Matthew Fam is a recipient of the Tina Sergeant Professional Development Initiative in 2016. As part of the initiative, he received a subsidy to attend the SDEA Drama Pedagogy: Essential Teaching and Learning Approaches course at SDEA. He writes his reflections about how he has put what he’s learnt into practice in his role as a drama instructor at Bedok View Secondary School.
Process Drama in Bedok View Secondary School Drama CCA
by Matthew Fam
As an arts practitioner who directs productions for youth theatre festivals and school assembly shows, I found Dr. Prudence Wales’ sessions in the Drama as a Critical Pedagogy module especially useful. I believe that the Process Drama activities help students envision the world of the play, encourage them to be emotionally invested in its characters, and give them an opportunity to create.
In this reflection piece, I use my experience facilitating students from Bedok View Secondary’s Drama CCA to highlight skills learnt from SDEA’s Drama Pedagogy course. I aim to document the five steps of Process Drama in a 90-minute session conducted during December 2016.
Context of Production
The series of Process Drama activities prepare Bedok View’s students for the Singapore Youth Festival 2017. For this year’s festival entry, we are using “Wounded”, a script about bullying in schools. There are 30 students ranging from 14 to 16 years old.
Step One: Basic Role Playing
First, I inform students of my role-play as a school counsellor who is working on the case of school bully, Meen. I exit the space and re-enter as the assumed character, before questioning the class of their opinion regarding Meen. By assuming a mask, the distinction between teacher and student is blurred. In this case, the latter group feels less pressure to give “correct” answers. This aids in the ease of sharing one’s opinions of the main character. As students become more comfortable in offering their views, it sets the precedent of higher engagement levels throughout the rest of the creation process.
Step Two: Gossip Mill
The flurry of opinions segues well into our next activity: Gossip Mill. This time, students curate their stories and opinions according to different groups of people who know Meen. I divide the class into groups, and each one takes on the roles of Meen’s teachers, classmates, and family members respectively. Groups are to provide sound bites of the gossip spread by these people. In smaller groups, I realise that students are even more at ease in making up stories of Meen. I notice how the students are quick in generating material, and challenge them with a short improvisation instead.
Step Three: Creating Tableaus
Next, we select milestones in Meen’s life at 7, 12, 14 and 17 years old. Each group chooses a time period to work on, and creates two tableaus depicting important events that happened within that frame. After 10 to 15 minutes of preparation, we sit around the room and watch each group present the tableaus. I ask the students what they think is happening in each tableau, and what each character is probably feeling in the various situations. This put them in the shoes of the main character, Meen, and assists with the understanding of her backstory. This takes the longest of the five steps as students interpret different feelings of Meen, and there is plenty of debate over whether Meen is truly a bully as her schoolmates claim. We discover that while Meen is known to be a bully, she was once bullied herself. I feel that this teaches students the importance of assessing moral situations from various angles, and respecting the differing views of others.
Step Four: Role on the Wall
In Step Four, students express their thoughts through a group brainstorm session in Role On The Wall. On large sheets of paper, students draw a silhouette of Meen. Within this outline, they discuss and write down words to describe her attitudes and character traits. Words written outside of this outline describe impression other people have of her. Listing enables students to observe how Meen is just as emotionally wounded as her victims. In all the groups, students agree that Meen is a vulnerable and insecure person who resorts to bullying in order to create a false sense of security for herself.
Step Five: Letter Writing
In our final activity, students write a personal letter as any one of the characters explored during the session. For example, they may choose to write as Meen, or as a bully victim writing to Meen. Students have the choice to share their letter with the class.
It has been two months since my use of Process Drama in Bedok View Secondary. After the session, I realise that the students are more open in offering suggestions and spontaneous in their improvisations. They also posses a good understanding of various character backgrounds, and this improves their performance skills. For example, the student who plays Meen doesn’t just play up a stereotype, but considers why one bullies others as a means to hide one’s own insecurities. She recites her lines with a balance of contempt and vulnerability.
These exercises have showed me how I can actively involve students in a creative process. Students have greater agency to create, rather than being instructed what to do. I have also learnt the different ways of engaging learning styles though physical activity, writing, or speaking. I hope to continue honing my skills through these lessons learnt and more in the projects ahead.
© Copyright is held by the author (Matthew Fam) and the Singapore Drama Educators Association
All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review for private study and research, no reproduction, copy of transmission of this publication may be made without written permission from the Singapore Drama Educators Association.
If you are referencing this article, please credit the author and the Singapore Drama Educators Association in your reference list as follows:
Fam, M (2017) Process Drama in Bedok View Secondary School Drama CCA, Singapore: Singapore Drama Educators Association, Retrieved from http://www.sdea.org.sg