Drama and Whole Child Education
Drama is something that is a large part of junior high and high school curriculums. They study the classics: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. When we talk about drama and Early Childhood Education (ECE) within Building Kidz, though, it is not studying drama. It is all about participating in drama and the performing arts to enhance and accelerate academic learning and whole child development. The idea of integrating drama with ECE has been discussed and studied in great depth. Multiple articles delve deep into drama and education, but here we will discuss it simply. (Links to in depth articles are provided at the end this post).
Drama and literacy have been shown to go hand in hand. Before a children can become literate, each child needs to learn basic verbal communication skills. This is where drama can, and should, play a large role in young children’s lives. As children engage in acts of drama, in enacting scenes about the world around them, they begin to learn and understand the world at a different level. Allow children to sing, dance, and perform daily acts about the letter “E” and they will gain deeper understanding of its use in their speaking, reading, and writing. As we continue to apply this for more advanced topics, the outcome is the same. Margaret Meek, author of multiple educational books, has said that “drama strategies make public the secret things that expert readers know and do so that these usually invisible strategies will be made physical, external, and concrete.” Whether it is the role firemen play in our community, how to make friends, or the three forms of water, studies show that using drama to teach ideas increases and deepens understanding.
Drama and Emotional Well-Being
Drama can also be used to teach children about their emotions. What it means to be happy, sad, or angry-and how to handle these emotions. Provide them with scenes to act out about these emotions and they gain a more concrete knowledge of what emotions mean in a real-world context. What should I do if a friend is sad? Or if a friend does something that makes me angry? Giving children the chance to act these situations out with a teacher’s guidance gives them the opportunity to learn how to act as such experiences will inevitably come their way.
Another important aspect of drama is that it helps instill confidence in children. While studies have shown this fact, the best way I can describe its effectiveness is how it helped my oldest son build confidence during First Grade. Towards the end of his First Grade year, we were in the process of adopting him and his brothers. This was obviously a difficult time for him, and he tended to be shy. Then the school talent show came around, and he told us he wanted to do a dancing act with a friend. We helped them rehearse and the day of the talent show came faster than we expected.
He was nervous all day, but when he got up on stage we all saw a happier and more confident version of him. He danced his heart out, a beaming smile on his face the entire time. Everyone thought he did a great job, and they told him so. His confidence jumped up. Since that point, he is much more confident. He makes friends easier. And he understands that he can do big and difficult things.
It is experiences like this that we love seeing at Building Kidz. It is why we do what we do. Each and every child is provided the opportunity to learn and grow through drama, in small and big ways.
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