You have to stand in front of an audience of hundreds and give a work presentation. You have a pending wedding speech in front of family and friends. You would love to learn to salsa but just can’t bring yourself to sign up for that dance class. Meeting new people feels just a little bit too scary. When you were at school, you always knew the answer to the teacher’s questions yet felt too shy to put up your hand. Perhaps you still do! But you really hope your children don’t experience the same!
Speech and Drama is an effective way to establish firm foundations for developing successful life skills. As a discipline, Speech and Drama empowers children with strong communication skills, helping them to develop self-confidence, a creative imagination, empathy and tolerance, and mature interpersonal skills. Research indicates that regular and consistent involvement in a drama related activity (whether as part of a school curriculum or an enrichment programme) increases a student’s enthusiasm to study and helps to improve exam scores in other subjects.
Studies over the past 15 years on SATS scores in the States indicates that students who participate in arts related subjects, such as drama performance, are likely to outperform students with no arts related experience by 35% to 50% (in some cases more) in the verbal and maths component of their exams.
Participating in speech and drama lessons enables children to express themselves in a safe, pressure-free environment. The more they do so, the more they grow in confidence; encouraged to think creatively, to take risks, experiment with new found strategies for problem solving, and engage actively with both adults and peers.
Group activities encourage positive collaborations and active exploration. Simultaneously, children have opportunities to explore their individual preferences and talents. In an atmosphere that is supportive, creative, caring and fun children overcome any fear they may have of being in the public eye.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein
The theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was clearly so much more than an eccentric scientist sporting a wild hairstyle! He encompassed an understanding of human possibilities. He understood that igniting the imagination makes it possible for children to picture the world – and beyond. Einstein was aware that through our imaginations, we are able to visualise a realm of possibilities to any given situation.
As children engage in drama activities, allowing their imaginations to lead them in their thought processes and creative problem solving, they are inspired to imagine the impossible. And we know that the creative power of imagination plays a pivotal role in achieving success in any field. Just think Issac Newton, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), to name but a few.
The world we live in today is very different from the world in which we, as parents, were born. Different even from the world of five years ago. And if we reflect on what has taken place globally in just in 2020 alone, we know all too well how quickly recognisable social norms can disappear and daily lives be turned upside down.
This prompts us to consider how a one-size-fits-all approach to education must be reassessed. Instead, we must approach the education of our children holistically, recognising that they are unique human beings with individual personalities and characters that determine how they learn, their likes and dislikes and the manner in which they will approach a task or activity.
As a discipline, speech and drama enables a child to grow holistically. Well designed and expertly facilitated activities simultaneously hone the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of students. That isn’t to say that each quality will develop equally. Each child will have their own strengths. But it does mean that all developmental areas are taken into consideration, with opportunities to collaborate and feed one another.
- Vocal exercises strengthen the breath, voice and oral capabilities
- Speech exercises develop accurate pronunciation, articulation and expressive capabilities
- Strong and expressive speech builds the confidence to use language effectively, leading to listening, speaking, reading and writing accomplishment
- Strong literacy and communication skills build imagination and creativity
- Imagination and creativity lead to effective problem solving
- Effective problem solving leads to creative design, invention and advantageous solutions…
When all these factors, and more, fall into place, a child is more likely to grow up with a sense of purpose, confidence in their abilities, a desire to learn and explore, in addition to a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Empathy is one of the most meaningful 21st century skills that our children can embody as they face an increasingly globalised – and fractured – world.
Empathy is the ability to connect with those around us in a way that enables us to identify what they may be thinking and feeling. Drama activities often involve students taking on a role or engaging in role-play face to face with a classmate. As children learn to integrate other people’s perspectives with their own, they are able to form deeper connections with people, hone their leadership skills and collaborate with a greater sense of self-awareness. This can lead to the realisation of a shared vision that brings meaning and purpose to the lives of many people.
In Speech and Drama classes at Julia Gabriel Centre, we use a rich variety of literature as one way to help children gain a deeper understanding of different people and situations. An educator will extend a story into drama or role-play, allowing children to make their own choices about where the drama activity goes by posing open-ended questions, yet carefully guiding them towards making empathetic and tolerant decisions.
Every child has the capacity for empathy. They may not be born with it but they can learn it. Drama activities enable children to practise empathy and have the courage to display it in real and imagined scenarios.
Interpersonal skills include verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening, positive teamwork and conflict resolution. Participation in drama helps children develop these skills through the collaborative processes of discussion, brainstorming, making choices, negotiating and rehearsing. Drama games and improvisation activities allow children to express a range of emotions in a controlled environment. This becomes a valuable part of their journey towards nurturing effective interpersonal skills. Social interaction and risk-taking within the realm of a drama experience can also have a lasting impact on children and free their mind of prejudice and intolerance.
The Irish poet W.B Yeats wrote, ‘Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire’.
Participation in activities that allow children opportunities to imagine, explore, discover and create for themselves, empowers them to be lifelong learners and effective communicators, skills that in turn will have a positive impact on their environment and community. Speech and Drama is a powerful tool to achieving that end.
The benefits of Speech and Drama at a glance:
- Improves reading comprehension and listening skills
- Improves verbal and non verbal communication skills
- Improves enthusiasm to explore and study
- Improves exam scores in other subjects
- Builds awareness, empathy and gratitude
- Empowers students with strong 21st century skills of Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity
- Develops confidence
- Takes a holistic approach to learning
- Drama is fun!