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TOPIC 1 : Introduction to plays and drama

In this unit , you will learm about
features of childrens drama
types of childrens drama
reasons for using childrens drama in the language classroom and
for aesthetic appreciation.
You will also discuss Drama in the Malaysian Primary School Curriculum in
relation to
inter/intra personal and language development through plays and
linking plays and drama with the different themes
- World of Knowledge
- World of Stories
- World of Self

What is childrens drama?

Can you name a few plays that were produced specially for
How different were they from other forms of drama?

According to the Children's Theatre Association of America, one can look at all
Dramatic activity as existing on a continuum with Drama in its Natural State
(the kind of dramatic play all children, and indeed all humans engage in) at one
extreme and formal Theatre at the other.
Between the extremes we find Creative Drama and Participation Theatre.
These forms do not exist as discreet disciplines, but rather as flexible points on
a continuum. (In other words, a specific activity may have characteristics of
Participation Theatre and of Creative Drama, and two observers may put the
same activity in slightly different places on the line.)
The distinctions between the various points on the continuum are drawn in part
from the classical definitions of Drama (a thing done) and Theatre (to gaze).
Basically the more the focus of Drama work is on the PROCESS of doing the
work, the closer it is to Creative Drama, and the more the focus is on the
PRODUCT-the performed work and its impact on an audience-the closer it is to
formal Theatre.


Read the notes adapted from 1998

Creative Drama is of benefit to every age. Davis and Behm say in their definition
of Theatre by Children and Youth, "preferably the performers are no younger
than ten years old and have been well schooled by a director in their primary
task of bringing the dramatic material to life for an audience."
Drama in its Natural State----Creative Drama----Participation
Some definitions:


"The performance of a largely predetermined theatrical art work by living actors
in the presence of an audience of young people. . ." (Davis and Behm.)
TYA is formal Theatre.
Ideally the performers are skilled actors and the production is overseen by
skilled and trained directors and technical staff.
The story line can be drawn from history, literature for children, folk and fairy
tales or real life issues important to young people.
Contemporary playwrights are becoming ever more aware that children can
handle-indeed should handle-sophisticated ideas and serious issues.
Children's plays are being written today that challenge young audiences both
by their subject matter and by their theatricality.
The most important thing Theatre for Young Audiences should be is ABOUT
children. Children live in an increasingly complex world, and their real
concerns deserve to be addressed.
Children's plays with real child protagonistsare important stories we should
be telling - where protagonists are truly active. An active protagonist makes
things happen, and addresses the conflict of the story directly. This is


"An improvisational, non-exhibitional, process-centered form of drama in which
participants are guided by a leader to imagine, enact, and reflect upon human
experiences." (Davis and Behm)
Creative Drama is not primarily concerned with teaching theatre skills,
although this may of course occur.
The purpose of Creative Drama is to use the natural dramatic impulse to
facilitate learning in an unlimited number of fields and areas. Children
naturally act out their perceptions, try out roles, and play "pretend." It is the
primary way the very young learn about their world.
Creative Drama allows students to explore topics experientially. Aristotle
said, "Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. INVOLVE me
and I will understand."
Creative Drama can foster personality growth and self-esteem.
It can help children learn to work together and to think creatively.
It is often a classic problem-solving exercise.
It builds language and communication skills better than just about any other
activity in school.
It promotes empathy by letting students step into others' shoes.
It can also be used as a tool to teach literally any other subject, if lessons are
carefully designed.
Creative Drama is also sometimes called "Creative Dramatics" or "Creative

empowering for a child audience.

This is often used as a synonym "Theatre for Young Audiences." The problem is
that the term "Children's Theatre" is also often used as a synonym for Theatre
BY Children or indeed used to mean anything that involves both Theatre and
A play written to be performed for children, usually by skilled actors. This term
has the same problem as the term "Children's Theatre," in that it is also used to
describe plays performed by children.
It consists of "the presentation of specially written, adapted or devised drama
with an established story line constructed to involve limited and structured
opportunities for active involvement by all or part of the audience Participation
may range from simple verbal responses to an active role in the outcome of the
drama.." (Davis and Behm.)
Usually this kind of Theatre is done with very young children. More ambitious
participation theatre is constructed so the audience actually determines the
outcome of the play. The idea is very exciting, and if it is done well it can be
very effective. The problem is that it is almost never done well. Typically
playwrights or producers "cheat" to be sure of the outcome they want. Even
when the actors truly intend to incorporate the children's suggestions, often
they are only prepared for a limited range of suggestions.

Jed H. Davis and Tom Behm, Terminology of Drama/Theatre with and

for Children: A Redefinition, from Children's Theatre Review,
XXV11, 1 (1978), reprinted in the book Theatre, Children and Youth, by
Jed H. Davis and Mary Jane Evans. (Anchorage Press, Inc., revised edition,



This term applies to any formal Theatre performed by young people, and
particularly to Theatre for Young Audiences performed by young people.
Children are a wonderful, responsive audience. It is very important, however, to
make sure that your young actors are ready to be really professional, because
you owe it to your audience
Formal Theatre is necessarily and by definition primarily concerned with
PRODUCT. The repetition and rote memorization necessary to do a good play
provide an inefficient learning experience and are unnecessarily stressful for
young children. It is inefficient because once all of the lines and blocking have
been experienced and understood, any further repetition (rehearsal) is devoid of
new learning, and it is stressful because it "must" be "perfect" by a (usually)
specific, pre-determined time. PROCESS oriented Creative Drama is more

Try to answer these questions.


What is the main focus of Creative Drama?


What is the main focus of Formal Theatre?


Suggest three benefits of Creative Drama.


What should be the main focus of Theatre for Young Audiences?


What are two weaknesses of Participation Theatre?

Adapted from: Chris Boudreault, The Benefits of Using Drama in the



Let us consider some of the global benefits of using drama in the


There are other benefits to using drama in the classroom.

brings learning to life, by animating an actual historical
character or event, an established story or an original fictional
context, children are able to engage with learning in an immediate
and dynamic way
provides no right and wrong answers, instead children are
encouraged to speculate, say what they think and feel, share
experiences, make choices and to reflect upon consequences
accommodates different learning styles including kinesthetic,
spatial and interpersonal, drama provides opportunities to learn
through discussion and debate, physical expression and group
provides a good strong context for learning, there is another
world which pupils can be immersed in and explore.
acts as an imperative for learning, children want to know what
happens nextparticularly when the drama is story-based
deals in human dilemmas and conflict which encourage lateral
thinking and
seeing things from multiple points of view
embeds the development of skills which can be practised from
within the drama: e.g. writing in role, persuasive writing, reportage
acts as a metaphorfor actual experience, exploring challenging
issues within a fictional frame, enabling objective discussion and
debate to take place about issues children face in their own lives.
allows cross curricular links to be made, for example history,
PHSE, citizenship, and literacy can be explored within the same
fictional frame
enables practice for life, imagining being in a drama motivates
children to apply and make links between their existing skills and

Refer to the KSSR syllabus. Explain how you would incorporate

plays and
drama in your
Language Arts lessons so that
your students will be able to
benefit at an aesthetic, cognitive
and linguistic level. Your answer should
include references to
curriculum specifications and drama or plays that you
use. (500 words)


What other benefits can you think of? List them out.
Discuss with your
peers. Were their views similar to
Do you use drama in your teaching? Why?

This assignment should be submitted during your second

interaction. (20%)


Well done! Take a break before you start on Topic 2.