Drama can be a valuable and enriching experience for children of all ages, and there are many reasons why kids should study drama and theatre arts.
One of the primary benefits of drama is that it helps kids to develop self-confidence and self-expression. One of my favorite memories is of a student, learning to memorize a monologue in the sixth grade. Every student was expected to present. They were given full credit, simply for presenting – memorized or not. Most students did have the text memorized. Some needed a prompt or two. One even had to read from the script directly. The student in my memory, got up on stage – self-insistent that they were going to present memorized. But, when they faced the class, they had a fight or flight response and left the stage without saying a word. Excused from class to take a moment, they sat in the hall, collecting themselves. A few more students presented. Then they returned. They got up on the stage, presented their monologue nearly flawlessly. The class cheered for them – more loudly than any other student. They knew that the performance was not about the memorization. They had just witnessed a foundational moment in that student’s life. By performing in front of an audience, kids can learn to overcome their fears and to express themselves creatively and confidently. This can be especially important for shy or introverted children who may struggle to speak up or express themselves in other settings. Drama can also provide a safe and supportive space for kids to explore different emotions and ideas, and to try out different roles and identities.
In addition to developing self-confidence and self-expression, drama can also help kids to develop important social skills. In a drama class or production, kids must work together and collaborate to create a cohesive performance. This can help them to develop communication skills, as well as skills related to cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. In my current work, I often informally coach the debate team. They share the theatre space with me and I often am asked for my observations and feedback. With the basic skills of enunciation, effective physical presence, integrating subtext, the students become more persuasive and confident speakers. A side benefit of debate (as well as building characters) is that drama can also promote empathy and understanding, as kids learn to see things from different perspectives and to consider the feelings and motivations of others.
Another benefit of drama is that it enhances creativity and imagination. I recently completed a unit on devised theatre. Through drama activities and exercises, kids can learn to think outside the box and to come up with creative solutions to problems. My students were given a challenge to create a story based only on a picture, then only on a song, then on the integration of both. This was the culmination of several units of underpinning. They completed a unit on improvisation, using text, and performing monologues. This final exercise (in addition to all the others) allowed them to express their own ideas based on a single creative starting point.
Finally, drama can be a lot of fun for kids! Many teachers get this right and many teachers forget it. Whether they’re rehearsing a play or just engaging in drama games and activities, kids can have a lot of fun while they’re learning and growing. Drama can be a great way to break up the monotony of more traditional forms of learning, and can provide a welcome break from screens and other forms of digital media. This year, I started with an arts integration PLC that challenged teachers to integrate improvisational work within their “traditional” classrooms so that they can have a space of creativity within the strict context of content heavy learning.
Overall, the benefits of drama for kids are numerous and wide-ranging. From developing self-confidence and social skills to enhancing creativity and improving communication skills, drama can be a valuable and enriching experience for kids of all ages. Whether they’re interested in acting, directing, or just want to have fun and express themselves creatively, drama can be a great option for kids.