when they are actively trying to speak in a free practice activity. They are trying (a crucial first step in the learning process), and, if you must intervene, do it very sensitively. Otherwise, they may not openly speak again! If the target language is accurate, that is all that is important. When to correct, or not correct, is a whole other topic.
Work to make drama activities fun because they motivate and stimulate the imagination. Remember those boring maths lessons at school where the teacher just said “exercise one, questions one to ten…I will be back in ten minutes”. I do – I didn’t learn anything and was totally bored! So, how do teachers make these activities successful?
Give clear instructions. Check the understanding of the intended activity with concept checking questions (CCQ’s). If the students do not understand what they are doing or feel self-conscious, they won’t actively participate.
You must be enthusiastic about the task yourself. Being half-hearted will make the students self-conscious. The result will be a lack of participation.
Timing. Don’t make it torture for the students. Keep it short and fun. The weaker students will appreciate this and actively become more involved next time.
If they use their mother tongue, don’t be too strict – the students are actively trying to communicate in English. If they need a little direction from a fellow student in their native language to perform the task, that is ok. They will speak in English eventually. What is essential is that they are trying to talk in English and that they don’t feel threatened or intimidated.