A short, informative article dealing with Drama, curriculum and the creative and holistic development of children.
“The Primary School Curriculum celebrates the uniqueness of the child, as it is expressed in each child’s personality, intelligence and potential for development. It is designed to nurture the child in all dimensions of his or her life – spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical.” (NCCA,1999: )
The drama curriculum states that “Drama can make a unique contribution to the development of the child.” (NCCA,1999:4) Does drama help the child’s development in the areas mentioned above and why would the curriculum make such a statement about the importance of drama? Is there any evidence that drama enhances growth in the spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical aspects of a child’s life? Apart from anecdotal evidence are there any studies which would confirm this lofty assumption about the ‘unique’ contribution of drama to the child’s holistic development?
In her book ’Creative Drama for the Classroom Teacher’ Ruth Beall Heinig cites many studies that support the view that drama plays a vital role in the development of the child. These studies lend support to the assertions of the 1999 curriculum regarding drama and its contribution to the education of the child, as will become clear. She also quotes the American Alliance for Theatre and Education as saying that drama has the potential “to develop language and communication abilities, problem solving skills, and creativity; to promote a positive self-concept, social awareness,(and) empathy...”(Davis, Behm,1978:10) It is to these six areas that we turn our attention now.
Language and Communication
The curriculum tells us that the process of drama can give the child a ‘rich oral language’ and gives the child opportunities to experiment with language, hence using drama and role play is one of the contexts for developing a child’s language skills in English. We use language everyday to communicate ideas, express ourselves and interact socially. All of these skills are invariably promoted through drama in the classroom. Noted educator John Warren Stewig (cited in Heinig) tells us that drama can improve the child’s “study of literature, oral language and vocabulary development, non-verbal communication, listening ability and creative writing.” (Heinig, 1993:6) Another citation in Heinig tells us that, according to Fisher and Terry, “the need for developing student’s ability to use language orally in an effective way leads directly to increased use of dramatic activities in the classroom.” These educators base their statements on studies they carried out among children that demonstrate the positive influence that drama has on language development. During the drama process children must find the language required to express themselves, to argue viewpoints of character’s and to discuss what arises for the dramatic interpretation of a story or situation. According to Heinig this leads to the ability to “form their self-concepts and expand their self confidence.” It can also lead to “better interpersonal communication skills in informing and questioning, in organising and sharing ideas, and in enjoying the companionship and group interaction process with others.” (Heinig,1993:7) The objectives of the drama curriculum are supported by the studies of Stewig and others and can be seen in its assertion that drama should enable the child to cooperate, use non-verbal skills of communication and develop their confidence.(NCCA,1999:9)
Published in: Family