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Advice on Teaching DramaI am teaching Drama Analysis. My students seem so bored. How...

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laljade2 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 10, 2009 at 12:23 AM via web

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Advice on Teaching Drama

I am teaching Drama Analysis. My students seem so bored. How can I make my lessons more interesting and help them to involve in discussions? Thanks!

I have 1 year experience in teaching. I am teaching to university students. They are English Language Teaching students. English is not their mother language. Later, we will soon analyze Oedipus Rex, then Hamlet, and Death of a Salesman.

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madhusudan32 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 10, 2009 at 2:13 AM (Answer #2)

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The teacher has to be an actor. As a matter of fact, all teachers are actors in the class-room. But the tragedy of a teacher is that generally he or she ends up merely as a one dimensional actor. While teaching drama in the class-room , the teacher should be multi-dimensional. It may sound a bit difficult for a teacher at the initial stage. But if you involve your students in the class-room to play different roles in a drama and you also try to switch to a different role to encourage your students, the whole exercise of teaching drama will become not only convenient for you to drive home to your students certain intricasies in the roles but also to explain certain passages of the drama thereby.Also watch how your students react to a given situation.In the process of the whole exercise you can also teach them the correct pronounciation ,intonation and the art of delivery of dialogue since  for your students English is not their mother-tongue.

I hope this will give you some insight into teaching drama-  an art form which is primarily meant for stage performance.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 10, 2009 at 4:39 AM (Answer #3)

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The above answer is excellent, but not every teacher is, or can be, a multi-dimensional actor just yet.  So, you must at least be a director.  Remember, drama is a visual, performance art, not a closet one--it is meant to be seen and heard, not just read.  By directing, you also begin to differentiate instruction (appeal to multiple learners, intelligences).

If I’m teaching Macbeth, I first assign parts two deep: two Macbeths, two Lady Macbeths, and six Witches. I hand out monologues, and we audition. This gives purpose to the reading of the poetry. Once parts are assigned, we read aloud Act I as a class.

The next day, we begin moving around the classroom “stage” or go to the auditorium if it’s available. By this time, those who haven’t been assigned roles become directors by commenting on the bad acting. So I assign them to block the act. They draw the stage and sketch out the entrances, crosses, and exits of the actors. We rehearse the act again until the lines and the movements match. By this time, the students want to know how Shakespeare would have done it, and so we listen to classically trained actors reading Act I on CD and then watch a film adaptation. As needed, I drop in mini-lessons on the Globe, his Elizabethan audience, and the nature of tragedy.

Once students have a firm grasp on Act I, we follow a similar sequence for the other four acts. After having been reassigned parts, students read each act the night before rehearsals. We rehearse selected scenes using blocking directors, and then we analyze the language of a key monologue or soliloquy in class discussion or journaling. Once students have mastered a scene, we go to an adaptation. For Macbeth, I might show the Polanski murder scene on film and then listen to the BBC murder scene on CD and have students compare these two adaptations with the ones that we rehearsed and blocked.

Near the end of the unit, students memorize and deliver Macbeth’s “Tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy. To culminate, we read John Updike’s short story “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and So Forth.” Students are given a synthesis writing task of comparing the story to the play in terms of character or theme. And if we’re lucky, we will go see Macbeth staged at a local theater.

Oedipus, Hamlet, and Death of a Salesman are all classics.  You have to find a way to make connections from text-to-text, text-to-student, and text-to-community.  Look at the incredible resources (teaching units, lesson plans, Q/A) on this site for specific direction.  There's so much good information from so many talented people, it's almost impossible not to make those connections.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM (Answer #4)

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I like the previous two posts in their assertions.  Indeed, the teacher should be able to assume both actor and director, or at least one of those functions effectively.  I believe that one way to make ancient dramas become more passionately embraced by modern students, would be, as previous post mentioned, show other interpretations of it.  Perhaps, this could be a compare and contrast between other versions of the drama and what should be depicted and what should be left out.  Another way of approaching this would be to find the same type of themes in modern films or modern dramas.  Can we find a modern application of Shakespeare's Macbeth?  Are there themes of it that have been demonstrated in another setting, which might illuminate how these ideas can be acted out?  I think a part of being an effective drama teacher involves being able to hunt and survey through modern drama in film, theatre, and television, as we all other visual media in order to extract modern applications of classical themes and ideas.

