Abstract. This is a case study of drama education curriculum for
young children taught by a drama specialist. Specifically, to understand
unique drama teaching practices employed by a drama specialist,
9-week-long drama programs for one kindergarten and two 1st-grade
classes were observed and the drama specialist was interviewed. Regular
classroom activities taught by the classroom teachers were also observed
to understand drama taught by the non-specialists. The findings indicate
that the drama specialist's curriculum highlights specialized drama
knowledge and techniques that the classroom teachers do not address in
their drama activities. Within a well-defined structure of a lesson
composed of warm-up, main activity, and ending segments, children's
kinesthetic exploration and representation, as well as expressivity, are
emphasized. How the drama specialist's teaching content and methods
contribute to children's learning and what is needed for staff
development to improve drama education are discussed.
Early childhood educators commonly teach all subjects to their
students, including math, science, and the arts. However, not all
teachers are trained in the variety of subjects they teach. Each subject
has its unique essential forms of cognition and disciplines (Efland,
1990). Drama education is no exception, in that the discipline of drama
education consists of extensive specialized knowledge and holds its own
ways of knowing. A drama specialist is assumed to have special knowledge
and experience in the field of drama that classroom teachers
(generalists) may not possess, and as a result of this knowledge, can
teach drama in a different way.
In this educational context, this research explores what a drama
specialist teaches and how she teaches it at a private school in a
metropolitan area. I highlight the structure and content of the
specialist's drama lessons and her specialized knowledge that are
not found in the general early childhood classroom teachers'
practices, aiming to understand what early childhood educators can learn
from a specialist. Thus, although the main purpose of this study is not
a comparison between a drama specialist and general classroom teachers,
classroom teachers' methods of teaching drama is juxtaposed to the
specialist's in order to highlight the specialist's unique
teaching content and methods. I then discuss how the drama
specialist's teaching contributes to children's learning, and
make suggestions for classroom teacher's professional development
through collaboration with specialists to improve drama education in
early childhood programs.
Review of the Literature
Although the terms "drama education" and "theater
education" have been commonly used interchangeably, there is a
technical difference between them. Theater education deals with an
actor's formal performance in front of an audience, whereas drama
education focuses on participants' process of exploration and
meaning-making (Schonmann, 2000).
The definition of drama varies among scholars, and its curriculum
is different depending on the instructional goals, teachers'
philosophies, cultural and institutional contexts, and other elements.
Types of drama activities also vary, including extra-curricular
activities in school musicals and promotional events; in drama clubs,
speech training, self-expression, emotional development and confidence
building; in the early childhood play corners; and as a part of syllabi
in English classes (O'Toole & O'Mara, 2007). Among these
diverse types of drama activities and drama education, this research
focuses on an operational drama curriculum taught by a drama specialist
at a school.
Drama in the Curriculum
Drama is usually marginalized or absent from the curriculum
(O'Toole & O'Mara, 2007) in the current school climate
that emphasizes academic accountability. Even when the arts are included
in preschool and kindergarten classrooms, it is primarily music and
visual arts, although it could be argued that drama and dance are better
suited to the physical nature of early childhood learning (Cazden, 1981;
Kolb, 1984). There is little time allotted in the daily routine for
drama in early childhood education settings, due to the pressure that
many teachers feel to cover too many materials in too little time (Jones
& Reynolds, 1992). Brown and Pleydell (1999) argued that
age-appropriate drama experiences would not be guaranteed, because most
drama specialists have not been trained to work with young children, and
early childhood classroom teachers have few resources to provide quality
drama experiences to their students.
Regarding teachers' qualifications to teach drama, McCaslin
(2006) stated that the most important qualities are such personal
attributes as sympathetic leadership, imagination, and respect for
others' ideas. Having sufficient knowledge, appreciation of drama
as an art form, and familiarity with techniques are other invaluable
assets (McCaslin, 2006). Successful drama teachers also guide, rather
than direct, and are able to work with others, are considerate of
others' opinions, and offer their own ideas. Also, teachers need to
invite children to create and maintain the dramatic world, through the
use of open-ended questions, animated expressions, and enthusiastic
responses to the children's ideas (O'Neill, 1994). This
process involves the co-construction of an emergent story that requires
the teacher to adopt various roles (e.g., motivator, guide, and artist).
