Why drama education is important for school students

There’s so much on offer for children these days, it can be hard to choose the activities that are going to be most useful and enjoyable for them. But ask a self-assured and confident speaker what activity they are most grateful they did as a student, and they’ll tell you theatre, drama or some type of performance.

Speech and Drama Teacher Isabel Dickson writes about why she’s grateful she did speech and drama when she was young, and why she loves teaching it today.

I was enrolled in speech and drama at the ripe age of six. I’d seen peers perform poetry at assembly and subsequently begged my parents to enrol me in classes where I could learn to do that too.

My drama education proved endlessly useful throughout school. English assignments often required an analysis of some form of text, from Shakespeare to Australian poetry. I delved into these assignments with enthusiasm as I’d been studying and performing these texts for years in speech and drama.

Speeches were where my training fully emerged. Knowing how to be articulate, connect to the text and engage my audience with vocal dynamics helped me achieve high grades.

I recall watching other students who were confident in the playground become small and quiet when it was their turn to speak. In those moments I was grateful to be a confident speaker.

Speech and drama classes are a great place for students to explore their creativity and build their self-confidence in a relaxed, friendly and fun environment.

Here are three reasons why you should consider speech and drama classes for your child.

1. See things from a new perspective

Speech and drama students form opinions and ideas around everyday concerns by being asked to think critically, imaginatively and creatively.

Through drama games and activities, students exercise their imaginations and develop confidence in expressing their own thoughts and ideas.

I’ve seen students at the beginning of the term look timid and unsure when asked to improvise and express their opinion.

A common improvisation exercise involves the players coming up with a solution to get out of a sticky situation. A confident speaker will give their peer an offer, and the timid speaker will look at me and ask “what should I say back?”

As they continue taking class they build confidence in their voice and are able to engage.

Students don’t always realise that in the various drama games and activities that make up a class, they are learning crucial collaboration and communication skills.

When you’re acting, you can become anyone. By becoming anyone, you develop empathy and learn to see things from a different perspective.

In the renowned book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he references Charles Swabb, one of the first American business people to be paid a salary of over a million dollars a year.

Swabb said he was paid this salary largely because of his ability to empathise and deal with people.

‘I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,’ said Shwab, ‘the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.”

Now I’m not saying earning an excessive salary is the goal, but being able to relate to other people and consider all points of view is a skill that will continue to benefit students throughout their lives.

Through speech and drama, students connect to their own thoughts and ideas, to the experiences of others, and to their audience.

It is an active and experiential learning environment that is also oodles of fun for all ages.

2. Learn to work collaboratively in a team

There is a strong emphasis on group work in drama and theatre. Students work in their age groups to develop their performance skills by creating characters, stories, scenes and plays.

They listen to each other’s ideas and have to accept different suggestions. If anyone says “no” to someone’s idea, it halts the process entirely.

Students learn to accept ideas other than their own, to compromise and build on different suggestions.

We were so proud to see our students excel in their group pieces at the 2017 Viva Voice Showcase held at the Actors Centre Australia.

Our Saturday drama class performed a play based on The Wizard of Oz. It was a hit! The reason their play was so engaging is because the cast members worked off each other. It was a collaboration of all their talents and skills.

The group made creative decisions together in terms of blocking and character. There was no single “star” as the entire cast were building each other up and feeding on each other’s energy, so the overall play was amazing!

By consistently engaging in group work in drama, student’s minds are opened to different ways of approaching a topic. They encourage each other to think outside the box.

As we know, teamwork is a vital part of school. Group assignments require fair and equal input from all parties in order to achieve a good grade.

Many drama students are placed in leadership roles as they regularly practise leadership and teamwork skills in class. A good leader listens to their cohort, acknowledges any concerns and comes up with creative solutions – all techniques learned in drama!

3. Develop life skills

The benefits of drama education are endless.

In every activity, whether it’s a warm up game or more intense scene-building exercise, students are developing their ability to verbally express their ideas and articulate their thoughts clearly.

By developing their speaking and performance skills in this way, students build their self-confidence and self-expression.

These are the skills that will be required in senior school presentations, oral tasks and job interviews. It is essential that students understand how to communicate effectively and authentically so that they come across with credibility and conviction.

In drama, students learn the skills of listening, negotiating and communicating – essential to any learning environment, and vital to their professional lives when they grow up.

Creative Director of Viva Voice, Amy Hume, works extensively with media presenters, journalists and spokespeople for large companies, and the most common thing the confident speakers say to her is, ‘I’m so glad I did drama at school!’

How do you expose your child to drama?

It’s vital you find the right fit for your child – creative education requires a strong rapport with the teacher and studio.

Research whether there are currently drama classes running at your child’s school. If not, talk to the staff or P&C about bringing in a drama teacher to facilitate weekly classes for students. Viva Voice has recently started offering in-school speech and drama classes: 45 or 60-minute classes delivered to every child, in every class, once a week, for a term. We welcome your enquiry about setting up classes at your school.

There are also after-school drama classes all around Sydney – just google your area and see what comes up.

At Viva Voice we offer a free trial class for first-time students.

Whether you want to introduce your child to drama, or you’re looking to expand their drama education, we welcome you to see if Viva Voice is the right fit for your child.

At Viva Voice, we’re proud to see our students utilising the skills gained throughout their training with us. Many of our students are leaders at their schools, and proudly exercise collaboration and empathy. Some perform at eisteddfods, confident in their performance skills. Others open up in class each week as they further their self-awareness and self-confidence.

Being a self-assured and confident speaker is powerful, and a strong drama education develops the foundation.

I’m forever grateful for my speech and drama training. It largely influenced my schooling achievements and contributed to my confidence in writing assignments, performing speeches in class and assembly, and expressing my ideas.