Theater in Education - Breaking the Fourth Wall

A conducive learning environment enhances the engagement and understanding of the students. Can the creation of a conducive learning environment be affected by teaching strategies such as using dramatic skills?

As Gail Godwin once said, “Good teaching is one – fourth preparation and three – fourths pure theater”. Based on my experience, I divide the impact of theatre on classroom teaching into ten broad categories. Each category is an integral part of theatre and we can relate each one of them to teaching skills.

1. The script:

A powerful script is the backbone of a successful play. Like a strong script, a well-planned lesson can infuse life into a drab topic.

2. The actor:

A good teacher needs to be a good actor as well. The following features are the hallmark of a good actor (teacher).
(a) Native ability (talent): Though one can improve with time and experience, good teachers like good actors have inborn qualities that set them apart.
(b) Training: Talent alone cannot take one to greater heights unless it is strengthened and sharpened by regular training.
(c) Practice: Practice makes one perfect and in order to be good at what one is doing, regular practice is a must.

3. The audience:

A good play is the one that is well appreciated by the audience. I may boast of a great lesson plan and my superior teaching ability, but my efforts are fruitless if my students are not motivated, engrossed and appreciative of what is being offered to them.

4. Eye contact:

Close eye contact with your pupils gives you more insight into their frame of mind, their moods, their needs and above all gives them more confidence to interact with you.

5. Body language:

This is so important for portraying the character on stage. In a classroom scenario, a teacher’s chemistry with the students depends a lot on the former’s body language. This sends a positive signal to the pupils, who in turn find it easy to respond / communicate with the teacher.

6. Voice modulation:

It helps the teacher to break the monotony and keep the class engaged.

7. Being in your ‘character’ and living the ‘character’:

This is so important for any actor in a play. Being out of ‘character’ can ruin the entire performance. Inside the classroom, one needs to be constantly aware of the demands of the role. You are there as a teacher with a specific goal in mind.

8. Improvisation:

Improvisation always comes to your rescue when unexpected happens during the performance on the stage. As a teacher, one must always be prepared to encounter such mishaps in the classroom as well.

9. The utilisation of stage and stage movement:

The effective use of stage is an integral part of theatre. For effective teaching, it is important to use the classroom space well. It helps to move around the classroom while teaching. This not only keeps the students alert, but also gives the teacher a chance to see every student’s work.

10. Use of props:

While it is possible to stage a play without props, the latter add a lot of life and variety to drama. The same hold true in teaching. Audio – visual support, IT resources, models and other teaching aids add life and variety to the teaching methods.

Theater skills can be effectively used to enhance the effectiveness of classroom teaching. What all needs to be done and to what extent is more of a personal choice as no two teachers have identical teaching methods.

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