I will consider these teachers' qualifications in teaching
drama when examining the drama specialist's and the classroom
teachers' drama instructions.
Case Study Approach
This research is a case study of drama education conducted in
natural settings, which include a regular classroom for kindergarten
drama and a special drama classroom for 1st-grade drama. Carroll (1996)
suggested that the case study approach is useful in drama when the
researcher is interested in and deeply involved in the structure,
processes, and outcomes of a project.
It fits research on drama education well because drama is a
non-reproducible experience, by its very nature as a negotiated group
art form. The participants within a drama education session or series of
sessions create a unique set of social relationships that becomes a
single unit of experience capable of analysis and study. (Carroll, 1996,
Hartfield (1982) and Yin (1991) emphasized that the complexity of
interactions and the whole creative sequence can be examined best
through a case study methodology. Thus, the case study method is
particularly well suited for this research, because it attempts to
understand the complex instructional processes and the interaction
between the teacher and the students in a natural classroom and school
context in an open and flexible manner.
This study has one key participant--the drama specialist, Ms. White
(a pseudonym). The drama specialist for this research was chosen
carefully, because she or he has to have extensive knowledge and
experience in the field of drama that regular classroom teachers may not
possess. One of my colleagues, who is an art specialist and had taken
drama lessons from Ms. White for arts interdisciplinary curriculum,
introduced Ms. White to me. When I contacted Ms. White, explaining the
purpose of this research and asking her if she would like to
participate, she willingly agreed to participate, because she said she
wanted more educators to be interested in drama education and to apply
it in their teaching.
Ms. White is a unique combination of professional artist and
experienced educator. She holds a B.A. in English literature and an
M.F.A in acting. She has a total of 24 years of teaching experience,
ranging from teaching pre-kindergarten children through adults (up to 35
years old), and she has performed in the opera and theater as a
professional company member. Based on her educational background and
professional experience as an actress and as a teacher, she is
considered to have specialized and sophisticated skills and knowledge of
the field. She has been a fulltime drama teacher at the Bailey school (a
pseudonym) for 12 years. During the period when this research was
conducted, Ms. White was teaching one kindergarten class and two
1st-grade classes for a 9-week drama program.
The data for this study were collected at the Bailey school, a
private school located in a large metropolitan city, during the fall of
2006. Although I contacted Ms. White as a research participant without
knowing where she worked, the research site was considered carefully to
make sure it satisfied several requirements. My primary requirements
were: 1) the school should provide drama education to young children in
an early childhood program, and 2) drama education should be taught by a
specialist with rich knowledge and experience. In many cases, drama is
not provided to kindergarten children, which is my research focus group,
and when it is provided, it is often taught by an artist-in-resident or
classroom teachers, not by experienced drama specialists. The Bailey
school offers drama education to kindergarten through 6th-grade
students. Drama education is taught by a drama specialist with an
extensive field experience and educational background in drama, as
discussed in detail in the participant section. In addition to these two
requirements, the Bailey school has a rich educational environment,
including low student-to-teacher ratio and various extra-curricular
programs taught by subject specialists. The ethnic composition of the
students is 87% white, 7% Asian, and 5% African American. Most of the
students are from families of middle to upper-middle socioeconomic
One kindergarten and two 1st-grade drama classes taught by Ms.
White were observed for 9 weeks. Kindergarten drama was observed once a
week, about 30 minutes per lesson. Each 1st-grade drama class was
observed once a week, about 45-50 minutes per lesson. In addition, I
observed full days of regular classroom hours led by the respective
classroom teachers to understand how the classroom teachers taught drama
to their students and to highlight the drama specialist's teaching.
