The most important single factor in the use of drama as a genuine part of education is the teacher. It would be preposterous to pretend that a teacher needs no preparation for doing drama—but it is equally preposterous to suggest that a teacher who sees the values of using drama needs a course in theater.
The aim is constant: to develop people, not drama. By pursuing the former, the latter may also be achieved; by pursuing the latter, the former can be totally neglected, if not nullified.
Games provide one of the easiest entry points into the world of Drama in Education. Drama games come with rules and boundaries built into them. Viola Spolin, Nellie McCaslin, Geraldine Siks, and Brian Way offer many games which can be used to promote concentration, involve creative movement of the body, improve language skills, and promote groups working together. The game for this unit involves identifying feelings, which are found in people of all cultures. (See Sample Lesson 1)
Creative Drama involves the use of the body and voice in authentic responses to sounds, stories, words, images and/or ideas. The teacher provides stimuli through storytelling, games and a variety of drama techniques described in this section. The process is more important than the product, although the product may be shared with an audience. Creative Drama addresses individual and group creative expression and is particularly useful for getting students working together. When applied to a curriculum area it is often referred to as Integrated Drama. (See Sample Lesson 2)
Dance focuses on the movement education of the body. Often a teacher need only be shown dance steps by an “expert” to teach the dance to his or her students. Pantomime would be included as a component of dance. Understanding non-verbal signals or body language is particularly important when verbal communication is not possible, as is true with people who do not understand each other’s language. Dances from other cultures often serve as a bridge to communication. (See Sample Lesson 3)
The use of a person in role is a powerful teaching tool. The teacher, a visitor or a student(s) can assume the role of a person or group, taking on a specific attitude or set of information. An example in this unit is a man from Ghana, acting as tribal chief of a member of the Ashanti tribe. His attitude being: “The moderniza-tion of Ghana is causing the ruin of our people.” Students are confronted with a “real” person to question, and are forced to use feeling and thought. Assuming a role is a common technique used in the teaching of Dorothy Heathcote. (See Sample Lesson 4)
Improvisation is the spontaneous acting out of a situation, often including language. Viola Spolin has been a leading advocate of this method of drama and has several good books for teachers, actors and directors. In this unit students will use a form of improvisation to create a culture of their own. This will give them a foundation from which to view other “real” cultures. (See Sample Lesson 5)
There are several units created by previous members of the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute which provide many drama activities for classroom teachers. The problem is not in finding the activities, but rather in finding the merit in using them. If a teacher sees the merit in the use of Drama, he or she will seek out the “experts” who are listed in this bibliography and the bibliographies of many other such units. This curriculum unit assumes the teacher using it is willing to start from where they are and work towards creating more literate students—not towards creating student actors.