How to Use Drama to Teach English in Primary Schools

Written by talia kennedy
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Learning all of the nuances of the English language can be difficult and every child's learning style is different. While some children flourish using rote memorisation and auditory learning, traditional methods favoured by many schools, others require alternative approaches to learning English to fully embrace the language. Using the dramatic arts may help elementary school students who favour role playing and storytelling learning methods. Performing a play or series of skits will promote learning the language in a different way.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Select a script for your students to read. You can choose a play that has been written with non-native English-speaking children in mind, which are easily found on English-language learning web sites, or adapt a classic play for young children. Scripts that use basic words and sentences and that are relatively short in length will work best. Challenge your students with a script that features new words, but don't pick a play that uses too high of a reading level or that uses old English, such as Shakespeare. A script that is written in simple, modern words will best serve your English-learning students without overwhelming them.

  2. 2

    Read the script with your students and assign parts. Have the class read the script aloud, with each student reading assigned lines. Discuss the elements of the play, such as its characters and plot. Ask them to describe the characters' personalities and have them plot out the arc of the story on a piece of paper. Have them write a brief description of the beginning, middle and end of the story.

  3. 3

    Encourage your students to learn the meaning behind the words so that they can convey appropriate emotions in their acting, as opposed to simply memorising their lines without fully understanding their meaning. Depending on your students' ability levels, you may need to draw pictures to assign meaning to some words or teach them the sounds associated with each letter so that they can learn to pronounce a word. Teach them to think of a mental picture, such as a smiling clown for the word "happy," that corresponds to the words with which they have difficulty. Their mental picture can help them to retain the meaning of the word.

  4. 4

    Block out the play with your students. Tell them where to stand when they deliver their lines. Tell them where each character should enter and exit. Keep the physical movements to a minimum so that students can focus on speaking their lines, not remembering where to stand. Coach them on how to use their facial expressions and body language to express the meaning behind the words.The more that you discuss the script with your students, the better they will understand the context of the language.

  5. 5

    Practice the play repeatedly for several weeks. Encourage your students to practice their lines at home, with friends and family members and in front of the mirror so that they can become comfortable with speaking the words in English in front of others. Don't stress perfection in your students' pronunciation; instead, gently coach them to speak the words correctly, but allow them to deliver their lines as naturally as possible to help build their confidence and natural conversational skills.

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