Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Overcoming Difficulty and Shyness

     Often educators are afraid, shy or unnerved by the prospect of adding dramatic activities to their ESL or EFL classes. Even those teachers who would be okay with using dramatic activities with children express concern when they must use the activities with adults. Why is this the situation? What can be done to change it?

     Judith Gray Royka presents some common issues and solutions in her paper Overcoming the Fear of Using Drama in English Language Teaching. Her primary suggestion for educators is to think of 'drama games' as 'communication games.' She urges instructors to remember that they aren't performing for their class, but facilitating activities. Furthermore, she notes that one does not have to be a "drama expert" or even spend much additional time researching drama activities, instructors merely have to consider what can be done to bring 'reality' and interaction into the classroom.

     David Schwarzer's article Best Practices for Teaching the "Whole" Adult ESL Learner provides support for Royka's suggestions, stating that "vocabulary in the second language (L2) seems to increase over time when learners engage with text in meaningful ways and are encouraged to actively negotiate its meaning with others" (26). He also states that interaction is vital, bringing the breakdowns between what learners want and listeners hear into the light.

     All of the above information can be condensed into one short key:

     Dramatic enactment doesn't have to be scary. The point is to bring 'reality' and real-life scenarios into the classroom so that students are able to view their communication strengths and weaknesses in a safe and friendly learning environment.

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