Authored by: Jenny Abunassar

COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!:
Facilitating Comfort in Public Speaking Through the Use of Creative Drama in the English Classroom



Think back to your days as a secondary school student....


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Did you look as uncomfortable as this guy at the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd? How can we help our students become more confident than we were? How can we help our students become confident communicators like....


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..."President" Lisa Simpson? Perhaps a good place to start might be in our English classrooms, where we can utilize "creative drama" as a means to promote confidence in students' oral communication skills.

Given that public speaking may be necessary on a daily basis for students post-secondary, it would be advantageous for students to gain confidence in their public speaking abilities in their English classes.

Curious to know more about how creative drama works? I know I was, so I did the legwork for you!

I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS...drama_faces.jpg


Creative drama can take many forms. Denby states that students can dramatize material through pantomime, or play-acting, or they can complete a dramatic reading of a text (616). Creative drama can be the result of acting out a script, story, reading, novel, play or it may be the result of complete improvisation.

Teachers can decide to provide their students with specific texts (if they would prefer to provide texts rather than encourage improvisation), or they can allow their students to choose texts which they themselves enjoy. Moreover, students may be given the freedom to present their text in some form to the class by themselves, or in groups (2 or more classmates).

According to a report of empirical research by Denby, a primary impetus of creative drama in the English classroom is to help students gain self confidence by developing a sense of self-realization (616). Students, through creative drama, involve themselves in thinking, feeling, as well as experiencing. The students are granted the opportunity to use their emotions to help them to appreciate the wonders of the world, and to acquire, as well as to retain. knowledge about the world in which they live.


I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA


Research on creative drama in the classroom is currently limited given that it is difficult to understand “the values of creative dramatics” as they “are elusive, difficult to define, and to measure. How does one measure growth in self-confidence, independence, social understanding, and emotional health?” (Stewig 179)

Some writers, as pointed out by Stewig believe that the usage of creative drama in the classroom may help students gain:
  1. Language (including communication skills) precisionquestion_mark.jpg
  2. An increase in language vividness
  3. Exposure to various terms and their meanings
  4. The rhythmic aspect of language
  5. The various functions words serve

Drama does encourage vocabulary development in students as they are often confronted with new words unfamiliar to them (Stewig 180). Students also seem to experience growth in paralanguage (pitch, stress, and juncture), which linguists claim drastically impact a message an individual hopes to communicate in conversation:

“If we can teach children how to manipulate pitch, stress, and juncture consciously, we shall be teaching them to use one of the most expressive devices of a marvelously flexible language as they increase their
ability to communicate.”(Stewig 184)

Furthermore, a series of meta analyses conducted by Podlozny support the contention that students’ oral language skills benefit from creative drama in the classroom (259). The improvement of oral language skills as a result of creative drama “makes sense” given the various skills students need for drama (259). This research shows that oral language skills in students will benefit from using drama in the language arts classroom, which in turn means that students will gain confidence as a result of their acquired competencies in oral communication. The more self confidence a student has the more likely that they will become less anxious at the prospect of speaking in front of their peers.

Lastly, Vilsoni Hereniko (71) explicitly states the various general benefits to using creative drama in the classroom:
  • Creative drama can provide students with opportunities to practice and improve upon oral skills (fluency, pronunciation, and intonation).
  • Creative drama can promote confidence in students' communication abilities given that "practice makes perfect".
  • Creative drama can help motivate students when subject matter seems uninteresting or difficult.
  • Creative drama can provide students with a break from lecture style and typical writing or listening tasks
  • Creative drama can provide students with opportunities to think and reflect critically on their own and/or with their peers cooperatively.
  • Creative drama may provide students with opportunities to put themselves in various situations (being open to various perspectives).


I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA


Some practical suggestions for teachers who would like to incorporate creative drama to help students develop confidence in their communication skills include:

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Role playing
An example of which may be to have students work in pairs where one individual plays the interviewer, and the other, the interviewee (Hereniko 72). This activity could serve as a simulation exercise for a job interview, which could help lessen anxiety when students enter the workforce.


