It is proposed to be a regular classroom activity forYear 1 to 6. Although with reservation, Piagetian developmental stages could bereferential when looking at appropriate learning stages for children atdifferent ages.
Recent experiment has also suggested brain maturation-dependentprogression of cognitive limitations across childhood and early adolescence(Gogtay et al., 2004). Therefore, the activities involved in LTD should besequentially more complicated as children age, proceeding from concrete toabstract learning. Concrete learning for younger children could be achieved byacting out the written materials in books. To make cognitive loads manageable,teachers could verbalize the materials (story-telling). For older children, theactivities could be more sophisticated. Apart from drama-acting, children canbe given more autonomy in fiction-reading and collaborative script writing.
There is no doubt that teachers should act as facilitators, but children areexpected to take the initiatives to explore and manage own learning process. By KS2, pupils are expected to consolidate literacyskills in different aspects, including reading, writing, listening and speaking(Education Endowment Foundation, 2017). Although only performance in readingand writing is shown to be below average, LTD is an all-rounded intervention. Suchintegrative approach is important in a sense that different aspects of literacyskills are inter-related and supportive to each other’s development. Forinstance, phonological sensitivity and oral language proficiency were shown tobe influential to reading comprehension in school-age children (Gottardo etal., 1996; Mages, 2015). Ascommented by McMaster (1998), the multi-aspectseffectiveness of drama was supported by extensive evidence.
In Cullum’s 1967 experiment,about 90% of kindergarten children succeeded in recalling sophisticated wordsby the end of school year when words were dramatized (as cited in Mages, 2008).In a more recent study with 4th graders, drama-based teachingimproved reading comprehension performance significantly more than text-basedteaching (Rose et al., 2000). The effectiveness of LTD is steamed by intrinsicmotivation and efficient cognitive processing. LTDcan increase intrinsic motivation for children to read and write, and this isuseful in enhancing long-term academic outcomes. When children are givenopportunities to create their own scenes, they could direct own learning basedon their interests. With high level of autonomy, children usually tend to findthe “perfect” story to dramatize (McMaster, 1998). This does not only encouragechildren to read more, but also provides motivation for them to comprehend and masterthe materials.
Intrinsic motivation created by dramatized learning wasdemonstrated in real classroom setting. Teachers DeRita and Weaver (1991)observed drama-learning in 4th graders, and found that positiveattitudes were driven by purposeful learning and appreciation from audience.The important role of intrinsic motivation in learning is clearly shown inliterature. For instance, Broussard and Garrison (2004) reported positivecorrelation between intrinsic classroom motivation and academic performance in1st and 3rd graders. When compared with extrinsicallymotivated counterparts, 5th graders with intrinsic motivationalorientation obtained higher overall achievement scores (Boggiano et al.
, 1992).Nonetheless, Harter’s seminal longitudinal study (1981) suggested a shift fromintrinsic to extrinsic mastery motivation in elementary school children.Therefore, it is important to start drama learning early for optimal benefits. LTDcould also foster literacy development by facilitating cognitive processing. Onan individual level, LTD aids consolidation and flexible manipulation ofknowledge. According to Bloom’s taxonomy hierarchy, creating is the educationalgoal which requires the greatest degree of cognitive processing, and in-depthunderstanding should be achieved before that (Adam, 2015). Consistent withthis, 5th graders were more capable in understanding dramatizedfictions from multiple perspectives and relating them to real-life situations(Medina, 2004). In-depth understanding implies necessity of deep processing.
Asclaimed by Craik and Lockhart, such deep processing would lead to moreelaborative and stronger memory trace (Oded& Walters, 2001). Deep processing could lead to better learningoutcomes since memory is the basis of learning. In the experiment by Barker andcolleagues (2002), kindergarten and primary students shown better performancein free recall task for deeply processed words that semantically encoded.
Apartfrom deep processing, LTD also fosters encoding through multi-sensoryrepresentations. Theoretically, drama-acting secures newly learnt semanticknowledge through enactive and iconic representations, which are suggested byBruner to be the basis for acquisition of later abstract knowledge.Multisensory encoding is useful since it enriches mental representation ofinformation by generating additional cues, and facilitates retrieval andcomprehension (Markant et al., 2016; Mages, 2006). In drama acting, children could embed verballanguage into nonverbal acts, and it promotes understanding and processing ofsymbolic meanings in sentences. Even when multisensory learning only involvedsimple audiovisual presentation, it still shown to enhance 6- to 8-years-oldperformance in category identification task than either auditory- orvisual-only learning did (Broadbent et al., 2017). Neurologically, recentresearch acknowledged the positive effects of multisensory experiences onstronger information encoding and retrieval, as well as the development ofmultisensory neural network (Murray et al.
, 2004; Goswami & Bryant, 2010).With better understanding and memory, drama strengthens knowledge base, andenables further flexible use. On a social level, LTD involves socialinteraction and feedback in drama-acting and collaborative script-writing. Notonly invoking reciprocal learning by sharing knowledge, interacting with peersalso allows children to think aloud (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017).This facilitates contextual understanding since it allows overt coordination ofinformation.
The effects of collaboration on children learning was shown byMarkant and colleagues (2016), which children worked in pairs performed betterin reproduction of object arrangements than passive observers. Toassess the outcomes, teachers could monitor pupils’ academic progress byregular assignments. For quantitative measures, GLD attainment rate could beassessed by the end of foundation year, and pupils’ literacy performance couldbe compared with national average by the end of KS2. Despite the obviousadvantages, teachers should carefully implement the intervention. For instance,girls may prefer active learning less, hence be less motivated inparticipating. Besides, teachers should also set clear learning goals forpupils, since learning activities may distract them from initial learning tasksif they are not explicitly directed to learning goals.