The full-day observations (8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for kindergarten and 8:30
a.m.-2:30 p.m. for 1st grade) were conducted once or twice a week for 9
Formal and informal interviews were conducted with Ms. White to
gain a better understanding of her drama curriculum and her teaching
practice as well as the school structure and system. Formal interviews
in a semi-structured format were carried out almost every week, 8 times
for 9 weeks, for about 50 minutes on average, in her office or in the
school cafeteria. Informal interviews were conducted frequently, before
or after her classes, as well as during her preparation time.
The initial areas of interview questions with Ms. White included
such topics as her educational background and teaching experiences,
teaching philosophy, expectations for the students' progress in her
class, and specific drama activities and practices. Follow-up interviews
were conducted twice after the drama program was over. Each follow-up
interview lasted about an hour, centering around her vision of drama
education, long-term and short-term goals, and her experience of
teaching kindergarten students for the first time.
Analysis of Documents
In order to understand the school structure, system, and mission, I
also examined school pamphlets and brochures. The national, state, and
district drama and arts curriculum that Ms. White referred to was
analyzed in order to understand her drama teaching in general. The
school curriculum map, the teachers' teaching plans, letters to the
parents, and evaluation forms also were analyzed in order to understand
her specific drama teaching.
The data collection and analysis procedures are based on the
"interactive model" (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 12), which
refers to the activity of data collecting and three types of analysis
processes--data deduction ("the process of selecting, focusing,
simplifying, abstracting, and transforming data that appears in
written-up field notes or transcriptions" [Miles & Huberman,
1994, p. 10]; data display ("an organized, compressed assembly of
information that permits conclusion drawing and action" [Miles
& Huberman, 1994, p. 11]); and conclusion (drawing and verifying
conclusion)--that form an interactive, cyclical process. The interactive
model was used for this research because it can provide continuous,
iterative process of analysis for better qualitative validity and
credibility, compared to a single, linear analysis process.
Data were collected through observations, interviews, and related
documents, as described in the Data Sources section. To facilitate
making direct connections with the research questions and concepts of
interest, the data codes (with broad but concrete categories) were
created through the extensive reviews of existing research on drama
education and curriculum. Specific examples of the preset categories
defined for this research included drama knowledge, techniques, skills,
body movements, and vocalization. The preset categories and
sub-categories and their corresponding codes were developed, expanded
on, refined, and revised multiple times while the study progressed and
as new issues emerged. While the inquiry was in progress, contact
summary forms were filled out immediately after completing each field
note, such that the key points were summarized and emerging themes were
recognized to guide planning for the next observation. In this process,
data reduction was conducted by generating a conceptual level of coding
system (e.g., structure, reflection, expressivity, representation, and
Data display as well as drawing and verifying conclusions included
follow-ups with the participants, with emphasis on their interpretations
of the data collected, the triangulation of information, and the
construction of meaning from the phenomena observed. Multiple interim
reports were made to identify and develop issues, to audit what is
known, and to substantiate the known with the data. Each interim paper
was shared with the researcher's colleagues, who worked in,
studied, and were interested in early childhood education and/or arts
To answer what is taught and how drama is taught to young children,
three special qualities were found in Ms. White's drama education
curriculum. The first section of the findings discusses Ms. White's
well-defined lesson structure, and the second section is devoted to
kinesthetic exploration and representation. The last section centers
Structure of Drama Lessons
Ms. White's drama lesson is composed of warm-up, main
activity, and closing segments, whereas the classroom teachers have only
a main activity without a warm-up or closing. Each segment has its
independent role and, at the same time, interacts with each other as a
Students' use of the body is different between drama and
regular academic classes. That is, students' body movements in
their homeroom are minimal and primarily instrumental, but those in
drama are exploratory and expressive. For example, in the regular class,
students walk in order to reach their desired destination (e.g., the
blackboard, their desks); whereas in drama, students walk to explore
different qualities in their movements (e.g., light, heavy, slow, fast)
or pretend to walk to express their ideas. Drama lessons often begin
with warm-up exercises, which help make a smooth transition from
academic subjects. Specifically, yoga is a part of the warm-up in Ms.
