22 Jan Spotlight on: drama and performing arts for children
Benefits of drama lessons for children
I started working for Yourstage Drama (then Yourspace Drama) in July 2015. TYourstage is, an independent drama company which has seen rapid growth since the owner, Faith Hagerty decided to invest in some contract staff hiring me and also a Course Administrator who has made a tremendous difference to making the booking process smooth and keeping us all organised.
I started Amazing Futures Ltd., because I want to help more small companies like Yourstage take on the “Big Boys” with the large head offices (in this case the likes of Stagecoach and Perform which are massive operations in comparison) and thanks to the Yourstage owner realising she was never going to do that in her own and being prepared to invest in outsourced marketing admin support. It has made a massive difference to the company, doubling the turnover in two years and actually decreasing the marketing spend in many areas (for example the first thing I did was to review all the paid advertising the company was doing and strip it out of the marketing plan).
I have honestly loved every minute I’ve spent working on Yourstage projects in the last two and a half years. From changing the company name from Yourspace to Yourstage, leading the rebrand and new
Drama classes aren’t all about producing the great thespians of the future (although if that’s the end result, it’s a bonus!) – there are many benefits your child can gain from taking classes and courses in theatre arts. Having been involved closely with a drama school for two and a half years now, I have written this article to discuss just a few of the major benefits I have seen children gain from taking drama classes.
1. Confidence skills
If you ask someone what the main advantage of drama classes are, then about 90% of the time, the answer will probably be that drama is confidence giving. Drama is a creative pastime, feeding the imagination as children put themselves into another role. This broadens their horizons; but it also gives them a chance to try out different things without the fear of failure. Schools, even primary schools are so target driven and pressurised these days that subjects like performing arts often have to take a back seat.
Primary schools in London tend to be quite large, in the state sector anyway. My children go to a local primary school and there are 3 classes in each year – so 90 pupils. Whilst this has many benefits socially and in terms of facilities, the Christmas shows make me a bit sad. Only the loudest and most confident children are given the chance to shine. Unlike in my day when shows consisted of 30 children, not 90 and everyone had a part. I’ve seen the same male and female leads two years in a row (‘it worked last year with those children, why not stick with it’ you can imagine busy teachers think) with most of the other children crammed into a chorus singing together and frankly looking quite bored.
My children, whilst socially pretty confident with lots of friends, are not ‘stick hand up in the air and beg for a part’ types and they are happy to take a back seat (perhaps a bit lazy too!). During their Yourstage shows though they are completely different – owning that stage and loving every minute of being in the limelight! There are fewer children to ‘fight against’ for attention; hence they are bolder and everyone gets a turn at being a star!
2. Confidence in their everyday education
The term after my daughter started her Ealing drama classes I noticed her reading had improved tremendously. Everything she read she put loads of expression into. Before she read in the typical monotone fashion of most six year olds. Now, each character is given a different voice and she has learnt about voice tone, conveying emotion in her voice and more – most of this improvement I credit to her doing drama classes. Even her teacher noticed. Just a few weeks after my son started Yourstage Tots classes his teacher commented on how much more confident he was about holding his hand up to answer questions in class. I’m delighted with the results as these were two weak areas for them at school before!
3. Language and communication skills
Closely following the above, I would add that children expand their vocabulary by doing drama classes. By playing different parts, learning poems, working with authors and themes they may not have come across before – all these things introduce children to words and ideas they will not have encountered before. Drama is a fun way for your child to practise reading out loud and it will translate in your child reading with expression more fluently, different voices for different characters in books when reading out loud for example.
4. Social Skills and new friendships
In close association with gaining confidence, social skills also come into play in drama. Not only from having more confidence to make new friends easily but from working in small groups, teamwork plays a strong part. As a group the children wish to work together to produce their best possible performance. In our Ealing drama classes, children work with similar age groups for most of their lessons but the 6 to 16s also perform and rehearse together meaning they learn to co-operate and communicate with children in different age groups too. This offers a wonderful chance to form new friendships and the classes themselves provide a common ground for relationships to flourish. It’s nice for school age children to make friends in different schools as well and this can be particularly valuable if they are having a hard time socially at school or recently fallen out with a close friend. Children who sometimes struggle to form friendships at school often find they make friends easily at a drama class. All this helps their confidence too.
With the teamwork, children learn co-operation skills too, working together; not just worrying about their own part. They are proud of the performances they produce as a team of mini actors. Our Easter holiday course, for example, encourages group project work as the children help design and produce the end of course show themselves. It is heart-warming to see children, even the youngest ones helping each other out during rehearsals and performances, prompting lines and directions on stage if someone momentarily forgets. The teachers rarely have to get too involved with this; the children all help each other!
5. Self-expression and dealing with raw emotions
Drama looks at a range of different emotions and looks at the ways characters deal with feelings such as rage, jealousy, anger, grief and love. By studying drama, children are also studying human behaviour and learning about normal human emotions. Students of drama observe the different situations that different human reactions can arise from and it can all help build emotional intelligence, putting them in good stead for coping with difficult situations in the future. A drama class might include a brainstorming exercising getting the children to think of different words and phrases to describe how a character might be feeling in a particular scene. Subjects such as bullying, sibling rivalry, problems at school and other situations children might common find themselves in are often part of dramatic scenes and it can help children to express themselves through the non-confrontational medium of drama.
During their drama education, children learn that there are many different feelings out there, and many different ways that they manifest themselves. This can only be a very healthy thing! Role play is a natural part of children’s play and drama classes can basically help to direct that natural play technique into harnessing the child’s ability to understand and control their feelings in a more positive way.
All in all, there are many ways drama classes can help your child’s development. It’s a very versatile pastime and will bring many benefits socially and intellectually but the main emphasis should always be on fun, enjoyment and an inner sense of achievement.
The main challenges for marketing drama classes are – the amount of competition – there are lots of different drama groups out there and some are massive national brands with much bigger marketing budgets but operating on a local basis. It’s an ever increasingly popular children’s activity though so if you’re good enough you’ll succeed, as long as you are marketing your drama classes effectively.
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.