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The Benefits of Using Drama in the ESL Classroom

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

ESL students need to live the language beyond a textbook, because they are going to use English in real life. This lesson describes the benefits of drama as a teaching tool that simulates real-life usage.

Active vs. Passive

Imagine you're learning a foreign language. Your teacher gives you lots of good written exercises in writing and grammar. Also, you often have the opportunity to speak to your peers and to listen to audio. Little by little, you develop the new language. However, after repeating the same type of activities in class after class, your classes become dull after a while. Because this happens in many ESL classes, teachers need to use other options, such as drama, to revive an ESL class and make it engaging.

Drama is a great tool to use in your ESL classroom, because it encourages active practice rather than passive written or listening exercises. To illustrate, an ESL student gets a handout to fill in vocabulary words in the blanks of a sample conversation. What if the student instead were to represent the character in a play? This type of practice gives the student responsibility to use language skills in a way that simulates real-life interactions.

Let's now take a closer look at the benefits of drama in the ESL classroom.

Benefits of Drama for ESL Students

The ultimate purpose of ESL is to prepare our students to use English in the real world. Your ESL students go outside the classroom and are faced with real interactions in their neighborhoods, stores, banks, post offices, etc. In other words, ESL students are active in the real world. So it is good for them to also be active in the ESL classroom through drama. The benefits of drama for ESL students are many, but let's talk about the main ones.

Active Use of Target Language

The fact that students actively use the language they are learning is by itself a benefit of drama.

Simulation of Real-life Conversations

Performing drama is like getting in a simulator, say, to see how it feels to be on a roller-coaster. Drama simulates real-life conversations and situations. This can help reduce ESL students' fears of using language in real settings.

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