White's drama instructions. The following vignette describes the
1st-graders practicing yoga during the third week of the drama program.
Ms. White: We will start to pretend there is strength in the air,
and I will pretend to pull out that strength, and then you can feel it.
Feel it at the back; there is a bump right here.
Ms. White: Your face is on the ground. Now, boys and girls! A mad
cat. Take a deep breath in. Watch me first.
Ms. White: And then you breathe in with your nose. And stick your
tongue out, because you are a doggy now.
Ms. White: Nice job! Eyes up, please. Here is some work. Watch
before you move. Your one hand lies out, and the other hand lies out and
reaches to the floor. Let's try again. It's a child's
pose. Your hand is flying out, and the other is flying out, and take a
deep breath in and reach and put your forehead on the floor. It's
like you wrap your hands around your knees. You look like a little, tiny
baby. Nice job, boys and girls.
While yoga is typically not considered a part of traditional drama
education, it has basic and repeated motions shared in common with other
warm-up exercises. Yoga also possesses its unique features, especially
its mind-body connection. While making repeated and slow motions and
breathing, Ms. White encourages the students to pay attention to how
their bodies work and what their bodies can do. During yoga, while in a
meditative atmosphere, the students concentrate on their movements
without making any unnecessary sound. Afterwards, the students are
clearly calm and relaxed. After the basic, short, and repeated warm-up
movements, the students are mentally and physically ready for the drama
Ms. White's main segment for young children is largely
composed of storytelling/ story making and acting it out. In particular,
a well-defined connection between drama concepts and practice is present
in the main segment. Students learn about the structure (e.g.,
beginning, middle, and ending) and the elements of a dramatic story
(e.g., setting, characters, conflict, plot, and background) and
different genres of literature (e.g., fable vs. fairy tale). They are
also encouraged to apply specialized drama vocabulary and techniques
they learned in their acting. Basic skills are emphasized for clear
communication between the actors and the audience. In addition,
students' exploration and representation of their ideas, as well as
expression of feelings, are commonly practiced, which will be explored
more in detail in the following sections.
The closing segment mainly constitutes students' suggestions
or comments on their activities in an open format. The following
vignette presents a closing session in kindergarten drama.
Ms. White: OK, boys and girls! Before we end the drama today,
it's very important for me to hear any questions or things that you
really like today or suggestions that you have.
Adam: I like to pretend to be a chicken.
Molly: I like the story.
Ms. White: Anything else?
Tess: I like the story.
Ms. White: Before we end, can we do a criss-cross apple sauce? I
will show you something I like to do when I am tired and can't
think about what to do, maybe I feel crabby.
Bryan: Let's go to sleep!
Ms. White: Well, I can't go to sleep but I close my eyes, and
think about what to do.
Ms. White: Well, kind of. I get quiet. Close your eyes and put your
hands on your knees, and take three breaths. I will open my eyes because
I want you to be safe. Sit up, nice and tall. Take a deep breath in and
let it out (repeating three times). Turn yourself around and look at
your teacher. She is going to tell you something important.
Guided by Ms. White's questions, students answer and reflect
on what they did, what they liked the most, or what was the most
interesting to them during the activities. They mostly list the names of
activities they did or briefly describe their experiences and
preferences, but not in depth. Although connection with students'
experiences and expression of personal opinions or emotions are scarce,
verbalization about what they did during reflection helps them transform
their kinesthetic experiences into concrete verbal experiences.
Similar to warm-up, Ms. White's closing provides the students
with a smooth transition from drama session to the subsequent session.
The opening and closing of the drama session serve to separate the
fantasy of the drama from the reality of the classroom (Brown &
Pleydell, 1999). It creates a boundary around the event and enables
students to return to the world of the classroom. Thus, from a technical
standpoint, by wrapping up the lesson, closing gives the students a
signal that a drama session is over and prepares them to move onto the
Kinesthetic Exploration and Representation
Students' body movements in Ms. White's drama session are
explorative and representative, particularly during pantomime
activities. Pantomime is a typical primary activity for Ms. White's
young students. Pantomime is defined as acting out without words
(Rosenberg, 1987), and inherently it emphasizes the use of the body more
than words. The following vignette shows a pantomime practice with the
Ms. White: OK, tell me about how the lion is different from a
After comparing a lion with a human, Ms. White asks a question.
