You are on page 1of 3

© 2014 1

Class Act
Danièle Bourdais and Sue Finnie, authors of Class Act, consider why drama
can be such a useful tool in the young learners’ classroom.
Why drama?
In our view, drama is not just ‘play’; it is also ‘work’. We don’t think it should just be a ‘nice
extra activity’ that you try to find time for in your busy curriculum, but an essential and very
effective part of your teaching. Of course, not everyone chooses to use drama in the young
learners’ classroom so it is important to think about why and how it can be such a useful
tool.

Here are some of the reasons why we believe drama in the EFL classroom engages and
stimulates young learners, making their language learning more effective:

 It’s fun and flexible: Make-believe activities come naturally to young children so
acting is a fun, age-appropriate way for young children to practise English. Drama
requires active participation which should channel the energies of even the liveliest
member of the class. The Class Act plays can be used and adapted in a variety of ways
and so they offer maximum flexibility as a teaching and learning tool.

 It involves everyone: Drama involves watching, listening, speaking and plenty of
movement, so it appeals to different learning styles: it is a true combination of visual,
auditory and kinaesthetic activities. Working on a play and performing it together as a
group can be a valuable bonding experience for the class. Pupils are not only improving
their language skills, but also developing as team players.

 It builds confidence: Pupils learn to value their own contribution and understand their
role within a group. Children who are reticent to speak in another language are often
more willing to participate if they assume a ‘new’ character and tap into the fantasy
element of drama. Those who are shy often enjoy performing when wearing masks and
costumes.

 It’s motivating: Pupils work towards an end-product. Staged performances, if you
choose to do them, provide children (and the school!) with an opportunity to ‘show
off’ their foreign language.

• It encourages children to use abstract thinking skills: The plays are a good way to
introduce children to situations and problems that are outside their immediate
experience. Acting out these situations can encourage them to think about the
characters’ problems and issues and can lead to useful discussion.
Author Insights


© 2014 2

• It boosts a whole range of linguistic skills: The plays give pupils the opportunity to
practise a number of skills which are useful for successful language learning:
- listening
- reading
- expressive reading/speaking
- memorising through listening and repetition
- writing (using the worksheets provided, or creating extra scenes).

Language development
The Class Act plays cover a wide range of key vocabulary and language functions central to a
typical young-learner syllabus. In each of the plays, we have also included plenty of
meaningful chunks of basic language such as: ‘How are you, today?’; ‘I’m fine, thank you. How
about you?’; ‘What’s the matter?’; ‘What does… mean?’
We suggest that you choose to work on a play which includes a lot of language that your
pupils are already familiar with. Of course, there will be new words and phrases so pupils
can broaden their vocabulary, but preparing and learning the play will also be an ideal
vehicle for revising words and phrases with which they are already familiar, such as
greetings, days, months, colours and animals. This language is high-frequency which means
it is useful for communicating in the real world, or facilitating classroom speaking activities.
You will notice that we have frequently repeated and recycled certain words and phrases, so
that they become automatic and help to develop the learners’ fluency. By repeating their
lines over and over, and listening to their classmates reciting theirs, pupils become
increasingly familiar with them, developing into confident and fluent speakers.

More-able pupils can take on the more demanding roles, but most of the Class Act plays also
provide roles where only a few lines need to be learned. There are often crowds or groups,
where several pupils speak or chant together, which can be a useful device for less confident
speakers. Where no group role exists, a narrator’s part could be read aloud by a chorus of
pupils.

As they rehearse the plays in Class Act, pupils have opportunities to practise natural
intonation and pronunciation without the need for drills. The audio versions of the plays
provide them with authentic models of pronunciation and help them to notice and imitate
native-speaker stress patterns. By learning to enunciate clearly and project his/her voice for
the performance, each child becomes a more fluent and confident speaker.

Learner Involvement
The plays we have written create meaningful contexts where children can participate and
react with feeling. Taking on a role can allow pupils to see things from a different perspective.
However, don’t get too worried if your pupils are never going to win an Oscar. The main aim is
to get them to take part, enthusiastically, speaking clearly and fluently, anything more is a
bonus!

Using drama is a great way to allow pupils to become more autonomous and take
responsibility for their learning. While they are acting out the play, the teacher can take the
role of supporter in the learning process, observing the class as they rehearse and/or perform


© 2014 3
and thus making the classroom more learner-centred. It is extremely useful for the teacher to
be able to see how pupils take on the dramatic roles and add their own perspective to each
part.

The plays can stimulate pupils’ own natural creativity and special skills. For instance, for many
of the plays, pupils could go on to invent new scenes using the frameworks of the existing
scenes. You can also encourage groups to write their own very simple plays closely based on
the ones in Class Act. Ideas are provided in the teacher’s notes for each individual play.

Conclusion
Every member of the class can become involved in drama. The plays in Class Act are perfect
for differentiation as pupils can do as much or as little as they are able or willing to do: they
can memorise the text for a main role or join in a simple chorus, according to their abilities
and interests. By using fictitious contexts, you are providing your pupils with practical
experience in communication, bringing them closer to ‘real life’ experiences.



Publications by the authors:

Class Act. Delta Publishing, 2014.
(http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/titles/young-learners/class-act)

Hello Kids Readers series. ABC Melody.
(http://www.abcmelody.com/en/series-5834/hello-kids-readers.aspx)

Language Learners series. Ticktock Media.

Interactive Vocabulary, Timesaver Interactive. Scholastic.
(http://maryglasgowplus.com/mgm_books/88381)

Vocabulary Activities, Scholastic.
(http://maryglasgowplus.com/mgm_books/15411)