Learning through dramatics

Learning through dramatics

In recent years, dramatics has come to stay as a powerful instrument to guide and direct creative experiences of the school-going children.

The old practice with regard to play was that the class teacher used to initiate, select, teach, direct and evaluate. The result was a stilted self-conscious performance with little meaning for the child.

But in the contemporary school, the stress is on the process of play, not on the finished result.  Dramatic play is not another subject added to the curriculum; rather, it is another approach to the contemporary curriculum. Dramatic play is for every child, because it gives an opportunity to the school going children to develop and express their emotions. The value of creative dramatics is probably greater than that of any other creative activity.

Dramatic play is the most natural activity in which the children can feel and express their emotion through the various characters they play. Play furnishes an excellent learning situation, for it brings information into a most meaningful situation and relates it in a unified whole.

As we have observed, some pupils naturally play more imaginatively than others, whereas many other children are shy, timid, self-conscious or stolid and unimaginative, and therefore the school has a special responsibility in this direction. The retiring child must be given confidence so that he expresses his thoughts and feelings freely.

The value of play should be recognized and justified as a device for learning certain material in the school curriculum.

The material for play may be anything in the curriculum in which the pupils are interested to play. Stories have always been the main source of plays. It is true that children familiar with a story often want to experience it themselves in a play. In this free interpretation they live the characters’ lives and occasionally improvise incidents consistent with those in the story.

Children are always enthusiastic to learn about the people around them and also about the people far away and identify themselves (children) with them (people) through play.
Dramatic play serves as a basis for developing proper attitudes. Attitudes have been found to be best developed indirectly and through specific situations. When actual experiences are impossible, the experiences of dramatic play offer an excellent substitute.

Forms of dramatic play

The usual form is simply informal play, especially in the primary grades. In higher grades, it involves costumes, scenery and the dialogue written out. There are, however, variations of the usual form of the play.

*Pantomime: Pantomime is interpretation through bodily action only. It is highly useful for the children who are timid, as it relieves them of the necessity of speaking before the group until they have gained some confidence.

*Shadow acting: It is an another form of pantomime, in which the children’s shadows are thrown on a screen by a strong light.

* Marionettes and puppets: By the time children enter the fourth grade, they are likely to develop an interest in puppetry. By this time, the child is just pretending to be someone and can interpret his ideas through puppets and through bodily activity. The simplest form of puppets is the stick puppets. These are nothing but cut-out figures attached to the end of a long stick. They may be used to dramatize little stories, where each child manipulates one figure.

Lastly, considering its practical value, dramatic play should be made compulsory in all schools so that the students can express their emotions better and understand social skills in an effective manner.

 (The writer is an associate professor of Education at the Regional Institute of Education, NCERT, Mysore.)

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