Improvisation
Students may be given a theme like “Never trust your friend”, after which they must work in pairs or in groups to create the context and to improvise within it (Hereniko 72). Improvisation exercises may help students gain familiarity and in turn, confidence in their ability to go-with-the-flow when situations in their daily lives escalate beyond their expectations. This method of creative drama may be particularly helpful in oral fluency training, and developing a sense of sensitivity to others. Improvisation is a common suggestion to both Veidemanis (550) and Hereniko (72).


Dramatic Readings:
There is a great deal of flexibility with this type of creative drama and is suggested by both Veidemanis (550) and Hereniko (73). The students may be required to choose a text and read aloud enthusiastically or act out a passage from a text. If the main objective of the exercise is to increase understanding of a text and gain insight into various aspects of a text, then the teacher may want their students to remain faithful to the text and the emotions the author seems to want to elicit in the audience. If the main objective of the exercise is to build students’ oral communication skills, however, the possibilities for dramatic readings are endless!

Students may choose to read a text with a certain emotion in mind, for instance, like sadness, guilt, or excitement. Students may be asked to provide a dramatic reading of a scene from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, or provide a combination of a dramatic reading and a paraphrased version of the scene. Alternatively, a student may want to read a dramatic monologue from a favourite book like “The Lord of the Rings”. A student may want to read or perform Gollum’s monologue like the following YouTube clip demonstrates:







(For more YouTube clips of dramatic performances/readings please see section IV.)


A Class Play:
A teacher may choose to assign an entire play or multiple plays depending on the number of students in the class, and ask the students to perform the play at the end of a unit or term (Hereniko 73). This assignment could help to facilitate a sense of community within the classroom by providing opportunities for co-operative learning. This assignment may help students built self-confidence as a result of increasing their oral communication skills but could be the most difficult to implement in the classroom.


In sum, the use of creative drama in English classes can be particularly beneficial to student learning, specifically students' oral communication skills and confidence in their abilities. Oral communication skills are useful skills to improve upon given that they are necessary for success in a wide array of situations, including (but not limited to): further study in academics, completing successful job interviews, careers in law, education, as well as business.

I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS


With so many Internet websites and texts available to teachers, possible texts that students can employ for activities with creative drama are virtually limitless. Some texts may be: (1) canonical texts, (2) poems, (3) music lyrics, or (4) excerpts from popular novels.

(1) Teachers may want students to present dramatic readings of canonical texts like William Shakespeare's "Hamlet", "Macbeth", or "Romeo and Juliet". The following excerpts may serve as useful texts for teaching secondary students:

  • "HAMLET"
O that this too too solid flesh would melt (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 1 Scene2)external image shakespeare.jpg
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2)
To be, or not to be (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1)

  • "MACBETH"
The raven himself is hoarse (Spoken by Lady Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 5)
If it were done when 'tis done (Spoken by Macbeth, Act 1 Scene7)
Is this a dagger which I see before me (Spoken by Macbeth, Act 2 Scene 1)

  • "ROMEO & JULIET"
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright (Spoken by Romeo, Act 1 Scene 1)
What light through yonder window breaks? (Spoken by Romeo, Act 2 Scene 2)
The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse (Spoken by Juliet, Act 2 Scene 5)

  • Students may also benefit from using creative drama to understand Shakespearean sonnets. The following clip presents a dramatic reading of two sonnets:







(2) Other potential texts that may be used for creative drama in an English class could include poetry :


(3) Popular music lyrics may serve as texts that students can present to the class in a creative, dramatic way, much like the following YouTube clips:

  • A dramatic reading of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" by Christopher Walken:











  • A dramatic reading of Eminem's "Lose Yourself":












  • A dramatic reading may be completed by students in groups, like the following dramatic reading of Lady Gaga's and Beyonce's "Telephone":









(4) Students may choose to perform a dramatic reading of a passage from a popular novel, like Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight". The following YouTube clip provides an example:






Creative drama in the classroom will likely yield the most beneficial results for students if the students have a personal stake in the text they will be presenting to the class. The greater the interest a student demonstrates, the greater the likelihood that they will prepare themselves properly before presenting their work to their classmates. The more motivated the students are to present something that they feel is their own, the more confident they will be, despite their possible fear of public speaking (glossophobia).

