Sometimes when we think of drama we think of complex archaic language, or we think of struggling to feel the motivation for a particular line, or if, like me, you went to primary school in Britain in the 1970’s, you may think of standing for what seemed like hours and being a tree!

But drama as a tool for learning EFL can be a much more straightforward and down-to-earth matter. It’s something that can be incorporated into almost every lesson, and it doesn’t necessarily require acting skills, or lots of time or practice. Having said that, its potential to promote learning is high. It’s a great way to bring to life the language in the coursebook and to make it meaningful and memorable, and on top of all this it is fun. As Cook (2000) put it: 

The rehearsal and performance of an appropriate play combines the best of both structural and communicative syllabuses: rote learning and repetition of a model, attention to exact wording, practice in all four skills, motivating and authentic language and activity, instances of culturally and contextually appropriate pragmatic use, and integration of linguistic with paralinguistic communication.

Cook, G. (2000) Language Play, Language Learning. Oxford University Press. 

In this interactive plenary, I reflected on my experiences as both a language learner and teacher, and proposed a strong rationale for the practice and performance of scripted dialogues and sketches as a core component within a modern, lexical (Lewis 1993) or ‘play’ based (Cook 2000) syllabus. 

About the lecturer:

Nick Bilbrough has been involved in language teaching for over twenty-five years, and has taught in three continents in a wide range of interesting and challenging contexts. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences worldwide. He holds an MA in Drama in Education and is particularly interested in the role of drama and storytelling techniques in second language learning. He is the author of two resource books in the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series: Dialogue Activities (2007) and Memory Activities for Language Learning (2011), as well as Stories Alive, a free resource book of story based activities for young learners, published by British Council Palestine, and numerous short articles. He has designed and delivered a vast range of development courses for language teachers, focusing on innovative and creative approaches to language teaching, and now works part time in London at the Sharek centre, in the training of teachers of Arabic. Most of his time and energy is now devoted to the registered charity he established, The Hands Up Project – teaching English through online storytelling and drama to disadvantaged children in Palestine, Jordan and Pakistan.