5 Reasons to Incorporate Drama in Your ESL Classroom

5 Reasons to Incorporate Drama in Your ESL Classroom

Drama is the most under rated genre in today's English curriculum. With so much time and effort spent on critical analysis and evaluations of selections, drama has been put in the back burner. Drama however has much more to offer, so why should drama be the 'go to' project especially in ESL classrooms? Simply put, ESL teachers and students alike love drama!

Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. 1

    Increases self-confidence.

    Although that may sound contradictory, drama in the ESL classroom lowers student’s speaking anxiety. Students are aware that any good drama requires expressive and dramatic language, in fact, the more the better. This allows students to also use body language to their advantage and be overly dramatic and comical. Students will be "putting on a show" for their peers and will not be anxious about being correct or formal while presenting their drama pieces.

  2. 2

    Allows for collaboration.

    Drama involves different characters interacting with each other to tell a story. As ESL students begin writing their dramas, they must collaborate and make group decisions about characters, dialogue and scenery. Students must share ideas and contribute to ensure the drama piece is successful. Teachers may use this collaboration time to conduct writing conferences, mini lessons, and follow up on students’ progress.

  3. 3

    All language domains are utilized.

    The ESL curriculum is based on English Language Proficiency Standards, or ELPS. These language proficiencies include four language domains that consist of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Drama allows for students to essentially practice and master all of these skills in one project.

  4. 4

    Incorporates all learning styles.

    Students learn differently just as teachers teach differently and the many styles differ from person to person. Visual learners might enjoy working on scenery for the drama, while auditory learners might want to incorporate music and sound. Your verbal and logical learners might enjoy writing the dialogue while social and physical learners might become acting coaches. Solitary learners might enjoy being the editors of the project and contribute by helping their peers correct and perfect the drama piece. In the end, drama appeals to all learning styles as students collaborate and create their projects.

  5. 5

    Sample Lesson Plan.

    Here is a 5 day lesson plan, 90 minute block, to help you incorporate a drama project into your curriculum. This lesson was completed and presented in a High School ESL class. Younger students will require extra time.

    • Day 1:
      Students will be able to read a short myth or story that does not contain too many details, only the basic story line. After students read the selection, the teacher will form groups of 4-6. Each group will discuss the story and create a storyboard or a plot diagram of the story. Teacher may review the elements of plot as needed. Students must create characters and include extra details into their “new recycled” drama. The teacher will remind students that everyone in the group must have speaking parts.

    • Day 2:
      Students will be able to draft a script. Students should by this time have roles assigned to them. Teacher may review or conduct a mini lesson on characterization and dialogue. The teacher will guide students as they think about dialogues for each character. Teacher may prompt as needed to aid the students on their writing and conduct writing conferences with students to check on progress.

    • Day 3:
      Students will continue to write and edit their scripts. Students will be able to read their scripts aloud in their groups and group edit their work. One strategy to use is the Clocking Strategy. Each student is assigned a specific convention to edit. The script will make its way to every member of the group and as each member reads it, they will look for their assigned mistakes and mark them on the paper. The students will then finalize their scripts. The teacher is encouraged to read the script before students can go on to the next step.

    • Day 4:
      Students practice. Students will be able to read the script with fluency and expression as they practice their roles in their groups. The teacher may allow students to work on scenery and props. If time permits, a mini lesson on mood and setting might be appropriate. Students use this day to finalize their drama pieces and perfect it before they present.

    • Day 5:
      Students present. Students will be able to perform their drama pieces and have their peers evaluate them using a peer evaluation sheet. Students learn to become observers or "the audience" and must listen to the drama in order to complete an evaluation form. Students should be encouraged to share comments on their likes about the drama pieces they just saw.

So give drama a chance. Your students will thank you and you might be surprised with such great creativity emerging from your ESL students.

This is a guest article by Patricia Flores, ESL Teacher

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