According to the NCCA (1999) Revised Primary Drama Curriculum, ???The essence of drama is the making of story through enactment. The answer to the question ???what??™s the story??™ will always lead to the making of a plot (a series of actions and events) with a theme (a focus for reflection). Successful drama will reflect life in a realistic or metaphorical way.???
The value of this ???pretend??™ play is recognised by many. On my first teaching observation week in September I was sitting in with a junior infant class. There was an area of the classroom set up as a ???pretend corner??™. On that particular week the theme was ???being sick??™ or ???going to the doctor??™s surgery??™. There were sick teddies, little beds, play doctor??™s sets with thermometers and stethoscopes, nurse uniforms notepads with pens and a few small desks/tables. A few times during the week a different group got to play in the corner. The play was very interesting. They were using their own life experiences of being in the doctor??™s to act out the scene. Without any interaction from the teacher they came up with characters and a scenario whereby one of the teddies was feeling unwell and had to be brought to the doctor??™s. After much discussion, poking and prodding it was concluded that the teddy was very sick indeed and needed some medicine. I was very surprised by the language used and how they each respected each other??™s part in the play. On this day the class teacher did not interact with the children but I could see opportunities of how to expand on what was going on. What if the doctor became sick The teacher could put on a coat and play the role of the doctor. All of this would encourage the children to think on the spot developing both cognitive and language skills.
Winston, J. & Tandy, M. (2000) ???This is not to suggest that the stories that children make for themselves are not important and valuable, but we recognise that teachers are required to account for and manage children??™s learning with clear objectives and outcomes. Planning ahead can develop such clarity and help to ensure that children??™s play is both structured and purposeful.???
There are four areas which dramatic play enhances development ??“ social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language.
In getting the drama started, children have to negotiate who is to play what part, who wears what clothes and what props go where.
Cecchini, M (2008) argues that ???Children who participate in dramatic play experiences are better able to show empathy for others because they have ???tried out??™ being that someone for a while. They also develop the skills they need to co-operate with their peers, learn to control their impulses, and tend to be less aggressive than children who do not engage in this type of play.???
Dramatic play aids physical development in a number of ways. Dressing up aids gross motor skills while things like pretend writing a prescription or dialling numbers on a telephone develops fine motor skills. Also, the role itself that the child takes on will have physical characteristics.
Children develop their cognitive skills when participating in dramatic play. They recreate from past experiences which enhances abstract thinking. Tasks such as counting out a customer??™s change or dialling numbers on a telephone all help to develop a child??™s cognitive abilities.
In order to participate in any dramatic play, children must know or learn the language that is required to make the play realistic and understood by all involved.
Cecchini, M (2008) ???Personal vocabularies grow as they begin to use new words appropriately and the importance of reading and writing skills in everyday life becomes apparent by their use of literacy materials that fill the area.???
In order to get the most out of dramatic play a teacher should ensure that all of the above areas are being met in the play.
Booth, D. (1994) ???While teachers must care about self-expression, we must also be deeply concerned about development ??“ cognitive and affective ??“ in a social context, and we must not be averse to or afraid of setting up structures that assist children in working in the experiential medium of drama, helping them to gain control over it, and to find new insights and understanding.???
Drama can be integrated with great ease with every other subject on the Primary Curriculum (1999) while still retaining the integrity of the drama itself. For example, little phrases as Gaeilge could be introduced to ???improv??™ exercises. Drama integrates with Maths when playing ???shop??™. The children would have to count the items in the basket and work out how much money to charge a customer.
NCCA (1999) Revised Primary Drama Curriculum ???In this way drama can become an essential learning experience in any curriculum area, and at the same time the quality of that experience will be a factor in the success of the drama itself???.
The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education website has a list of principles which it bases its work upon one of which states that
???Play is an important medium through which the child interacts with, explores and makes sense of the world around her/his. These interactions with, for example, other children, adults, materials, events and ideas, are key to the childs well-being, development and learning. Play is a source of joy and fulfilment for the child. It provides an important context and opportunity to enhance and optimise quality early childhood experiences. As such, play will be a primary focus in quality early childhood settings.???
In March I will be teaching 1st class children for a three week duration. During this time I will plan and implement a drama class.
NCCA (1999) Revised Primary Drama Curriculum
Strand: Drama to explore feelings, knowledge and ideas, leading to understanding
Strand Unit: Exploring and making drama
The child will be enabled to:
??? Use the ability to play at make-believe to enter fully into participation in drama.
??? Use his/her emerging awareness of the differences in people in order to begin to develop an understanding of the relationship between role and character.
??? Experience how context is built and a drama reality created through the use of space and objects.
??? Develop the ability to help maintain the focus in the dramatic action.
I want to base the drama class on The Three Little Pigs as I will be using the story for an Irish class during the same week.
Something I could use from a drama class we had during the year is to use different coloured scarves laid on the floor representing the different houses. Each of the pigs could have a family allowing more characters into the scene. The pigs would employ a builder and maybe a gardener to help with the construction of their individual houses and different props could be used for building materials etc. I would explain to the children that I would be playing the part of the wolf blowing the houses down but would only be in character when wearing a wolf??™s mask.
In order to get the children thinking a little bit and to change the story line from what they are used to maybe the reason for all of the huffing and puffing would not be because the wolf wants to eat the pigs but rather because he has a terrible cold and he has no warm house to go to. I would have some doctor??™s props at hand and hopefully by the end of the dramatic play, the wolf and the pigs might even become friends.
Dramatic play is a very important learning tool in the infant classroom and indeed in all classrooms throughout primary school. It is key in developing social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills.
Murphy,P. & O??™Keefe,M (2006) ???It is a place where children explore attitudes, feelings and ideas associated with the world they live in.??™
I am looking forward to teaching drama in March. It will be a challenge working to develop my own skills as facilitator of dramatic play as well as those of the children.
NCCA (1999) ???Drama, Arts Education Teacher Guidelines.??™ Dublin: Irish Stationery Office. (Pages 2-13 inc,. pages 37 ??“ 47)
NCCA (1999) ???Drama, Arts Education.??™ Dublin: Government Stationery Office (Pages 5 ??“ 17)
Winston, J & Tandy, M (2001) (2nd Ed) ???Beginning Drama 4-11??™. London: David Fulton Publishers. (Chapter 3)
Cecchini, M. (2008) ???How Dramatic Play can Enhance Learning??™. www.earlychildhoodnews.com
The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (2002) ???Principles??™. www.siolta.ie
Booth, D. (1994) (First Edition) ???Story Drama; Reading, writing and roleplaying across the Curriculum??™ Ontario: Pembroke Publishers
Murphy,P. & O??™Keefe,M (2006) ???Discovering Drama: theory and Practice for Irish Primary Schools.??™ Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. (Chapter 2)