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Drama and Literacy in the Primary Grades (Part of Making Connections: Using the Arts to Teach Literacy)

Judy Kwasnica

As a primary teacher and former literacy  teacher on special assignment, I know the importance of making connections in reading – text to text, text to self and text to world. We need to find ways to engage learners, using multiple intelligences. It is essential that we provide opportunities for children to talk about what they are learning. Drama is one such vehicle.

Drama is … Expression

Drama allows students to express and understand themselves and others. It enables students to learn about the lives of people in  different times, places, and cultures. Practical artistic skills are developed along with critical thinking skills. Communication skills such as listening, speaking, following directions, retelling, recounting, presenting, and vocabulary building are used. Students experiment with and develop voice flexibility, articulation, projection, and expression.

 Drama is … Curriculum

Curriculum outcomes in the Language Document (Oral & Visual Communication) outline many objectives that can readily be interwoven with other curriculum disciplines. Students listen and speak in order to understand and explore ideas and concepts. They can identify and solve problems, organize their experience and knowledge, and express and clarify their thoughts and feelings. Listening and speaking skills are essential for cooperative learning activities and for social interaction. A safe environment wherein students feel free to express themselves in new ways needs to be secured.

Drama is … Active

Role playing is a key component of the drama and dance curriculum. Curriculum outcomes in the Arts Document (Drama and  Dance, pages 46-52) outline many objectives that enable students to “live through” the experiences of others. They learn to understand a variety of  points of view and motives, and to empathize with others. Students in Kindergarten and Grades 1 and 2 will begin to use stories, plays, and poems to explore real and imaginary characters. Students will also experiment and explore the use of ges- tures and facial expressions to communicate in nonverbal ways. In Grade 2, students begin to write in-role to develop  their ability to under- stand others. In Grade 3, they begin to use tech- nology as another means of  expressing mood. Chants  and  rhymes  can  be  created  and  per- formed with actions, music, and sound effects.

Drama is … Inclusive

Drama allows students to use the seven intelligences: verbal linguistic (writing), bodily kinaesthetic (acting), visual spatial  (scenery),  musical rhythmical (raps), logical mathematical (cause & effect), interpersonal (facilitate), and intrapersonal (imagine oneself in a situation). Drama accommodates  the  various  learning   styles  of students and allows them to develop, refine, and weave new ways of learning into their everyday lives.

Drama is … Social

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