The Role of Theater in the Classroom
Probably the most common question we get about our work has to do with our views on the role of theater in the classroom.
Needless to say, we think it’s extremely important, and in this post we want to articulate why. It boils down to 3 simple categories:
- Learning Should Be Fun!
- Theater Engages Multiple Faculties, and
- Retention Rates Go Up.
First and perhaps most importantly, we are firm believers that learning should be fun.
Unfortunately the “traditional” or “accepted” methods of teaching often involve a lecture style format. This might be ok for adults (well, not really, but we’ll leave that point aside for now), but for kids lecturing is probably the least effective way to teach them anything.
Retention rates are low, as students’ minds wander; this increases in any class where the student is not naturally interested in the subject. For most middle and high schoolers that’s, well, just about everything.
Having a fun and interactive learning environment engages the students in a different and more productive way. Which leads us to…
Theater Engages Multiple Faculties
Secondly, many people don’t realize just how cross-disciplinary artistic involvement can be.
Whether you’re talking about putting on a play and getting the students to act, or having them write creative songs or come up with a painting or sculpture, the arts, collectively, have been proven to engage disparate parts of the brain and bring them into harmony.
This means that whereas only a handful of synapses might fire for a “boring” lecture, a fun play forces the students to engage their memory, reasoning skills, and creative ability, each of which has a different biological center in the brain, and requires different types of thought.
This leads to a whole-brain development strategy, AND can help improve subject-specific learning.
Retention Rates Go Up
Finally, there is overwhelming evidence that creating an interactive environment for students will almost always increase the retention of the material being taught.
This is as true for a science experiment as it is for theater and the other arts. The benefit of theater is that you can easily incorporate it to teach just about any subject matter you want to, whether that’s literature, a foreign language, history, math, or science.
For more, read this great article on how active learning improves retention.