4 March 2023
Undoubtedly, learning drama as part of a class syllabus develops many essential life skills in a child’s repertoire, for example, confidence, self-esteem, collaborative working etc.
However, drama lessons also demand certain expectations of their students before drama school can be an effective learning option.
From our research and knowledge, we have compiled a list of 5 skills children need for drama school.
Drama is a work of fiction played by actors in a stage or film performance, usually for an audience. The actors should be able to take on characteristics of fictional people and sustain them. The annual pre-school nativity/Christmas play will be one of the first occasions children will do this formally, and we’re all embarrassingly familiar with seeing our children copy something we’ve said or done at home that we’d rather the world didn’t know!
Improvisation is creating, performing or producing something without preparation from what’s immediately available - often when the planned event has gone awry! (Mums and dads are generally pretty expert at improvisation). Dressing up boxes and games of ‘let’s pretend’ show a lot of improvisation as children make up their adventures as they go.
Using language and movement to express emotions and situations is the skill at the centre of Drama and Performing Arts. An audience needs to connect to an actor’s performance in some way, by their response to a situation, perhaps empathetically and emotionally, or through suspense, fear and anticipation. Emotional intelligence is a big deal at the moment, so encourage your toddlers to talk about how they feel and express themselves openly. Most toddlers are pretty good at making their feelings known, but a few picture cards and stories may help the more shy among them.
Some dramas have multiple actors playing multiple characters. In other plays, one actor carries the whole production from beginning to end. Either way, drama students need to work collaboratively with others. Even around one character, there will be a team of sound operators, light managers, and Directors, not to mention an audience, all with their unique ideas, feelings and personalities.
Actors generally work for an audience; therefore, they need to know how their particular interpretation of a character, possibly already known to some people, is received. Feedback from other actors and audience members can be very constructive in developing a convincing role.
Similarly, providing constructive feedback and criticism to other drama students is equally important, either from an audience member's or acting colleague's point of view.
Although identified as 5 individual skills for Drama school, none of these is especially effective in isolation but they all very much work together to create an actor.
Many of these skills are already developing naturally without formal educational input. Toddlers learn to get on with siblings and friends. Storytime and books play a huge role in imitation and roleplay. Children give feedback on whether they like a particular food or colour etc.
With a bit of nurture and encouragement from toddlerhood, you may well end up with a budding A-list star!