Beyond Boundaries: Fluency Through Drama

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Have you ever considered how the stories we tell not only entertain but bind us together? Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” delves into this with the idea of “imagined realities.” This concept resonates deeply with me, especially when it comes to teaching English through the lens of drama.

In our vast sea of communication, language is our anchor and our sails. It allows us to construct endless sentences, each with its unique meaning. But, Harari points out, it’s not just the words themselves—it’s the collective stories we craft and share. And isn’t drama just that? An act of sharing stories, feelings, and ideas, collectively.

I’ve long believed that fluency in an additional language isn’t just about mastering grammar or expanding vocabulary. It’s about embracing the physicality of communication—the gestures, facial expressions, and intonation that bring language to life. Drama, especially improvisation, becomes a powerful tool here. It pushes students to explore and express without the confines of “correctness,” allowing them to be comfortably uncomfortable.

The improvisation philosophy of “yes, and…” is a golden rule in my classes. It teaches acceptance and adaptability, key to both drama and everyday interactions. Through this, students learn the art of conversation isn’t just about speaking but also about listening, responding, and adapting—instantly and creatively.

Take body language, for example. It’s as much a part of our language as the words we speak. A shrug, a glance, a step forward or back, they all say something. In the English-speaking world, there’s an invisible boundary around each person—a space we subconsciously maintain. Drama exercises can help learners navigate these cultural subtleties, avoiding potential social missteps.

Intonation, too, can completely alter the meaning of a sentence. In the spirit of exploration, I use props like a movie clapboard in an exercise I call “Academy Awards.” This encourages students to find the emotion and rhythm in their speech. It’s not just about the rise and fall of our voice but the passion and personality behind it.

My classroom is a stage (or a tv screen these days!) where students learn to embrace their mistakes as part of their language learning journey. This space of playfulness fosters a sense of kinship and inclusivity, allowing students to explore the cultural nuances of the English language and compare them with their own.

Ultimately, the path to fluency is about more than just grammar; it’s about opening up to the spontaneous, human side of communication. It’s about connecting authentically. Drama is the bridge between textbook English and the living, breathing language of emotion and interaction.

By blurring the lines between language learning and dramatic play, we not only teach English; we celebrate it in its most human form. And in doing so, we create a world in our classrooms where boundaries are crossed, and genuine connections are forged.

Published by andreaheald

Andrea Heald, M.Ed., a distinguished English educator with a decade's experience, holds a Master's in teaching English as an Additional Language. With 20+ years in theater as a director, stage manager, and administrative specialist, she merges her skills to empower individuals as communicators on stage and in life.

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