Ms. White: Do you know a slow motion? Can you show me a slow
Ms. White: Thank you, Sophie. That is a very nice slow motion!
Ms. White: Boys and girls, it's time to become a lion. How are
they different? They have fur, whiskers, and claws. Show me. You are a
big, golden lion. Show me a soft and sleeping-on-the-grass lion.
Ms. White: Stretch your beautiful golden legs. Slo-o-o-o-w motion.
Pat your stomachs quiet. You head through the jungle. Keep going.
Ms. White: Show me how a lion moves.
Ms. White: Stand up for hunting. Are you ready? Stand up? What do
Justin: A tiny rabbit.
Ms. White: You grasp the tiny rabbit. You bite juicy, red meat. You
throw it. You toss it to the sun.
Ms. White: You are so thirsty after your dinner. You walk slowly to
the lake and drink water. I want to hear your big lion roar! Stand up
and say, "I am the king of the jungle!" One more time!
The way that Ms. White frames the activity influences
students' expression and kinesthetic exploration. Her strategies
include students' brainstorming about characteristics of a
character in a story, observation of others' movements, and
verbalization of their observations prior to acting. These practices
provide students a chance to think about how to express the character
and perceive subtle differences in the actor's movements and
expressions. Then, during pantomime activities, Ms. White narrates with
a wide range of kinesthetic vocabulary (e.g., "stretch,"
"pat," "grasp," and "crawl"). The
combination of movements with vocabulary helps the students to be more
conscious of their own movements during exploration. In addition, her
narrative--with its dramatic changes in the speed, volume, and pitch of
her voice--models the students' ideas and facilitates their use of
imagination. Ms. White's encouragement of students' using slow
motion during pantomime helps them attend to details and pay attention
to their movements. With Ms. White's systematic guidance,
students' movements are not random actions, but rather represent a
state of consciousness involving full engagement and awareness. During
an interview, Ms. White emphasized the importance of the body movements
for the young children:
I think using the body more than the word is what I stress,
especially when students are young, because it's more universal for
the children. If you take the word away, children are open and explore
more freely. It feels good and fun. And then in 2nd grade, I add more
words, more narrations, and captions and subtitles to my lesson. So
words kind of melt with the body.
Ms. White believed that young students could be more creative and
free without the spoken language. For example, when the 1st-graders were
asked to represent a "lake" with their bodies, they showed
different ideas: one child lay down on the floor; another waved his
hands; and others lightly rocked sideways or back and forth. The body
became an expressive drama medium for telling the story and expressing
the characters' emotions. Thus, Ms. White practiced until the young
children had built up a physical vocabulary and felt comfortable in
expressing their ideas with the body. She then gradually increased the
use of words in her lessons.
Often, the students are asked to express basic feelings, such as
sadness, happiness, frustration, or embarrassment, with their bodies and
faces while acting out a story. What the students practice is not
self-expression, which is defined as expressing one's inner
feelings. Rather, they are encouraged to express a character's
emotions and feelings according to the situation of the story. The
following scenario demonstrates the kindergarten students' activity
that expressed a character's emotions in a story.
Ms. White: How did the camel feel when her friends told her she is
not a good dancer and lumpy and bumpy?
Maria: (sitting in front) She was sad.
Bryan: (frowning, answers in his husky and frustrated voice) She
didn't know what to do!
Ms. White: She didn't know what to do, but she made a
decision, didn't she? What did she decide?
Bryan: She danced all by herself.
Ms. White: Did it make her happy?
Ms. White: Really? That's not the story that I heard. It may
be sad because she decided on dancing all by herself. It's okay,
even though you heard the story differently. You know what? Let's
do a ballet. Everybody stands up. Let's do a dance around the room.