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 10, 2009 at 5:45 AM (Answer #5)

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We all agree that a dramatic text is not meant for closet reading. It has to be approached as a text in performance. If the teacher is gifted with multi-dimensional acting skill or, at least, with some directorial acumen, it is going to help him out immensely in the class-room situation.

However, if the class is not homogeneous, and if the students are  not sufficiently conversant with the shades/nuances of the language of the text being taught, even the performative skill on the part of the teacher may not be of adequate help, especially if and when the students are more examinees than learners. This is from my own experience of teaching drama in India at both under-graduate & post-graduate levels for more than 25 years.

In order to make teaching more captivating, one can try with some audio-visuals. A film-version of a Sophocles or a Shakespeare or an Arthur Miller play or, for that matter, any such dramatic performance encapsulated on celluloid might be very effective prior to reading and commenting upon the play-texts.

Involving the students in class-room performances of select portions of the play would also be a good exprimental venture. A teacher's job is to motivate the students to learn, rather than to teach them. I may be wrong but that's what I believe the problematic is.

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laljade2 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 14, 2009 at 11:23 PM (Answer #6)

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Thanks to everyone who has replied my post.  It is the first time I am giving a drama course. Reading your answers gives me new ideas.

The very first classes were based on giving lectures about the historical development of drama. I gave lectures using Power Point presentations which seemed not a totally proper way or something was missing. I have recently told them to read Oedipus Rex. They find it difficult to understand the language. I drew a time, place and event line on the board to show the important points of the play. My purpose wasn't to give many details, but to make them wonder what happens at some points by writing some key words. I feel that they have relieved and they think that this method will be helpful somehow to understand what's happening in the play in an easier way.

I try to use the tone of my voice, and my body language, but I have to work on it, maybe watch some stage performances of the plays on DVD (because it is not possible to see it live here). I am thinking to screen Hamlet and/or Death of a Salesman as one of you has adviced. I do prefer theatre performances than films. Can any of you advice me DVDs of the plays that I can buy online?

I have forgotten to say that last of all, we plan to analyze Woody Allen's comic short play "God".

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docmelillo | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2009 at 5:17 PM (Answer #7)

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Generally, kids LOVE to read plays. Ironically, some of the least fluent readers are the ones fighting to read parts in class. It is important to immediately set a tone of respect, so that these readers are not razzed by other students. They will look to your reaction. Before a scene explain what is going to happen. Then when the students read it they will recognize it. (Even Shakespeare) After the scene, explain what has happened and then show a video of the scene from a good performance. Follow this with a quiz on the entire act when you've finished it. If it is an honors class you can give a passage analysis. If not, let students draw a plot map creating symbols for each character, in addition to a couple higher order but reasonable questions. If students succeed on a quiz, suddenly they like the play. This process takes time, but it is worth the effort because then the fun begins. When you are finished with the play, divide students into groups and assign each an act or scene from the play and let them act it out, either verbatim, or better yet, as a parody with allusions to contemporary issues, movies, or sitcoms.  The results is entertaining and the students have truly "synthesized" the play. If you can videotape the results to share with other classes, the students truly enjoy the notoriety and it is a project that becomes a legend and a lasting memory.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted October 22, 2010 at 7:27 AM (Answer #8)

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If you've ever watched the show Whose Line is it Anyway, you might be familiar with this. One thing my students love to do is read a scene and then represent characters in the scene, and all they can do is express the characters through questions. This is fun, challenging, and it shows the teacher if the students are really getting the ideas or not. You could also do a take on "The Three Headed Opera Star." Have students get together in threes and summarize the scene saying one word at a time.  

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM (Answer #9)

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It's a drama class!  Get them up and moving around.  Have them act out scenes and analyze them.  Have them take a scene and perform it with different emotional subtexts.  Improvisation is also a useful tool to make class more exciting and teach drama skills.

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