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Diana Moncada
THE 337-01
December 5, 2016
Bringing Literature to Life Using Drama

Literature may be a difficult subject that is hard for students to understand because of its

unusual language, foreshadowing, metaphors, etc. There are methods however, that can help the

child learn as well as the teacher to expose children to literature. With drama, children have

many benefits. Out of all of the children it benefits, it especially benefits English learners. By

adding drama to the classroom, children are not only learning about academics, but they are also

using theatre and having fun.

Using drama in the curriculum allows teachers to use drama as a technique to teach their

students. According to McCaslin, a British educator, Dorothy Heathcotes approach is to use

drama in her classroom, she aims to bring out what children already know but dont yet know

they know. (McCaslin, 262) Being able to use drama in the classroom, makes the children

aware of what they have been learning, and therefore they become involved in the activity.

Heathcote also believes that if an event is dramatized, it is possible to isolate and study it.

Therefore, that encourages students to spend time studying them in order to build an original

drama. (McCaslin, 263) Students will be encouraged to study a piece of text that they thought

was boring, but if they are aware that an activity can follow it, then that could encourage them to

spend time studying the text. Drama can cover any part of the curriculum according to McCaslin.

(263) so if a student is able to have a deep understanding of the topic, they gain understanding.

(McCaslin, 263)
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Elizabeth Coelho, the author of Adding English: A Guide to Teaching in Multilingual

Classrooms, mentions that the involvement of arts promote second language acquisition and

social integration. (Coelho, 245) If the arts are integrated in a classroom, the students can interact

with others and this integration can promote second language acquisition. She mentions that

Visual art, drama, music, and the games and activities in the physical education program

provide opportunities for students in the early stages of second language acquisition to

participate, to understand what is going on, and to demonstrate their special skills and talents.

(Coelho, 245) With the arts, English learners in their early stages can learn to participate, it can

help them understand, and also it can help uncover any talent that they may have within the arts.

Coelho goes along by saying, participating in drama provides opportunities for students to

practice or rehearse language that they may use later in real-life situations. (Coelho, 246) With

drama being used in the classroom, it can help the students language develop, especially the

English learners, because they have to read and read their lines to memorize them, and that can

help them understand the way it should be pronounce. Bringing Literature to life is more than

just performing, it has to undergo steps such as preparations, and this where the students can

really benefit from the concept of bringing literature to life.

Drama can help those children that are quiet and timid. Boudreault says that with drama,

children let down their guard when there are enjoying the activity. Many students that are

English learners may be shy or insecure because of the way that they speak, but with drama,

Boudreault says that students tend to relax and to stop blocking out the new language.

(Boudreault, 2010) Students who are English learners may have difficulty to feel integrated in

the classroom because they may feel insecure about themselves and build walls where they dont

socialize with others. But according the Boudreault, with drama they can be very entertained that
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they may forget about their insecurities and their shyness and they could socially interact with

their peers.

Drama can help in every aspect of literature according to an article by Jennifer McMaster.

She states in her article that Drama is an invaluable tool for educators because it is one of the

few vehicles of instruction that can support every aspects of literacy development. (McMaster,

1998) She says this because many teachers when told about incorporating performance in their

class they avoid it because they automatically think of a play, they want to avoid the hassle of

preparations, without them knowing they are overlooking an important tool for teaching.

(McMaster,1998) McMaster also states in her article, Drama activities encourages the affective

aspects of reading and emergent literacy, accomplishing this within a valuable social context.

(McMaster, 1998)This means that literacy, apart from being engaging, it also helps and its a

great tool to teach children.

McMaster states that drama is an effective method because children enjoy it. Children see

drama as something fun, they are able to use their imagination to express themselves.

(McMaster, 1998) Children like to play and be interactive with other children, many children

have trouble focusing on just learning without any activity. So drama is a great way to teach and

keep the children entertained. Children from kindergarten can be introduced to literacy, because

even though it is a more advanced language for them, drama allows them to become curious at

that age, of what literacy is. (McMaster, 1998)

Bringing literature to life through drama has many benefits to the students. Many teachers

use drama in their classrooms differently, but they still keep the concept of learning and fun.

