The telling of narratives includes a variety of forms of communication that have a strong historical and cultural connection to the English language. Theater integrates a variety of these narrative forms as well as all the language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Through the analysis of the historical transformations that certain theatrical narratives have experienced, the students become conscious of their identity as narrators and their ability to create or recreate narratives. In 6th grade, we invite the students to mount a theatrical presentation that requires them to select, analyze, edit, stage, and present a play, thus celebrating their dominion of the English language. But exactly how does the theater help the students improve their language skills?
First and foremost, this process always begins with a text that needs to be dominated. We invite the students to not only read and follow the text, but also to participate in the transformation of the text according to their needs and interests. By changing characters, scenes, dialogs, etc., they make decisions that require comprehension of the story as well as applying the necessary grammar structures and vocabulary to make changes that enhance the story. What follows next is an exciting challenge, when the students bring the story to life by becoming the characters. They are in constant analysis and observation of the story in order to understand how to portray their character in different settings and situations.
The theater is a space that has different characteristics and needs than a classroom setting because the dialogs and interactions take place among the characters but directed to an audience. Pronunciation and intonation are essential in order to maintain clarity for all. During this process, the students practice their roles vocally in order to improve their speech and add personality to their character.
Language Production Skills
Part of the theater involves much memorization, but there is an element that occurs that many people in the audience don’t identify during the show or recognize as being part of the process during the rehearsals. This is the element of improvisation, which has a high demand on the students to apply their comprehension and production skills. It is an element that requires quick thinking only present in a naturally learned and highly dominated situation.
Another situation that invites the students to apply and improve their language production skills is in the development and planning as behind the scenes. The actors are treated as active participants in the decision making of the set design, props, costumes, and script/story editing. These conversations in English among students and adults enriches the student’s ability by boosting their confidence and improving their fluency.
In Ágora, we are proud to present our yearly productions, which have now turned into a tradition for our sixth grade students. It is just one of the many strategies that we implement where we can see our students grow during the process into people that are more confident in themselves and in applying a second language.