Why is drama good for children?
As Principal of a drama school, I'm asked this question a lot. And I could write a book on the many reasons why drama is so excellent - not just good ? for children. But for this blog post, I'll focus on just one benefit; and that's the improvement drama can make to a child's oral communication.
At school, there's an emphasis on children learning to read and write and rightly so, as these are fundamental skills. But where's the interest in how well a child is communicating and how clearly and confidently they are speaking? If you consider how much we communicate orally, interacting with friends, family, colleagues and strangers, then it seems odd that more emphasis isn't put on this in schools.
Good communication skills are an essential life skill, helping us make friends, get the most out of school, land the dream job, succeed in that dream job. Indeed, I am wracking my brains to think of a job that doesn't demand good communication skills.
And that's why drama is so good for young children: it teaches them not only how to speak clearly, loudly and with confidence, but many other communication skills as well. For example, at Perform we have developed games that focus on simple yet important lessons like looking someone in the eye when you talk to them and maintaining that eye contact. Clear diction is encouraged through tongue twisters and raps and voices are nurtured through our singing and vocal warm up exercises.
But it's not just about how you say something, it's about what you say too. Each week in our drama classes, children play a 'Detective Game' where they have to have an opinion on a subject, even if it's as simple as 'what's your favourite fruit and why?' It gets them thinking and talking in front of a group in a controlled and safe environment where they can practice and perfect analytical thinking without realising it.
Our classes also use role-play which enables children to act out situations that they might have never experienced before, but prepares them for when they might encounter something similar. I'm not saying that escaping the lion in the jungle is ever going to happen in real life (well I hope not!) but it's possible that arguing with a friend or being bullied might, and it's great to equip children with the communication skills to deal with these events.
But the benefit that I particularly value is that drama teaches empathy. When we do our Florence Nightingale workshops in schools we take the children back to the Crimean war and they get to feel how the soldiers might have felt in that situation. Personally, I believe that being empathetic with someone is incredibly valuable for developing our communications skills.
As you can see, there are many examples of how drama helps a child's communication skills. But I'd like to end with what a Perform dad once told me. He coaches top business executives on improving their presentation skills and he said that if every executive had attended Perform classes when they were young, he'd be out of a job as they wouldn't need any coaching!