Class Action: the value of drama lessons

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 11:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 11:11am

My son loves drama and goes to an extra-curricular club every week. His primary school occasionally produces shows where all the children in his class are involved, but there doesn't seem to be any timetabled drama lessons. Is drama ever considered an individual subject at primary school? Is it still taught?

Drama is often underestimated by parents and teachers as a valuable tool for high-level thinking and learning. It is also great fun and many children thoroughly enjoy it.

Unfortunately, drama is not often taught as a subject at primary level. This can be due to an already packed curriculum that focuses on subjects some would deem more essential.

Other roadblocks can be the lack of space in Hong Kong schools. Moving classroom furniture, for example, can be time-consuming and spare rooms are in high demand. Lack of teacher expertise is another issue - most primary schools do not have specialist drama teachers. However, secondary schools do tend to have drama as a timetabled subject.

Elements of drama can be used to explore almost any topic or area of study. It also helps children to visualise concepts more clearly, stretch their imaginations and express themselves in different ways.

For children, like your son, who love drama and may have a talent in this area, it makes learning practical and enjoyable.

Success in subjects like drama can be a great confidence boost for pupils who are not very academic or who find it hard to express themselves in writing. It allows them to shine and to verbalise their ideas in front of others.

School plays have their place and can be an enjoyable experience for both children and their audience, but they can still be very didactic and teacher-led - often more of an exercise in performance rather than exploration.

However, the concept of improvisation and role-play as an approach to learning can offer so much more. In particular, allowing children to explore language and emotions can expand their emotional vocabulary. Take, for example, the role play areas in Early Years classrooms where teachers set up mock shops or houses and leave out dressing-up clothes.

Teachers can extend this idea to older pupils. Taking on different roles helps students to challenge their views. This helps them to understand concepts that may initially seem complicated or abstract by involving them directly in the experience.

Drama can be a useful tool to experiment safely with a range of social situations. This encourages empathy with the emotions and perspectives of others.

In fact, the benefits of drama are endless. It not only develops students' problem-solving, it encourages them to use their initiative and think on their feet. It builds confidence and independence, and encourages productive co-operation with others.

If your son is following an inquiry curriculum, subjects may not be taught separately. But drama may still be an element of the teaching, if links to the theme in hand can be made.

History or language-based units may lend themselves more to drama than science or geography, for example. This means students may do more drama at certain times of the year than others.

There is a resurgence of explicit teaching of the arts, as educators catch up with theoretical researchers who recognise the importance of nurturing creativity. In our busy modern world this is a vital experience for children. It not only develops thinking skills and individuality, but allows children to achieve personal satisfaction and growth.

The job market increasingly demands enhanced levels of flexible and creative thinking.

It is a great shame for your son if this enjoyable and valuable area of the curriculum is not taught at his school. Hopefully, his secondary school will offer it as a subject. Although extra-curricular classes can be costly it would be worthwhile your son continuing with these.

They may also help him find a circle of friends outside school with a similar interest.

Julie McGuire teaches at a local primary school