Are you ready?
Ms. White: This is a story about a dancing camel. One day, she
decided she is going to have a concert for her friends. Show me her
Ms. White: They must be curious, right?
Ms. White: Okay, so she began to dance for her friends. "She
jumps, she turns, and she skips." And freeze. "She looked at
her friends' faces after she took the beautiful bow." Her
Ms. White: Oh, that's so nice. You show her friends'
Ms. White: Oh my! You are really telling a story. What does she
Presented in the above vignette, Ms. White's special guidance
helps promote the students' expressivity. Prior to acting, she asks
questions or leads a discussion about how the character feels. While the
students are acting, she invites them to interpret the situated feelings
of the character in the story by demanding their personal involvement
with imagination. With Ms. White's encouragement to use their
imagination and connect their experiences, the students elaborate their
expressions of feelings. They usually demonstrate mimetic and
conventional modes of representation by describing surface features of
the character they employ (e.g., smiles for happiness, frowns for
sadness). However, sometimes they attend to details, moving slowly and
deliberately, in the expressive mode.
To young children, Ms. White barely addresses how to express these
feeling in a more sophisticated way, which could have been achieved by
teaching drama acting skills or techniques. During an interview, Ms.
White reported that she emphasizes students' reflections on and
interpretations of their own experiences as being more meaningful than
expressing emotions using drama techniques or skills. She believes
without reflection, the students' understanding and expression of
feelings might remain superficial. Thus, exploration and reflection can
contribute to the students' diverse and expressive movements as
well as building kinesthetic awareness.
Ms. White, with her rich education background and professional
experience, is considered an insider from the field of drama. As an
insider, what special qualities does she possess that general teachers
(who may be categorized as "outsiders" to drama) most likely
do not? What unique drama activities does she provide and how does she
practice them? What can we, as classroom teachers and outsiders of the
drama field, learn from Ms. White? In answering these questions, the
structure and content of a drama specialist's curriculum, and her
teaching techniques and skills, as well as specialized knowledge of
drama are examined more closely. I will explore here what and how Ms.
White teaches differently from classroom teachers and what her teachings
contribute to students' educational experiences.
Having structured segments in Ms. White's drama lesson is
different from the classroom teachers' drama activities, which
consist of only a main activity without warm-up or closing. How teachers
frame the lesson is known to influence students' experience.
Specifically, having structure in lessons helps make the students'
experiences systematic and organized (Stinson, 2002) as well as helping
students predict the flow of the lesson. That is, the fixed structure
becomes a routine for children and helps them feel secure in the
learning environment and organize their experiences systematically.
Another issue addressed is the body and its movements. Moving the
body expressively is generally not encouraged in school; instead,
academic subjects and cognitive development are highlighted (Bresler,
2002). However, drama for young children in an early childhood program
is an exception, as it places the body and its movements at the center.
The body is both a subject and an object and must exist in specific
contexts and in specific relation to others (Grumet, 2003). In drama,
students can choose how they move and what they wish to express, and
their thinking is encouraged to be realized within the capacities of
moving their body. In order to understand the capacities of the body in
drama education, I will use Osmond's classification of "the
body as knower" and "the body as doer" in drama education
(Osmond, 2007, p. 1113).
First, regarding the body as knower, drama education invites a
focus upon the body to act its knowing, to call up in every action what
a body knows (Osmond, 2007). The concept of body as knower is prevalent
in Ms. Wilson's pantomime activities. Specifically, when the
students pretend to get ready to go to school in pantomime, they recall
what they do every morning and represent it with the body. Each student
expresses different activities, including brushing their teeth, eating
breakfast, packing school bags, and kissing and waving goodbye to their
parents. What we know is an accumulation of sensory experiences that
bring us to that knowing as our bodies are developed and shaped by those
experiences that mold it. Grumet (1988) claimed that all knowledge is
ultimately body knowledge, even the knowing that seems rooted
exclusively in language.
