This Is Why We Bother with Drama in the Classroom
By Nicholas Waxman, Head of Visual and Performing Arts at ELTHAM College
Bother. What an interesting and perplexing word. We bother in so many ways.
We bother our students to get things done, we bother to show up, we save student’s bother and anxiety, and if we’re not saying “bother!”, then we are being a bother.
Teachers bother. But, why?
We bother because we know that a little bother goes a long, long way.
To misquote Julia Childs, 'With enough bother, anything is good'.
We bother because we see the fruits of our bothering grow each year. We see how our bothering has gleaned ripe citrus.
We love to see, hear and feel the energy of an engaged classroom with students busily bothering to do their work. We see inspired students and they thank us for the times we bothered them for work because we bothered to care.
I suggest that if you’re going to bother, you may want to think about using drama activities in the classroom to engage and inspire. Art has a way of getting people to bother that is unique, deep and joyous.
How to Bother with Drama Activities in the Classroom
It may seem daunting to include drama activities in the classroom, but there is much evidence to suggest that drama, not just the arts, is a powerful tool for student learning and growth.
But the proof is in the pudding. Involving a student in the work reaps rewards.
Including drama-based activities in the classroom does not just mean having students decorate themselves with plus and minus sign costumes and singing equation songs. Drama activities are wide in their scope and breadth.
Consider the atmosphere of the room you are in and how you can manipulate the mood of the space to further your pedagogical goals.
Read Frankenstein in a science room with the Bunsens burning, or the dry ice smouldering. Move your history lessons to the hillside. Delve into politics in a boardroom. Create a world for the learning to live in.
Drama is also physical. It engages the whole of a student from the tips of their toes to the tops of their heads. It is about expressing an internal idea externally. You could explore shapes and sizes in small groups, re-create key moments in a theory’s discovery, represent a character’s motives or intentions, or use the contrast of stillness and silence to inspire thought.
Drama also inspires creative thought. When students have been involved in a drama-based activity their ability to discuss and reflect on work increases. They have experiences to draw on, and feelings to explore once the written work begins. It’s not abstract anymore, it both tangible and real. Whether you are engaging students through their minds, moods or motions, drama activities help make meaning.
Explore sample theater curriculum and some of the life-long lessons and skills it provides students.
Bothering Back with the Benefits of Drama
Drama doesn’t just give, it takes as well. Drama is a wholly interdisciplinary subject.
Each script, lesson, playwright or theatrical style requires deep knowledge of a variety of themes, ideas, historical contexts, and also an assortment of facts and figures. Each student researches and learns about the world of the play, the scene and their character.
They engage with science, humanities, physical education, English and creative design. Whatever the play requires. The possibilities are as endless as the many works that have been written on the endless number of subjects, times and events of human history and potential future.
Including drama in your classroom is certainly worth the bother.
**This article originally appeared in Australian Teacher Magazine.
Nicholas Waxman is a Melbourne based artist and educator. He is a contributing writer for Australian Teachers Magazine and the Victorian Curriculum and Theatre studies portfolio manager for the Drama Victoria Committee of Management. Nick is the host and producer of a drama education podcast called ‘The Aside Podcast‘ and is the Head of Visual and Performing Arts at ELTHAM College. Nick has toured his comedy show, ‘A Sunburnt History,’ across the country and has presented workshops for drama teachers and students around Australia and internationally.