Today’s student must be prepared to enter a continually demanding world which requires him to possess an ever increasing number of skills. His success depends greatly on his ability to listen, observe, evaluate, follow directions, and make decisions.
The student should be able to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses. He must learn to appreciate and build on what he does well and to admit difficulties and be prepared to work toward improving these problem areas.
It has been said that:
Every art has had its geniuses who created masterpieces without the apparent aid of an instructor or teacher . . . this is true, but it’s corollary—that every gift will find expression—is not true. Many of those most gifted have perished unknown, because they lacked a consciousness of form and a deductive mind that orders and arranges.
The same might be said of several students who have not had the opportunity to develop the type of skills necessary for the critical thinking which will be required of them in future years.
The field of drama provides a multitude of opportunities for the teacher to help students develop the aforementioned skills which are essential to academic as well as social success.
Brian Way in
Development Through Drama
, Chapter 2, does an excellent job of stating the reasons for using drama in education. The chapter, titled “Consider a Human Being”, basically states that schools exist not to develop actors, but to see that each person develops the strengths necessary to function in life. Way stresses that this development is a lifelong process and not everyone will reach the same level at the same time. He goes on to elaborate on the necessity for strengthening the individuals use of the five senses and stresses the importance of concentration—the individuals ability to give his/her full attention to a particular task—as being vital to successful development.
In this unit I propose to provide students with tools which will enable them to:
1. Develop keener awareness of the five senses.
2. Use this awareness to improve ability to:
a. listen and follow directions.
b. visualize and respond to non-verbal forms of communication.
c. use critical thinking skills (sequencing, cause/effect, inferencing, predicting outcome).
3. Understand designated terminology as related to drama.
4. Develop an appreciation for drama and an understanding that the creative process requires the dedication, patience, cooperation and combined talents of many people.
The unit is designed to cover an eight week period. While ample time must be given to introducing the unit (see lesson plans—Day #1) and for selected activities and explanations, the time allotted on a daily basis is minimal.
The form in which I have chosen to present this unit allows the teacher the option of picking and choosing those activities which he/she feels their students might most benefit from. While the unit is primarily designed to work with sixth grade average and below average students who have great difficulty concentrating, certain of the activities mentioned may be used at a variety of levels and adapted to a wide range of abilities. Some suggestions for this are made in the unit itself.
Each day’s activities are to begin with an exercise designed to develop sensory awareness and make students aware of their own senses. The exercises numbered 1-21 have been adapted from techniques given by Brian Way,
Development Through Drama
; Pamela Walker,
Seven Steps to
Creative Children’s Dramatics
; Constantin Stanislavski,
An Actor Prepares
Building a Character
; Viola Spolin,
Improvisation for the Theatre
; John Hodgson and Ernest Richards,
and Creativity in Drama
; and other sources listed in the bibliography.
While most exercises are of a short duration and can be used in conjunction with any classwork being presented, as the student becomes more adept at handling these exercises, those of a longer variety will be attempted. Two of these I will mention now, although included in the set of exercises following.
There are available through the library, as well as certain book stores, tapes of old radio shows and plays. I have chosen two—
Sorry Wrong Number
and Sherlock Holmes—
A Scandal in Bohemia
to use with my students. By providing worksheets to guide students in developing listening skills, not only will auditory skills be sharpened, but also the students’ ability to use critical thinking skills while listening. Once students have become aware of the technique of listening, they come to enjoy and appreciate this form of entertainment. Often this activity leads to student initiated discussions of history and a variety of theatrical techniques.
The second valuable tool for development awareness is improvisation—verbal and non-verbal. Non-verbal communication, particularly in the form of mime, affords the opportunity for students to develop powers of observation. Verbal improvisation demands that the student involve himself totally. Concentration must be on the situation and the others with whom he is creating. He must listen, think and respond to the action and dialogue of those around him. These improvisations can be taped and later written into short scenes.
Included in the unit is a play structure sheet. As well as providing students with the skills to develop concentration, these awareness activities offer an excellent opportunity to lead into a discussion of plays and an awareness and appreciation of theatre. I have provided a working diagram from which students can visualize the various elements in the structure of the play. (While recognizing that not all plays are constructed in the same form, it is important that I provide the students I service with a developmental concrete form which they need in order to comprehend abstract ideas.) In decoding this vocabulary, students will review basic decoding skills such as: syllabication, prefixes, roots and suffixes.
Because of the level of students I work with, I have chosen to use a variety of one-act plays. As an introduction I have chosen,
The Swiss Chalet
, a mystery from John Murray’s
Mystery Plays for
. Initially, we would read the play together. Following this first reading we would use the play structure sheet to discover the structure of the play, as well as recognize the purpose and placement of various scenes. Scenes will be studied to see how they help move the action forward.