Next, the body as doer means that the body does what it knows by
making meaning the grounds for action in drama education. When the
students pretend to be a lion or a mouse, their initial expressions are
usually conventional and mimetic. However, as they are guided by the
teacher's questions and comments, the students' knowledge and
ideas about the topic are revealed with more subtle and detailed
expressions. The introduction of pedagogy that uses drama into a
communal act makes the body as knower the central figure in the sharing
and the negotiating of meaning, and the "body-knowers" become
"body-doers." Doing is a necessary consequence of knowing; it
is the action and reflection of people upon their world in order to
transform it (Freire, 1972). The relationship between the body as knower
and the body as doer can be achieved by concentration and memory of
emotion before dramatic action, thus integrating lived experience
naturally (Boleslavsky, 1949). The body must first be understood as a
site of knowledge that is specific to the lived experience of each
Since different forms of representation develop different skills,
the students need to be provided with multiple choices of forms of
representation to develop diverse skills (Fyfe, 1994). Representing
students' ideas in various forms, including visual, verbal,
numerical, and auditory, increases the resources available to the
student for making meaning. When resources are rich, the number of
avenues for learning expands. Representational media (mostly used in
drawings in Reggio Emilia schools) is known to deepen the
children's understanding of a theme or a concept (Forman, 1994).
The teachers and artists actively work with the children to help them
see many possible modes of correspondence between them. Like drawing,
the student's body and its movements are tools for expressing what
she knows and what she feels. In drama, the body itself is the medium.
The substance of body is molded through gesture, voice, motion, and pace
in the doing of what is known.
The last issue explored in this section is an emotional aspect in
drama education. At schools where academics and intellectual growth are
generally emphasized, the emotional aspect of children has too often
been ignored. Furthermore, there has been a lack of invitation for the
students to communicate feelings through artistic means (Bresler, 1998).
Although the importance of expressivity has been highlighted in the arts
education literature as well as in state goals, expressivity has been
rarely a part of the operational curriculum. Bolton (1977) suggested
that one of the significant characteristics of drama is a special
quality of feeling along with a special sense of time and quality of
meaning. That is, drama explores situated feelings.
Ms. White's guidance of the students' interpretation of a
character's feelings, by having them reflect their own experiences,
helps them elaborate their expressions in a more detailed manner. In
order to have a feeling, one must be able to distinguish one state of
being from another (Eisner, 1982), and have the requisite imagination
and cognitive thinking skills to perceive and articulate the ideas of
the feelings (Shusterman, 2004). Thus, reflection on and connection with
students' own experiences by perceiving through their senses and
imagination enables them to be expressive.
Implications for Drama Education for Young Children
Drama learning experiences for children are among the most highly
praised but the least practiced of learning experiences in schools
(Dillon, 1988). Even when early childhood classroom teachers incorporate
drama activities in their classrooms, the way in which they teach has
distinct features compared to that of the drama specialist. In this
research, the drama specialist conveys drama knowledge and techniques
and highlights children's kinesthetic representation and
expressiveness within a well-defined structure of the lesson. By
contrast, the classroom teachers frequently used close-ended questions
and prescribed movements without a structure in their drama activities.
Other researchers (e.g., Flynn, 1997; Ross, 1989; Stewig, 1984) also
have pointed out classroom teachers' lack of professional
development experiences in drama and insufficient preparation for drama
teaching. Gabb (1994) stated that a dichotomous framework clearly
delineates between drama specialists' artistic, informed endeavors
and classroom teachers' unsatisfactory efforts and techniques.
In practice, inservice teachers are typically provided one-time
drama workshops, which are structured as pre-packaged lectures and
demonstrations without a close connection to classroom practice or
substantial follow-up. Consequently, teachers' desires to meet
complicated organizational demands and diverse students' needs and
interests can be easily overlooked (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1992).
However, in order for classroom teachers to use drama in their
classrooms, a firm foundation in drama skills and techniques, as well as
in the art form, should be provided such that the teacher is able to
apply them to address diverse needs in the classroom and use it as an
important part of her teaching repertoire.
