Starting out in Drama
I remember in 2013 when I applied to the Diploma in Performance programme at LASALLE College of the Arts, the then-programme leader Mr. Harris Jahim asked why I wanted to join the course; I told him because I wanted to eventually go into drama education, using it to inspire and help students discover their passion and full potential—even if it isn’t in drama or
theatre. Unfortunately he told me that the course doesn’t train students to become drama educators, but rather performers.
Fast forward, I got accepted into the course, went through 3 years of actor training and graduated with a Diploma in Performance. For 3 years I received formal actor training and when I graduated, I started working as an actor and storyteller, with most of my work focused on children aged 3 – 8 years old. But I knew there was much more.
The Desire to be an Educator
After 3 years of working as an actor and storyteller with young audiences, I had a desire to work with them as an educator. The desire was fueled by the fact that as a performer, my time with them is only limited to at most an hour; but as an educator, I get to meet with the children more regularly, and be able to bring drama into their classrooms and use it as a pedagogy to enhance their learning experience and encourage them to think creatively and critically.
However, there was just one problem—I was not pedagogically trained. Even though I was actor-trained, I was still lacking the many skills that educators need to properly and effectively conduct meaningful drama experiences with students in class. I believe that every child deserves access to quality arts experiences and education, and in terms of arts education, I recognised that I did not have the pedagogical skills and knowledge to execute a quality drama lesson. Yes, lesson plans can be given to educators, but I didn’t want to just rely on a lesson plan someone else created to conduct my lessons; I wanted my lessons to be tailored to my individual classes’ and students’ needs and abilities.
I had heard about the SDEA drama pedagogy course and when I saw via SDEA’s website that the registration for the 4th intake was open, I knew that the course would be a great opportunity for me to learn to translate my performance skills and knowledge into pedagogical practice.
Story Drama as Pedagogy
In the first week, our module was on drama education in the Singapore context. Our lecturer was Ms. Jennifer Wong and together, we discussed about the different drama terms used in Singapore schools and the understanding of the different terms.
During our discussion, Story Drama as pedagogy was briefly mentioned. As a practicing storyteller, that interested me. Since hearing about Story Drama as pedagogy, I have used it in many of my lesson plans to meet different objectives. Below are some stories that I have used to meet different objectives.
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt for students to learn about their 5 senses.
- Little Red Riding Hood to explore characterisation of different characters’ voice and physicality.
- Three Billy Goats Gruff for students to recognise how facial expressions and body language can convey different feelings and emotions.
I enjoy using Story Drama as pedagogy because for preschoolers, stories create a sense of excitement and enables them to take on the roles of different characters, giving them the space to play and explore, and develop their critical thinking skills. For example in Three Billy Goats Gruff, my students have questioned why Baby Goat has to be afraid of the Troll; can he be unafraid in the version they created and be bold in facing his fears instead.
Stories give children the opportunity to question, problem solve, think creatively and exercise their imagination—all in a dramatic world that raises the stakes, but yet provide the students with a safe space to play.
Yes, lesson plans can be given to educators, but I didn’t want to just rely on a lesson plan someone else created to conduct my lessons; I wanted my lessons to be tailored to my individual classes’ and students’ needs and abilities.
The Journey Continues
The SDEA Drama Pedagogy course has helped me realised my strength in using stories as pedagogy. With my repertoire of stories, I now go back to them and reflect on how I can use the stories to meet different objectives in my lesson. During the course, I have also learnt about different drama conventions which I can use in class to constantly engage my students and use the create meaningful drama experiences in class.
I am grateful to SDEA for offering this course because it has given me the first step in being a competent drama educator. And to all my peers who are either already teaching or thinking of going into drama education, I strongly recommend attending this course because, although short, it is intensive and it provides drama educators with the foundation to possessing fundamental pedagogical skills and knowledge. I look forward to my journey as a drama educator and attending more courses and masterclasses by SDEA to constantly improve my practice and have conversations with other drama educators.
Written by Jeremy Leong
Join us on 7pm, Friday, 31st May 2019, at Goodman Arts Centre for Let’s Connect:Reflections – a get-together of members and friends of SDEA. Register here.