Drama in Senior School
Q&A with our drama learning specialist, Neeraj Shirvaikar, on why drama is important in the senior school and his experience during the Using Drama for Learning workshop at The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.
Q. How is the Using Drama for Learning Programme applicable in senior schools?
A. In senior schools today, learners often face submission deadlines, syllabus completion and a percentage race, which leads to exam-centric teaching instead of facilitating. Teachers often devise lessons as a quick-fix to remembering the key information, due to which the actual learning process takes a back seat.
Senior school learners have the greatest need to be groomed for being sensible and sensitive thinkers. Very soon, they will be stepping out into the world, and take on the roles of leaders in various fields of their choices . It is therefore necessary to shape the type of leaders that they will become.
Drama plays a key role in that. There is no way that a performance can be delivered by just “learning the lines”. One needs to know everything about the content at hand to pull off a decent performance. Theatre adds a lateral thinking dimension to their class-culture, makes them sensitive to people around the world, and encourages learners to ask questions. It opens up the most under-confident individual, and gives a reality check to the over-the-top ones.
UDL has been designed with this long term goal, while still making teaching and learning fun for the learners as well as the teachers.
Q. What did you adapt in the UDL to make it more relevant at The Heritage School?
A. While adapting the UDL program for Heritage, there was one hitch that we faced. I personally had a concern about the mathematics and science teachers for instance. Being a science student myself, I was somewhat familiar with the type of syllabus that the kids today deal with. I tried to put myself in their shoes, to see how relevant the workshop would really be for these subjects.
I thought about modifying exercises to suit the subjects. But that lead nowhere. Of course, the matter was changed in certain exercises, or some exercises were eliminated entirely, so that they would suit the age group of the learners that the teachers are expected to facilitate. But that didn’t quite crack the code.
Eventually, the answer lay in side-coaching. The workshop wasn’t about devising easy activities that could be cut and pasted in their own classrooms. It was more about developing a different style of facilitation, developing a class-culture and making learning fun.
In the side coaching throughout the workshop, after I spoke about or did a particular activity, I constantly asked the teachers to reflect upon what this made them feel, thereby putting them in the shoes of the learners. I gave constant examples of how an activity could be modified in the context of various subjects. By the end of it, I think all the participants were open to try this out in their classroom.