Yaffe (1989) argued that strong staff development is essential
through collaboration between the drama specialist and classroom
teachers to move from skills to applications in the field of drama.
Especially considering the current school climate, which greatly
emphasizes academic accountability, drama education integrated with core
subjects is strongly recommended to provide high-quality drama education
and to improve students' academic achievements. Thus, if a
classroom teacher provides curriculum content and a drama specialist
focuses drama sessions on those required learning areas, they can
explore ways to merge drama teaching techniques and curriculum demands
together. It is not necessary for teachers to have a background or
experience in drama to use drama in the classroom, but it requires staff
development and a willingness to try something new on the teachers'
part. Cooperation could reinforce and increase the knowledge and insight
that individual teachers bring to their work, especially when they are
focused on professional responsibility and the central tasks of
(submitted 8/27/08; accepted 12/31/08)
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Su Jeong Wee
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Note: Su Jeong Wee was a doctoral candidate at University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is currently an Assistant Professor,
Purdue University, Calumet.
Ms. White, in her stretchy, tight black pants
and short-sleeved T-shirt, announces that
the class will do yoga as a warm-up. As
the students spread out to have enough
space between each other and sit on the
floor cross-legged, Ms. White plays Deva
Premal's recordings for yoga with slow
and calm sounds; the music is neutral and
fluid, yet still rhythmic. Ms. White turns off
the light in front, but there is still a light at
the back. The room becomes dim, and the
students turn silent. Barefoot, she walks
quickly to the center of the rug and explains
in an unusually soft and composed voice.
The students try to sit straight, and some
students touch their spines. Ms. White
walks around and if students bend their
backs, she pulls their chests or pushes
their backs gently to help them sit straight.
Then, Ms. White moves into a breathing
exercise. She straightens her knees while
holding her body to the floor with her arms.
The students follow her lead; several raise
their heads to look at her.
Ms. White rounds her back, making an
arch. She breathes out, making a "Shhhh"
sound, like air escaping from a balloon,
and her arched back goes flat.
Ms. White puffs and blows repeatedly.
The students bend their backs, puffing
Ms. White reads A Rose's Walk and the
children pretend to be chickens walking
around the classroom.
All the students look at Ms. Anderson (the
regular classroom teacher) silently. Ms.
Anderson talks about the plants that they
planted last week and what they are going
to do during free-choice time.
After a brief explanation of pantomime
and improvisation, Ms. White announces
that they will act out The Lion and the
Mouse without words. She then starts
pretending to be a lion.
The students answer that a lion has
whiskers, furs, and a black nose, and
that it is an animal. The students and
Ms. White continue to talk about the
differences between a lion and a human.
Sophie stands up and walks slowly, raising
her legs up higher than usual and down
slowly. Sophie walks forward until she
reaches the table at the corner.
Ms. White stands up and asks children to
find an empty spot for pantomime.
The students lie down on the floor. Some
face the floor, and others face the side.
Some stretch their arms and legs, while
others crouch down.
Following Ms. White's narration, the
students slowly get up and stretch their
bodies, raising their hands.
The students crawl around the room in
The students stretch their bodies by raising
their hands and yawning. They bend
their bodies and crawl around, using their
arms and legs. When grasping the tiny
animal, students change their facial expression
to a more furious one and pretend
to snatch it swiftly.
Following Ms. White's narration in her
magnificent voice, the students stand up
and roar in a loud voice, raising both arms
in the air.
Ms. White, sitting on a chair in front,
reads The Dancing Camel to 13 kindergartners
seated on the rug.
The students move their bodies to the soft,
slow music, tiptoeing and turning around
with their arms rounded upward. After a
couple of minutes, Ms. White starts retelling
The Dancing Camel story, while the
students play and dance along.
The students stand still in their spots and
make faces that seem to be anticipating
something, with a light smile on their
Some students stare at an empty space,
while others widen their eyes.
The students take a big bow from the waist.
Some of the girls join their hands, put them
over their tummies, and gently bow.
Most of the students frown with folding
Some of the students look down to the floor
with glum faces.