Finding Time for Drama, Part 1

Here is a question I've often heard: "where do we get the time to integrate drama into the classroom?"  As a simple answer -- integrating drama saves time by accelerating learning.  The time spent introducing drama skills is offset by the speed at which students learn information presented [in history, math, science, etc].  Let me give you an example.

One of my favorite stories is from a second grade classroom near Chicago, Illinois where students were studying the Underground Railroad.  In our planning session, I asked the teacher why she spent 5 days on getting the students to understand this particular topic.  She said that even after 5 days spent discussing and reading about it, over 50% of the students thought the Underground Railroad was a train moving through deep tunnels.  This was due to the fact that Chicago’s EL (elevated) trains often go under the rivers and the city.  So, the teacher and I planned a drama together and I wrote a story you can find as a member on called “Headin’ North.”  The story was built around skills they had learned previously in drama and the content about the Underground Railroad.  We also introduced a new objective: “analyzing the impact of setting on story.”  In 2 days, not 5, the students were eager to discuss the Underground Railroad as secret hiding locations (settings) helping slaves work their way from South to North following the North Star.   The students had “lived” the experience through drama.   I remember the teacher looking at me and saying with a smile, “Now what do I do with the rest of the week?” 

So yes, it took us a bit more instructional time…the few days at the beginning where I introduced drama…but now this invaluable tool was saving time and allowing the students to make connections among drama, language arts, and history. 

The impact of having students “live” history and connect learning through physical experiences is a benefit of the performing arts.

If you haven’t tried it, start with something small and see what happens.  It will save enormous amounts of time.  What is better than that?  Students retaining what they have learned over months and years!!

A direct answer to the question posed at the beginning is that the addition of drama as an instructional strategy, as well as honoring it as an academic subject, deepens student understanding and increases student retention in a shorter amount of time than you normally spend.

Next blog post, we’ll dive into this question a little deeper in our second of three installments.

Finding Time for Drama   Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

All members of our site can download lessons that show you how to integrate drama into other classroom subjects.

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