The fun way to learn

The fun way to learn

The Fun Way to Learn. Learning through drama is education without fear and force says education scientist Arundhuti Banerjee. She experiments with drama-academics fusion in classroom teaching that brings out latent talents in her students

Learning through drama is education without fear and force says education scientist Arundhuti Banerjee. She experiments with drama-academics fusion in classroom teaching that brings out latent talents in her students

Dialectical cultures have always used dance, drama and story-telling to make a point and most importantly without distorting it. This is the reason why fables, Jataka Tales and Amar Chitra Kathas are popular even now. Exponents in field of education have been experimenting with teaching through drama with successful outcomes. “The advantage is that creative kids pick up the nuances of dramatics and retain information more than in the case of normal/lateral teaching,” shares Arundhuti Banerjee.

Why this immense faith in ‘learning through drama’?

I was earning well with my MBA qualification and capabilities but could never address the void in me which yearned for a creative ‘filling’. As I was looking for a way out from the repetitive and monotonous work, I learnt about Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning – I was totally bowled over with what I saw there. It was a classroom of children aged 7-9 years buzzing with noise and confusion. Dazed, I slowly settled down in a corner of the room making an effort to listen to their (students) conversation and I realised that they were trying to create something. I looked around in the classroom; there was nothing with which a model could be made, no thermocol, cardboard, glue, scissors etc and they wanted to create a talking washing machine that would also read news. It came across as an excellent idea. But how will they make it was the question? Children came together held hands, climbed on one another, created different postures, head down-legs up and finally created a human washing machine and now the class was silent. They showed the working of the washing machine by rotating their hands for the lever, sticking out their tongues for the signal of completion of the washing and blinking eyes for the lights of the machine!

The talking washing machine inspired me to delve deep into mechanics of drama, which can clearly bring out the creative side. There were no right or wrong answers and much opportunity for imaginative thinking. I see children speak with confidence and joy. I realised that this kind of activity helps the students to learn and work collaboratively. It helps even the shy ones to shed their reluctance and inhibitions. I read about its references in Viola Spolin’s book ‘Theatre Games’. This is experiential learning which shall stay with them for a lifetime. This is education without fear and force.

What was the learning process like?

This was one of the best phases of my life. I had undergone extensive training while I was at Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning in New Delhi. Their unique philosophy, ‘EduDrama’ promotes learning within a positive and enjoyable environment, inspired by educators who are passionate about children, language and the arts. The first and foremost thing that I learned was that to be a good teacher one has to be a child first. It aimed to teach us through our own life experiences. I became more confident. I learnt to work collaboratively in a group and amalgamate the varied ideas given by all the participants.

You believe it is an 'emerging and dynamic field'!

I see a very evident change in the way schools, teachers, parents and educators think about how learning should be imparted to children. Emphasis is veering towards the different forms of arts. More and more schools are incorporating drama in the classrooms. Teachers are encouraged to act, play and perform with the children and for the children. I have taken workshops of speech and creative drama in many schools in Delhi and Gurgaon, societies, events, communities and fests. There are now popular courses in Education Theatre, Drama Therapy and Applied Theatre in renowned universities all over the world. These courses are theoretical and practical and give hands on experiences to the students and exposure to different forms of drama like Pantomimes, Mimes, Image Theatre. This gives an opportunity to students to learn and inturn become well-equipped teachers.

What does creative drama include?

Creative Drama is an integrative process that aims to develop imaginations and creative expression in children. With the help of image theatre, movement, pantomime, improvisation, story dramatisation, mimes, public speaking, brainstorming and group discussion, children develop a wide range of skill sets like organisational and problem solving skills, social and cognitive skills, language and communication, awareness, self-concept enhancement and an understanding of theatre. The aim of creative drama is not to prepare children for acting but to facilitate self-driven knowledge through various drama techniques.

How does it contribute to personality development?

Children are encouraged to develop skill-sets to do Improvisational Theatre. Improvisations are a very integral part of creative drama. It requires confidence and a certain level of practice to perform spontaneously and without any practice with whatever is available. It basically prepares children for life. It teaches to meet sudden hurdles, problem situations in a positive manner by thinking with a calm but proactive mind to find resolution. Improvisational theatre is like Live Theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. No costumes, make-up, pre-planned script and dialogues are given to children.

For example, Children can be asked to build a scene of a busy railway station with hawkers, station master, Ticket checker, children, families, and sweeper. Children will have to act with minimal preparation. A box of props can be given; children may take their desired set of props as suited to their character.

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