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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Drama

Drama

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What is the best age to start a child in Drama classes? When they are toddlers or more mature age such as 13?

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Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Janet,

Drama is a form of play and not necessarily a written script. Children, their imagination, and their behavior are what keeps many teachers laughing and enjoying their jobs. Can you expand on your question about babies and how they partake in drama?

Eric Levin's picture
Eric Levin
Director of Theatre Education at Southern Oregon State University

Drama is both performative and participitory. One does not need an audience to enjoy performance. Creative dramatics refers to purely participitory drama in which the focus in not performance and may not even include performance. It might be a group scene in which students place themeselves in another place or time to experience a particular alien environment. This is very different than Theatre classes. Both are invaluable to education, but they are also very different.

Christine Termini Passarella's picture
Christine Termini Passarella
Founder of The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education

"A great play can tell a story that teaches you what it is to be a human being. It teaches us about history, ambition, love, hubris, war, and stupidity. Make believe is a form that children use to make sense of life, and a great play builds on that." ~ John Turturro

I have often used drama in my classroom. Each experience was so powerful. My children have acted out the classics from Shakespeare to fairy tales. They performed a play that I wrote. My students watched the journey progress from a seed idea to an actual production. We also role play during mock trials. My students are seven years old. I am always impressed by the multiple intelligences expressed when drama is offered to children. Of course there is the literacy element, but what I find transforming is the empathy that goes into becoming another character. By taking on the role of another character, deeper learning at an emotional level is offered to the students. I highly recommend drama in the classroom. I would suggest that for those children who are shy simply expose them but do not push. In my experience, if the classroom is a safe environment over time all children join the experience in some way.

The above quote was given to me recently from the very gifted thespian John Turturro. I asked him to weigh in on our drama topic here at Edutopia. The words above are what he told me. He first learned about drama from his mother Catherine when he was just a small boy, and of course developed his gifts through serious study. John graduated from the Yale School of Drama. I believe his words speak the truth.

Eric Levin's picture
Eric Levin
Director of Theatre Education at Southern Oregon State University

Mr. Turturro's comments are elegant. He is speaking of the value of the literature, especially if it is brought to life by artists on the stage. But your example is even more important to theatre education in which the kinesthetic experience of pretending expands understanding even more. Mr. Turturro's definition can be applied to all great literature, but participation in drama within an educational setting can facilitate the kind of deep learning and lifelong understanding that you describe.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

Mr. Yee:
I think that babies/children/all of us partake in drama by imitation. That is the greatest form of theatre. When a baby is only 2-3 months old they begin to imitate their primary caretaker, often mom, and what fun memories I have of making facial expressions and primary sounds with my precious babies, now 29 and 33. The dance continues through reading stories on laps, and imaginary play, trips to the zoo, puppet shows, building sand castles, the list of wonder goes on for life. Even through the tragedy of life's circumstances we imagine how terrible it may be and what can we do to make other people's pain feel better.

Drama begins the moment we are conceived. Without the arts, there would be no life. I agree, it never begins as a written script. I believe it is the gifted writer who is able to "see" that moment and put that on paper and create life to a moment in time. MAGIC.

That's my experience...

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

I have been given a lifetime gift of 25 7/8 grade children who just "want to act." One boy asked, and I threw it on the Principal. I know the work often the struggles of directing shows. The Principal said yes and so I began allowing children to come to meetings after school, just to "see if..."

I was very hesitant because they never have seen any live theatre nor been on stage. But, after school, day after day they came to my class, and we took chances. I taught improv, a little public speaking, tongue twisters, Shakespear's insults,some scene studies, and realized I really had to do this. They deserved a play and I could not say NO.

Now, on May 4, 5 and 6, for the first time in the 50 year history of the school we will present A Midsummer Night's Dream. I kept thinking I would have to cut a lot, but as rehearsal's rolled on I realized that I could not cut so much, that I had shot for the moon and they went there because they were motivated and learning so, so much through drama. Many actors show up for rehearsal even when they are not in the scenes. They are dedicated, and very happy. We laugh so much, I allow them to interpret and play to their comfort level, often ending up to be awkwardly funny since casting at this age is awkward but works because they accept that it is a chance to BE IN A PLAY!! Ii polish and polish and am trying for a very professional production.

