What Drama Education Can Teach Your Child
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With the success of Hannah Montana and High School Musical, theater is suddenly hot. Your child may be showing interest in this year’s school play. But do you really want him to be an actor?
Gai Jones says, “Yes!” A theater educator with over forty years of experience, Jones' work has been recognized by the American Alliance for Theater and Education, the Educational Theater Association, and the California State Senate (among others).
According to Jones, “Theater addresses the skills which benefit children's education and development in five general areas: physical development/kinesthetic skills, artistic development /drama and theater skills, mental development/thinking skills, personal development/intra-personal skills, and social development/interpersonal skills.”
While many parents fear participation in drama will damage their child’s academic progress, a UCLA study concluded that students involved in the arts tend to have higher academic performance and better standardized test scores -- nearly 100 points better on the SAT, according to a separate study by The College Board.
Academic gains aren’t the only benefits. There are the obvious ones: improved self-confidence, better public speaking skills, but Jones says students show other gains as well, such as the “ability to work with an ensemble in cooperative ventures" and the "ability to work through consensus and differences or obstacles to achieve a goal.” She points out that a play requires students to follow a time line, to use self-discipline, and to accept feedback. Studying theater can be a great starting point for careers such as teaching, law, and politics, not to mention broadcasting and performing. And the ability to speak confidently in front of a group is a boon for any career.
If your child is interested in getting involved in theater, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Theater is not just for the outgoing. There are many ways for children to participate even if they’re afraid of the spotlight. Your child can play an ensemble role – a face in the crowd or a voice in chorus – which gives him stage time without the pressure. If she never, ever wants to be on stage, find out about backstage crew positions – building the sets, controlling the lights, managing the costumes. At many schools, there are tons of would-be actors, but never enough crew members, and without the crew, the actors would be lost!
Sometimes, disappointment can lead to growth. Not everyone can get a plum part in the school play. If your child comes home sad that he didn't get the role he wanted, encourage him to politely ask the director why. Most teachers will give specific, constructive suggestions. Learning to absorb and accept critique is a key life skill-- whether on the stage or off of it. Once your child is aware of where he needs improvement, help him make a plan to work on his weaknesses. Did your son talk too fast because he was nervous? Help him find opportunities to practice his public speaking. Did your daughter not know the song she was supposed to sing? Next time, get a copy of the script and score from the library or download the music online, and practice well before the audition. If your child knows the material well, she’ll give a better audition. And teaching her to come prepared is a valuable life skill.