Effective Integration of Improvisational Drama in the Language Classroom

Conference Focus: “What is important in facilitating drama activities in language lessons?”
Researchers: Kristina Goodnight, Dr. Rick de Graaff, Dr. Catherine van Beuningen, Presenter: Kristina Goodnight

A growing body of evidence supports the benefits of improvisational drama techniques in stimulating speaking in the foreign language (FL) classroom. In this research context we define improvisational drama techniques (IDTs) as activities in which a) participants play a role in a fictional situation and b) spoken interaction is elicited. Techniques of this nature can foster affective benefits related to speaking including decreased anxiety (Atas, 2015), motivation (Ntelioglu, 2012), group bonding (Reed & Seong, 2013) and creativity (Even, 2011). Less pervasive, however, are guidelines for teachers on how to implement IDTs in order to inspire such benefits. As part of a longitudinal design study, we created a professional development program (PDP) for secondary school FL teachers from throughout the Netherlands. The aim of this PDP was to galvanize participating teachers to integrate IDTs regularly in their teaching practices with the ultimate goal of stimulating spoken interaction, as Dutch pupils often show reticence to speak the FL in class (West & Verspoor, 2016; Haijma, 2013). From this PDP, which was conducted both live and online, a set of guidelines emerged on how to integrate IDTs effectively, based both on a theoretical framework and participating teacher logbooks (N=19). Guidelines include, for instance, how to support a pupil who is reluctant to participate, such as allowing her to serve as an active observer, and in turn sharing her discoveries after the IDT has come to an end. Another guideline is to have the teacher himself to take on a role in the IDT, which reduces the focus on the pupils, thereby lowering the bar for them to speak more freely. In this workshop, these research-based guidelines will be presented briefly, and subsequently, participants will be given a hands-on opportunity to experiment with these guidelines by engaging in and leading IDTs themselves.

Atas, M. (2015). The reduction of speaking anxiety in EFL learners through drama techniques. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 176, 961-969, doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.565
Even, S. (2011). Drama grammar: Towards a performative postmethod pedagogy. Language Learning Journal, 39/3, 299–312, doi: 10.1080/09571736.2010.543287
Haijma, A. (2013). Duiken in een taalbad; onderzoek naar het gebruik van doeltaal als voertaal. [Diving into a Language Bath: Research on the Use of Target Language as Language of Communication]. Levende Talen Tijdschrift, 14(3), 27-40.
Ntelioglou, B.Y. (2012). Insights from a drama-EAL classroom. In J. Winston (Ed.), Second language learning through drama (pp. 81-91). Oxon: Routledge.
Reed, J., & Seong, M. H. (2013). Suggestions for an effective drama-based EFL course at a Korean university. Journal of Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics, 17(2), 91-106.
West, L., & Verspoor, M. (2016). An impression of foreign language teaching approaches in the Netherlands. Levende Talen Tijdschrift, 17(4), 26-36.

Kristina Goodnight hails from the USA where she worked as an actor, playwright and English and drama teacher. After moving to The Netherlands, she became an English teacher trainer at the University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, where she is now conducting doctoral research improvisational drama techniques into foreign language classrooms.