Puck is a energetic young girl, who has now decided that college is a probability, and taken school more seriously and has matured. Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius are role models to the rest of the cast, while the other members are growing in their parts. We rehearse Saturdays with no complaints, and 3 days a week after school.

My budget began at 37 cents. We are performing in the cafeteria. I am working on fund raising, and getting sound and lights. The best part is working with creative children who never knew they were creative and capable of so much. We laugh every day. I have the best time being able to watch them unfold and LOVE being in school.

They all ask "What are we doing next year?" I just want to get through this year, but the message they are giving me is invaluable. I could do this all year, it has helped their self-esteem, they have made a new group of friends, and yes the compassion and kindess towards everyone is what the arts are always about. The costumes will add more than they know, they already talk about this.

I wish all the Edutopia blogger's could be here. This is a visual art. And, it will be theatre in the round, and minimal props. Actor centered.

Finally, no I will not be paid. But, the pay off.....well, you know that is priceless. Children in the Performing Arts FINALLY!!!!!!!!
(this is the first time I will not be paid for directing a play and probably my most motivated group. ironic.)

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Carol Parker,

I'd say "You're very happy!" :-D
What a nice jubilation you have, and wonder-full for you to share this with us...It's contagious you know :-)

I won't ask too many questions that I could ask, as a fellow curious teacher, but just one for now:

You don't have be specific about the location, but I'm curious if your school is rural, suburban, or city/urban...? etc.

That might help me get some perspective on your Play-in-Progress...

No need to reply either...I'm just thinking outloud here at Edutopia.org
Arts/Drama Group...

Because it's a Full Moon Spring Equinox Magic Day...
as you have just confirmed... :-)

Cheers...

Allen Berg

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

WERE HUSTELED AT THE 10 AND 605 IN THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY. IT IS BUSY AND FILLED WITH CONSTANT MOTION. I WOULD LOVE TO MEET YOU SITTING AT THE EDGE OF THE FAIRY ENTRANCE TO THE FOREST. IF YOU ARRIVE LATE, WE WILL HAVE DELICIOUS FARE TO FEED YOU WHICH YOU WILL FIND PLEASING TO YOUR PALATE. PLEASE ADVISE HOW MANY SEATS TO SAVE YOU FOR YOUR ENJOYABLE EVENING OF MERRYMENT.

SINCERELY, CAROL THE DIRECTOR
626 962 1300

KellyAnn Bonnell's picture
KellyAnn Bonnell
Education and Outreach - Arts for Social Change Director

You are the reason we fight so hard to keep the arts alive. For the teacher who does it for a group of children who have never even seen a live play before. You change lives and don't ever doubt it.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

Your comments and wisdom mean more to me than you can ever know. I am sure you understand that Drama gets very little support. It is horrible that it is not FULLY funded and funded first. And all the ARTS do not come first. FIRST. WE NEED ART BEFORE ANYTHING BECAUSE ART IS EVERYTHING!

CHILDREN TELL US THAT BY SHOWING UP SMILING AND HAPPY AND WE DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. WHY?

I get very depressed when there are so many "educated" teachers, principals, professionals who think the arts are not important and I know that they never received the arts and their lives are not enriched. Too often I hear "I do not have time." However, the main reason I am able to do this is because I have a wonderful principal who supports the arts. She supports band, orchestra, my art appreciation class and this play. We are more than blessed to have a cultured woman to be our principal, with a great sense of humor who listens. A graduate of Yale, I may add.

Pulling this all off, gives me more energy. But, deep inside I worry that the art, music and drama depts in higher ed will close because of the ignorance of too many greedy people.

By the way, where are all the performing artists and their money? How can we solicit funds from artists to keep public school art, music and theatre alive? We could have musical instruments, costumes, to put the finishing touches on the show, bring in beautiful professional lighting, to teach another art, and enhance the show so that everyone knows the beauty of the art of theatre can begin in a Title One school. Not just Beverly Hills and New Canaan, Conn.

Every child deserves the BEST. Not every parent is even aware of the possibility of what their own child can obtain through the performing arts. I am shocked at the lack of donations to the performing arts, especially in Southern California where there are so many poor schools.

Thank you again for your great support. I so wish you, Mr. Lucas and everyone in Hollywood could be in the audience to see the creative energy of these children, who I believe could further our nation's progress toward becoming a society filled with more artistic integrity.

Bring your camera. We belong to the world!!

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