|Written for the publisher Collins' newsletter, Primary News, this article really accompanies the publication by Big Cat of my rhyming play for children to read and perform, CINDERELLA.
Drama in the Classroom
When I still wore short trousers, someone told me the reason I was good at reading was because I was an only child.
Apparently reading was a solitary activity and more likely to be taken up by someone who had no siblings to play with. The logic of this theory puzzled me then and still escapes me today.
At school, reading involved going around the class, always in the same order, each child reading out a paragraph. None of us took in what the others were reading – we were too busy counting down the paragraphs to find our own, and mentally preparing for the embarrassment of reading aloud.
Even the best readers didn’t really get involved in what we were reading, and the worst readers experienced panic and foreboding rather than the joys of literature.
Now, with the realisation that creativity in the classroom is key, many teachers are, to my delight, using plays to help develop reading skills.
Reading plays helps children communicate directly with each other, as characters.
They must speak to one another and learn to listen – reading is no longer a solitary activity.
Drama also develops understanding and tolerance of other people’s behaviour and beliefs. Research has shown that children who participate in drama don’t necessarily become smarter, but develop empathy, both for each other and for human beings in general.
It doesn’t necessarily involve putting on a production and the children learning dialogue, but it does enable reading to be collaborative and entertaining, and also provides a splendid way of involving even the most reluctant readers.
Children enjoy working together, helping each other and encouraging each other within a group play-reading class. Best of all, it’s FUN! And reading should be fun. Books should be perceived by children as bringers of joy rather than as instruments of torture. Plays are written to be read aloud and to be shared.
Reading them engenders enjoyment.
David Wood 2010
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