Alison Chaplin is a drama expert for Innovate My School.
Alison Chaplin is a freelance drama teacher and the Manager of Arts On The Move, a company providing drama support, information and resources for schools, youth theatres and drama practitioners around the world.
Many people think that drama is just about improvisation, or performing, but it is actually a powerful teaching tool that can inspire learning across the curriculum. Drama and literacy have always been cosy bedfellows – theatre and plays are the performance arm of drama and are often a natural progression to its processes. Many drama lessons use literary texts – poems, letters, quotations – as a stimulus and writing in role is a recognised and valuable aspect of drama work. But the value of drama as a teaching tool expands across the curriculum and can help children to explore and understand a wide range of themes, issues and subjects.
Most schools don’t have a designated drama studio but some have recently begun to convert old classrooms, or mobile classrooms, into drama spaces. These are my top tips for creating a drama studio:
- The whole room should be painted black. Including the ceiling! This is so that (a) any lighting can be used effectively; (b) there are no distractions; (c) it's practical and (d) it provides a blank canvas as a backdrop for any work.
- Install blackout curtains or blinds. This is to ensure that no one is distracted by pupils seeing in (or out). It also provides a bit of a sound barrier and, again, allows for a blank backdrop.
At the core of all drama is the concept of shared experience: of sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and information. Drama also, by its very nature, encourages participants to explore personal and social issues and builds self-esteem. But drama is at its most effective when used in the primary classroom to support and enhance thinking and learning.
For example, when reading and discussing the traditional story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, drama could be used to explore behaviour by placing certain characters from the story on the ‘hotseat’ – this can involve either the teacher or pupils working in role.