Through studying a history in such a practical way, an event from the past can be recreated and brought to life. Drama also has the ability to add emotion and feeling to history, something that the written word is less able to do. The children can put themselves into the position of those aboard the ship and think about their emotions. This sequence of lessons also lends itself to cross curricular links with literacy, art, science and design and technology.
The sinking and floating element of science can be revisited, posters advertising the Titanic can be created in art, and letters and diaries from passengers can be written in literacy. Use of drama terminology also increases the child’s vocabulary and develops speaking and listening skills. The excitement created through a drama project such as this can send ripples of enthusiasm to other subject areas if developed correctly. Winston and Tandy (2001:73) agree that, With appropriate planning, structuring and management, we can connect drama with many other areas of the curriculum. This can offer valuable opportunities to place learning in real human contexts by making stories and living through them.
Winston and Tandy (2001:73) Drama also encourages team work and communication. It is a social subject that gives children the opportunity to share ideas with their peers. Drama provides a safe environment in which to explore emotional issues. Children have the opportunity to experience how it feels to be somebody else; this encourages empathy and understanding of the word around them. Drama is a social subject and group discussion can promote positive social interaction between different cultural, gender and ability groups.
The Arts Council for England states in its publication Drama in Schools (2003), Drama’s collaborative nature provides opportunities for pupils to develop key skills of communication, negotiation, compromise and self assertion. Arts Council for England (2003) Such interaction leads to a greater understanding of others and is invaluable to a child’s all round learning. Effective drama in school allows children to bring forward prior knowledge to enhance their learning. Drama also develops opportunities for children to work outside of their friendship groups.
Activities that involve the whole class often require changing partners and this may help to build new relationships within class. A point that Winston and Tandy (2001:73) also agree with, As active participants in the drama, children can recognise the story which develops as a communal creation, the result of everyone’s work. Winston and Tandy (2001:73) Drama creates opportunities for children to learn from other children’s thinking and to demonstrate their present understanding. The very nature of drama as an experimental, changeable vehicle means that there is little opportunity to do things incorrectly. Drama is an individual experience and each child will interpret instructions differently. Individual life experiences will mean that children will understand emotions and actions in different ways. For less confident children this could reduce the fear of failure and encourage individual development.
When taught well drama has the ability to improve a child’s self esteem. Self-esteem is important to all human beings and is essential for our mental well being. Good self-esteem through positive reinforcement can greatly enhance a child’s educational progress. Through praise and encouragement children can develop confidence to try out new ideas. When the fear of criticism is reduced children are more likely to lose inhibitions and work to the best of their ability. A good drama teacher will offer positive reinforcement at each stage of the drama process. Children react well to positive feedback and are more likely to stay motivated and enthusiastic. Walker (2004:125) states the advantages of positive reinforcement; Firstly, it is responsive to the child’s natural need for attention and approval, and secondly it decreases the probability that the child will exhibit inappropriate behaviour in an effort to obtain needed attention.
Walker (2004:125) Drama offers children a focus for their enthusiasm and as such it may assist children who experience problems with maintaining high levels of attention in normal class sessions. Despite not being a statutory requirement of the school curriculum, drama offers primary school children the opportunity to experiment and express themselves in a way that no other subject can. Drama when taught effectively has the potential to offer children freedom of expression, increase their confidence and promote teamwork and healthy class relationships. Drama has the ability to bring ideas to life and offers children a more practical learning style.
The fact that there is no set programme of study for drama, offers teachers the freedom to use drama how and when then want to. The lack of set guidelines may however be viewed negatively by some teachers who have concerns about how they can fit drama into the timetable. Learning in Drama is often understood to develop such qualities as empathy, self-confidence, self-control, respect and tolerance for others (Winston and Tandy, 2001). Without an integrated drama programme in the school timetable teachers could be missing an opportunity to develop children’s strengths in these areas.