From the KET website, it mentions a program called, Program 5 of Art to Heart. This program

includes Kofi Dennis and Ingrid Crepeau, who help teachers and students to bring stories to life
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in a preschool classroom. KET Education states, Their activities vary widely- Dennis, who is

from Mali, uses African drums, rhythm, and movement, while Crepeau uses puppets- but their

goal is the same: learning. (2016) These two teachers found different methods of using drama to

incorporate and introduce books to young children. KET Education states that the children are

gaining important pre-literacy skills. (2016) Although pre- schoolers at their age dont know

about literacy, drama was a good way that teachers can get the message across to the students

because of the creativity which was used.

From the same program, one of the pre- school teachers says that in order for these drama

activity to be effective for students is for them to be aware of colors that will help the students to

better understand the activity. It also mentions how they use their imagination to deeply

understand the story. One of the pre- school teachers, Crepeau, states that if you can engage

their emotions, theyre having fun, theyre laughing, they remember more. If you can engage

them physically, it stimulates other parts of the brain. They remember more. This demonstrates

that if children are having fun then they are learning, which only concludes that drama doesnt

only offer enjoyment to the children, but it also helps them learn in a more creative way.

In a survey done by Juliet Sizmur, Attitudes to Reading Survey- Rhyme or Reason, she

surveyed a sixth grade class. As she was asking the students who enjoyed reading, many of the

students said they didnt and some even said they saw poems pointless. Sizmur then concluded

that poetry was underdeveloped in many of the schools surveyed and identified the need for

teachers to use more active and engaging approaches. (Sizmur, 29) This shows the need

students have for a fun and engaging way to learn about academics, especially literature. Sizmur

says that during the time of her survey, she went to visit the same school, and with the instructor,

Trevor White. What this instructor did was assign a poem to the children and they had to learn it.
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The method he used was performance. He told his students that after they learned the poem, they

would be able to perform it.

Sizmur mentions that during her visits, the teacher let some time apart to work on their

performance. Students were able to work alone, in partners, or in groups. They divided the

classroom in different areas which they could prepare for their performance. The day of the

performance, the groups presented their interpretation of the poem that was assigned. There were

a variety of interpretations, the instructor said that although he was unsure of the same poem

being performed repeatedly, he was amazed by the results because each group interpreted the

poem in their own way. Sizmur concludes by saying, by giving the children ownership and

encouraging them to explore different interpretations, Trevor has also provided them with a

reason to become involved in the poetry. (Sizmur, 24) By giving the students an active

approach, such as performance, many students used their imagination, and were motivated to

read and learn a poem.

Another program called Half Moon Theatre, also use theatre to teach children. In their

website it states, Our goal is to support the work of teachers and students by engaging with

works of literature using the same tools that actors and playwrights use. (2016) They use the

subjects that are being used in class and they bring them to life, there are sessions that start from

kindergarten up to the twelfth year, and each one is different. Programs like these are an example

that theatre has benefits for students, it helps them learn in more creative way where they can be

interaction and hands-on.

Literature for many students may seem boring, even to me sometimes literature can be a

bit boring if it is not interesting. I could just imagine how it is with children. But there are always

ways in which children can learn about literature. Drama happens to offer many benefits to every
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student, especially the English learners. In order for a performance to be effective, students have

to practice and practice until they have mastered it. That process is extremely helpful to the

student, it helps them get involved, it helps them be creative, and it allows them to have fun

while learning. Drama may not be taken into consideration by many teachers but it should

because it has so much to offer to students. Drama is a fun and creative way in which a child

learns, where they become interested and entertained. Drama is used in the classroom can bring

childrens literature to life.


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Work Cited
Boudreault, Chris. The Benefits of Using Drama in the ESL/EFL Classroom. The Internet
TESL Journal. 1 Jan. 2010.
Coelho, Elizabeth. Adding English: A Guide to Teaching in Multilingual Classrooms.
Pippin Publishing. 2003. P. 68-71, 245-246.
Drama and the Literary Arts. KET Education. 2016
In School Workshops and Residencies. Half Moon Theatre. 2016.
McCaslin, Nellie. Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond. Pearson. 2006. Pp. 261-
264.
McMaster, Jennifer C. Doing Literature: Using Drama to Build Literacy. April 1998.
Sizmur, Juliet. Attitudes to Reading Survey- Rhyme or Reason? Literacy today. P. 29-31