I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!"


The following is an example of a basic lesson plan which I have constructed from a backwards design
perspective:external image 02_GirlPublicSpeaking.jpg

Step 1: Desired Results

-I want my ENG4U students to become more comfortable with speaking in front of an audience through the use of creative drama.

-My focus for my students in this lesson is on the Oral Communication strand of ENG4U with particular attention to the overall expectation “Reflecting on Skills and Strategies”, and specific expectations: metacognition and interconnected skills. In order for students to become more confident in front of an audience they may benefit from examining their strengths as listeners and as speakers,
where they may need improvement, and effective strategies
for oral communication.

-The “Hook”: Since these students are most likely planning to attend a post-secondary institution in the upcoming year I would highlight the importance of oral communication/presentation skills given the frequency of oral presentations and interviews that may await them in the upcoming years.

Step 2: Acceptable Evidence

-As a first attempt at gaining confidence in oral communication skills, I will ask questions orally after observing the students' performances. Some questions may include: How did you feel before, during, and after your performance? What do you think you did well in your performance? Is there anything you would do differently if you had to do this performance again?

-The student’s peers will be permitted to give helpful suggestions for improvement and words of encouragement based on their observations as well.

Step 3: Learning Experiences/Instruction:external image Twilight2%285%29.jpg

-After providing the “Hook” for the lesson I inform the students that they will be asked to perform a short dramatic reading of a text or a role play (no more than 2 students in a group) at the front of the class. Students can be as creative with their reading as they would like.

-Students will be provided photocopies of various texts to choose from where texts may be: song lyrics, samples of poetry, a monologue, or a brief passage from a novel.

-Some of the texts I would include would include passages from the following: Carrol’s “Jabberwocky”, Hamlet's “To Be or Not To Be”, Poe’s “The Raven”, Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or “Telephone”, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Meyer’s “Twilight”, and Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.

-Some examples of a role play may include passages from: http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/roleplaying/whatis.html

-Students will only be given 15 minutes preparation time.


This is only one example of a possible lesson plan involving creative drama. Can you think of others?



I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES






VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES





I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES

VII. REFERENCES


Denby, Robert V. "NCTE/ERIC Report: Oral/Dramatics Approach to Teaching English." The English Journal 58 (1969) : 614-621.
Hereniko, Vilsoni. "Drama Methods in Teaching English to Fifth and Sixth Forms”. 8 October 2010. <http://directions.usp.ac.fj/collect/direct/index/assoc/D769961.dir/doc.pdf>.

Podlozny, Ann. “Strengthening Verbal Skills Through the Use of Classroom Drama: A Clear Link.” Journal ofAesthetic Education 34 (2000) : 239-275.
Stewig, John Warren. “Creative Drama and Language Growth.” The Elementary School Journal 72 (1972) : 176-188. Veidemanis, Gladys. “Drama in the English Classroom.” The English Journal 51 (1962) : 544-551.

THANKS FOR VIEWING MY PAGE! I. CREATIVE DRAMA IS... | II. THEORETICAL/EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON CREATIVE DRAMA | III. PRACTICAL USE OF CREATIVE DRAMA | IV. USEFUL TEXTS FOR CREATIVE DRAMA IN ENGLISH CLASSROOMS | V. MY LESSON PLAN EXAMPLE: "COMFORT? CREATE! COMMUNICATE!" | | VI. SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES | | VII. REFERENCES