I had the opportunity to work with a group of 11 –year-olds from Bukit Panjang Primary School for six weeks in April. We conducted a workshop which focused on using drama skills to support the students in improving their command of the English Language.
I remembered how they burst into the classroom on the first day with such an infectious energy, ready to take on the world. They got more excited and revved up for action when they heard that they were going to learn drama skills that could be used in their everyday lives. This was a real surprise for me as the usual reaction I would get when I introduce drama workshop to students was that of indifference.
The challenge came in an expected way. Part one of the workshop centered on drama skills. The students had to work as a team and open to sharing their ideas in the team. However many of them, naturally, chose to only work with their friends. In order to facilitate full participation and teamwork, I had to think of different drama activities and icebreaker games to provide them with the opportunity to work with students whom they were not familiar with. These fun activities and games allowed the children to let their guards down and grow to be comfortable with each other. Through this process, and with encouragement that in the workshop there were no right or wrong answers, they grew in confidence and started to speak up more and readily shared their ideas.
By the time we moved on to part two of the workshop, the students were ready to apply their drama skills. Each student was randomly assigned a partner and given a script extract of The Nightingale which they had to dramatize and present their skit. It was really heartening to see some quiet ones coming out of their shells and also to spot some natural leaders. During rehearsals, the natural leaders could be seen taking charge of the rehearsals in their pairs and making sure they were on task, offering words of encouragement and supporting their partner in every activity.
At the end of the six weeks, it was heart-warming to see how the students grew from being just individuals to a cohesive team that cared and looked out for each other. That, to me is one of the wonderful things that drama can do for children. It opens their minds and allows them to grow into empathetic individuals and improves the way they interact with people around them. I could not have been more proud of this class of 11-year-olds at Bukit Panjang Primary.
Reginal Allyn is a Resident Learning and Engagement Officer at Singapore Repertory Theatre. She led a 6-week Actors 101 Programme at Bukit Panjang Primary in collaboration with Kids Excel, supported by Ascendas-Singbridge.