Part 3 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – SOCIAL SKILLS
In a day and age where we see more and more kids with their noses buried in a phone screen, the social skills naturally generated on the school and play grounds are drifting away. We are creating a society that will physically come together in a room and not actually BE together. We need to create opportunities that allow our kids to be in environments that help foster social skills. Enter drama.
Drama is fantastic for social skills on a variety of levels. Let’s think about it, how often is an actor on stage by themselves? Answer: Hardly ever. It’s typically about back and forth communication between two or more individuals and the constant practice of that skill.
Drama is naturally social. From simply hanging out with the same kids week after week, to interacting on stage with other actors, to drama games which create personal interaction. They all focus on the same piece, how to interact socially. Kids learn social skills such as:
- Probably the biggest piece of being social, is having the self-confidence to put yourself out there where you can possibly be rejected. Bringing up a suggestion in class or with a group on the playground can sometimes be intimidating, if you don’t have the confidence to do so. However, in drama, when you have a suggestion, and your peers and director agree, it builds self-confidence. When you perform and the audience applauds your work, it builds your self-confidence.
- Reacting appropriately in a social situation:
- Many people will tell you a good actor is a “re-actor”. In other words, how you respond to what someone has just told you or has physically done. The best part about drama, is you get to practice this again and again (rehearsals) with the help of a mentor (director) so you can work on this skill and react appropriately in a given situation. This may be something as simple as someone walking in a room and saying, “Hello.” and reacting to it. It could be something more complex such as Hamlet saying, “I’m going to get you Claudius!” where Claudius has to react appropriately to the situation.
- Simple back and forth communication:
- Just working with someone else practicing a dialog back and forth that may cover 10-20 lines is enough to help some kids break the fear of social communication. In drama, you get to practice and practice a skill until one day, when you don’t even realize it, you generalize it outside of drama. It’s all because you have mastered a skill.
- How to communicate using body language:
- For many, this is one of the fun parts of acting. Saying a line, then following that line with a certain hand motion, or some type of body movement which suggests to the other actor what they are supposed to do. Talking without words. For example, the crossing of the arms, the stern look, and tilt of the head to show disappointment. Learning how to use your body to communicate is a skill we use throughout our entire life.
- How to read and react to facial expressions:
- As with the previous point, being the actor that sees the facial expression, you need to react correctly to it. Learning to read facial expressions and body positions is another great social skill.
- Being aware of others:
- When on stage, we are always practicing when to say our lines. What is our “cue”. For some, it’s the line before theirs, however, many times it’s an action or a character entering a room. If we are not paying attention on stage, we miss these cues. We have to practice again and again in rehearsals to be aware of our surroundings, to make sure we see and catch these cues. No difference than when someone enters a room, we need to be aware and address them, “Hello!”
- As with the previous two points, many times on stage an actor misses their line or cue. At that point, we have to react and respond appropriately to keep the story going until we are all back on script! Being aware of our surroundings and reacting to them is all part of the social skills we learn in drama.
- How to talk in front of a group of people:
- Yep, you’re on stage… and there’s a lot of people watching you. Wait, you’re in front of the class, and there are a lot of kids watching you. No, wait, you’re in the board room, and the board is watching your presentation for your new project. No, wait, you’re on the playground and the 6 kids around you are listening to you explain directions to the game. Getting used to being in front of an audience and speaking is another great social skill to learn.
- How to properly be within someone else’s “personal space”:
- Almost always you are on stage with someone else. Learning how to orientate yourself to the other actor is sometimes challenging as many kids don’t know how to do this in day-to-day life. Another social skill we are always working on.
From a social perspective, this list can go on and on…
Over the past 12 months, I’ve taught 16 different theater productions with kids. Ranging from homeschool to after school to week long camps. From Hamlet for Kids to Christmas Carol for Kids. One thing is consistent, social opportunities are ALWAYS presenting themselves. So, be sure to get your kid into drama, and have fun improving those social skills!