In my role as a drama educator, I have observed several benefits when students participate in a virtual theatre program.
The beauty of drama is that it is a universal language that brings people together. It can play a positive role in developing important life skills for our multicultural kids. The recent pandemic has offered educators an opportunity to take risks and explore innovative ways of teaching. By making drama education available to our children, we can support them to build and nurture meaningful connections.
1. A SAFE AND CONVENIENT SPACE TO PERFORM WITHOUT JUDGEMENT
A virtual drama classroom gives our multicultural kids a safe and convenient stage to perform. When I teach virtual IMPROV, students can explore connections with characters who are diverse. In addition, they deeply enjoy being able to experiment freely with different voices and accents without ever having the feeling of being judged. Moreover, this allows them to learn and appreciate what it means to be different from themselves right in the comfort of their own homes.
2. PROMOTES SOCIALIZATION AND COLLABORATION
During lockdowns and social distancing, many children have experienced feelings of anxiety, isolation, and loneliness. It is in such crucial times that virtual drama classes can almost be cathartic. Communication and connections are made possible online between multicultural children in new and creative ways. They can learn to accept, express, and release suppressed emotions in a safe space.
I have organized several virtual theatre performances where kids from over 15 different nationalities could collaborate and perform together. Parents also appreciate the international profile of students that a virtual classroom makes possible. Especially when they notice their children successfully nurture new friendships that go beyond borders.
3. IMPROVES CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS
For the most part, in-person classes are possibly the more preferred mode of learning drama. However, actors, musicians, and artists have effectively used the online space to create content and rehearse for years. When teaching theatre online, I have deliberately chosen to work with smaller-sized classes. This means that my students can receive closer attention and appear to concentrate better on the drama exercises at hand.
Another interesting observation is the positive impact on shy children. Many feel less exposed and more secure and are therefore more likely to volunteer and share their ideas. In this way, virtual drama education can actually work to complement rather than compete with a traditional classroom setting.
4. SPARKS CREATIVITY
Online drama sessions are an opportunity for both teachers and students to take some artistic license. Zoom backgrounds and online video features can spark curiosity and creativity amongst children and allow them to experiment with technology. In this way, our multicultural kids receive the stimuli to think outside of the box to enrich their performances. I constantly encourage my students to create their own costumes and find props or objects from their homes.
Often I find that children draw from their unique cultural experiences to brings more authenticity to their character and performance—another great way to build their self-confidence. The absence of a stage also means that sometimes educators have to find ingenious ways of planning a virtual performance. This can often lead to a wonderful student-teacher collaboration with the older and more online savvy students leading the way.
5. SUPPORTS LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
Online language courses have been around for a while, but the addition of drama helps spice things up a little. When drama is used as a language learning tool, children receive an opportunity to learn a new language or simply brush up their existing skills in a fun and imaginative way.
Reader’s theatre and memorizing lines for a monologue or a playscript all help to build fluency and vocabulary amongst children and develop and hone their public speaking skills. I often use theatre games like virtual ‘hot potato’ and the ‘one-word story’ to motivate and engage students to think off their feet and prompt them to articulate their ideas.
In conclusion, virtual theatre classes that are carefully designed to adapt to an online medium deliver some amazing results for our multicultural kids. In the absence of geographical boundaries, students from diverse cultures and backgrounds can connect, create and collaborate in a meaningful way.
Moreover, parents and children can also enjoy the convenience of joining a program of their choice without having to leave their own homes. These days the world is a zoom stage. Why not embrace our virtual reality and try something new for our children today!
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- The Benefits of Virtual Drama for Multicultural Kids - March 8, 2021