Society asks teachers to help students develop great communication skills, compassion, media awareness and intercultural competence. Many people fear a world solely reigned by digital technology in which real human interactions are rare. A growing number of people already have problems living with respect and appreciation for their own or other people’s bodies. Having the opportunity to do drama at school gives our students plenty of opportunities to interact, create, be and act. Here, students can learn to express themselves and get to know others.
Every Drama teacher could tell you the true story of students who used to be shy and hiding behind their hair, but then grew so much confidence within one school year that even their parents were surprised to see how freely they acted on stage. Many students expressed that they gained self-esteem through drama lessons.
Schiller says, “humans are humans when they are playing”; Hartmut von Hentig goes as far as saying “we only need two subjects: Drama & Science”! Still, most places in the world don’t offer drama lessons to all or any students.
180 students from classrooms in ten different countries on six different continents contributed to the making of this video. In our classroom in Germany, we started with the question: "What in this world makes you worried? How could you express your worry and anger?" and started to make plans for a video. We invited students and teachers from other countries to join us with their messages.
Many students were sure, we wouldn't have a big impact, since we are "only" students, and to get attention we thought in our day and age people need to show nudity or other provocative content.
So, we came up with the idea of showing parts of our bodies in this video. We want the world to look at their youth. And we want everyone to contribute to a better world with equality, peace and
education for everyone.
The video was aired at a film festival in the French West Indies.
Recently, my students explored, what it's like to be young. A German song called "Schön ist die Jugend" (Youth is beautiful) triggered their interest: How wonderful is it to be young? How do people talk to you when you are young? What are you (not) allowed to do? They expressed their thoughts and ideas in a little scenic collage and added quotes about youth. Therer are English and German subtitles.
In an educational context, theater productions often have very low or no budgets. Although a lot of my play productions have been generously funded by the European Union, the German Embassy,
Performing Arts and Culture Funds we always tried to spend money reasonably and reduce, reuse and recycle for sustainable productions.
At Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand there has been an annual German play production since 1954. In 2009 we played "Peterchens Mondfahrt", a German fairy tale. All costumes have been made
by the participants and the umbrellas which are used for different costume and prop parts have been collected from the university campus after one of the characteristic local rain and storm days
which left the university ground with more than 35 broken umbrellas of all colors and sizes.
In colaboration with Dr. Heike Wedel, I recently published an article about a vision for multilingual drama teaching. For decades teachers have included theater methods in the language classroom. In Germany "bilingual classes" or Content and Language Integrated Classes are entering the curriculum. Students get to study a subject in a target language (usually English). At the same time the subject Drama is introduced in many schools. Still there is a long way to go before every child in Germany has the chance to learn to express themselves on and off stage. In our article we sum up the history and state of combining languages and drama teaching and elaborate the didactics of modern drama teaching, which goes far beyond the common misconception of acting out old plays. We create ideas for a concept for a bilingual approach to drama, which - in our opinion - holds a potential for multilingual lessons like no other subject and therefore could and should play an important role in our increasingly multicultural, multilingual society.
This year, my students developed a project that reflects on heroism. It is a collage, loosely dealing with these questions: Who is a hero? Who thinks of themselves as a hero? Why do I have to be
a hero? Has everybody got the same chances to act in a heroic way? How is heroism connected to poverty, wealth, a good social standing? With post-dramatic methods the students, who have never
been in a drama course before, developed a collage with elements of theater choirs, dialogues, contrasting and supporting music and physical play. English subtitles are
Drama lessons involve physical learning as well as intellectual learning. They are holistic by nature. To be inspired students also need to see a lot of different theater productions. We visit theaters as often as possible and invite groups to our school, but we also use the great variety of available online materials to provide a pool of audiovisual options for our learners. Again, the abundance of the internet can easily discourage students or prevent them from seeing the particularly interesting scenes. That's why I prepared a drama platform with a cornucopia of video examples for them to chose from.
The German state of Hessen offers a great qualification programme for Drama teachers at Schultheaterstudio Frankfurt. It involves one year of basic training which can be replaced with comparable experience acquired in other institutions and a two year intensive course with 600 hours of training in theater didactic, methods, analysis, styles, theory, history, guided and unguided teaching, theater pedagogy and a project.
Becoming a trained drama teacher is a valuable qualification. Plenty of untrained people teach drama and often that means that they copy hierarchy structures from professional theater productions. If you haven't learned it any other way it is tempting to act like a director who chooses a play and hands out main parts and small parts to students who are then trained to act in a way that pleases the director. With a good training as a professional drama teacher you learn plenty of techniques of how to develop original scenic material with students, use artistic strategies and help students discover their own creativity and physical expression. This way they also learn how to cooperate instead of fight about the biggest part.
Nathan der Weise is a play published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in 1779. Being a plea for religious tolerance its topic is particularly relevant today. The teaching unit I created for students in year 11 (German classes) helps students approach this challenging peace of literature with theater methods, but also takes into consideration that not everyone feels comfortable being an actor. This is why students choose whether they want to be actors, hosts or writers and together they prepare an afternoon with rewritten scenes from the play, introductory speeches and boards with background information.
Hachemer, Mareike. Nathan am Nachmittag. Didaktische Reihe zum szenischen Erschließen von Lessings "Nathan der Weise". München: Grin, 2011.
The local newspaper writes: The project includes students' skills of all kinds: They write, play, speak, craft, paint, design brochures and posters, use re-writing techniques and improvisation. The topic is timeless and approached deeply from different angles. A second German class contributed by preparing photo stories, videos and the stage decoration. This way, creative subjects are connected, students' talents and ideas are fostered and the lessons are opened up for other courses and the public. The question "Which is the true religion?" is put into the center of attention and answered wisely.