Theatre or drama provides a space not just for performance before an audience, but also for honing communication skills. It allows children to practise, observe and communicate effectively. Here are the highlights of how the world of theatre can help your child develop good language skills.
Unlike when he is reading books or other material, when your child comes across a new word in the script of a play, he can easily grasp the meaning of the word by associating it with the situation that is being enacted. This will increase the number of words in his register. Also, these new words, phrases and expressions will be more meaningful to him as he and his fellow-actors experience these within the scene. This relating of words to contextual meanings will go a long way in helping develop his vocabulary.
Theatre combines the real world with the make-believe. Theorists say that while playing a role, your little genius is pretending to be someone else; in other words, he is ‘wearing a mask’. Behind the mask, she is self-confident, because any mistake she makes would be those of the character and not hers! Not only that, performing before an audience who applaud the actions and utterances of the players, boosts her confidence. Thus, she will develop her self-confidence, which is a boon for communication and public speaking.
Effective communication cannot take place in the absence of good listening skills. When your child doesn’t listen carefully, he may misunderstand what he hears or make incorrect assumptions. Theatre demands active listening. It is not the mere physical hearing of words, but your child will have to respond to what he listens to. Theatre activities will help him learn to be an effective communicator by teaching him to actively listen, critically comment on performances and react. Clearly, if there is one language skill to be mastered, it is listening. And, what better way to learn it than through theatre.
Speaking forms an intrinsic part of theatre and can help your little one to use the right facial expression to suit the meaning of the words that she speaks. She will also learn to employ voice dynamics like pitch, volume, intonation and voice modulation to ensure more meaningful articulation. Furthermore, actors use rehearsal techniques that encourage them to think in the language they are going to perform in. This technique will help your child to think in a foreign or a second language and then prepare and deliver dialogues. Other helpful techniques include speaking aloud while memorising the script and practising dialogue delivery before a mirror. These will sharpen her pronunciation. Very soon, she will be able to judge a room’s sound features and throw her voice accordingly to become a better public speaker too!
Reading aloud the script during rehearsals can help your little darling easily develop timing and rhythm. These features will help him ace at reading. They can instil in him the ability to club words, pace his utterances, pronounce words correctly, focus on punctuation and communicate better.
This is best practised through script-writing. Script-writing poses challenges because topics are generally fixed and characters need to be brought to life. However, there is scope for a lot of creativity. Scripts are re-written repeatedly to achieve the best possible end-result for stage-performance. These writing sessions will enable your little princess to write with no mistakes in no time.
7. Grammar, morphology and syntax
These are the conventional standards of language. Theatre employs words creatively within the boundaries provided by these standards. Rehearsals and repeat performances will help your little hero master these conventions in a creative and hands-on manner.
8. Cultural awareness
Plays span time and space. In a theatre group, your little one will come across various cultures and time periods. Whether it is a foreign culture or one’s own, there is always more to learn about cultures and she will be able to glean all she needs to know. Also, language is very culture-specific. Therefore, exposure to varied cultures will certainly hone your child’s language skills.
Meaningful interaction is afforded by theatre, in contrast to workbook exercises or oral drills. Your ward will learn language purposefully and in a hands-on manner that will enable him to speak spontaneously in real life. So, make haste, your child’s future awaits! Ask him to dramatise a story, act out an incident at school or imitate his parents in a monologue! Find a good theatre club for children of his age. The world of make-believe provided by theatre is a one of a kind gold-mine of language-learning opportunities!
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.