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					    Communicative Language Teaching Through Process Drama
         Process Drama is a comprehensive Drama in Education (DiE) approach which utilizes a
     wide variety of learner-centered drama activities, techniques, and conventions to engage
     participants in the exploration of and reflection on questions about what it means to be
     human. Initiated in the 1950s by DiE pioneer Dorothy Heathcote and later developed and
     refined by DiE luminaries Gavin Bolton and Cecily O’Neill (the latter of whom popularized
     the use of the term ‘process drama’), this dynamic teaching methodology involves the
     teacher and students working together improvisationally to create and explore an imaginary
     dramatic world which encapsulates a particular problem, situation, theme, or series of
     related themes.
         Process drama can be described as an extended, improvised, whole group drama
     process, “in which attitude is of greater concern than character” and in which “the
     participants, together with the teacher, constitute the theatrical ensemble and engage in
     drama to make meaning for themselves” (italics in original, Bowell & Heap, 2001, 7). Figure
     1 below enumerates twelve elements that can be said to characterize this rich and potent
     form of learner-centered educational drama. Some of these elements are shared with other
     drama forms; others are unique to process drama.
         Used for decades as an educational framework in mainstream reading, writing, and
     social studies classes in the UK, Australia, and Canada, process drama has been has been
     rapidly gaining worldwide popularity as an ideal second/foreign language‐learning tool,
     due to its unique capacity to engage all of the learners in an ongoing stream of extended
     speaking, listening, reading, writing, and critical thinking activities, while also activating
     their intuition, imagination, and emotion.

      Figure 1: Twelve Fundamental Characteristics of Process Drama

              • 100% improvised, no written script
              • Explores a big human question (which may be unspoken)
              • Comprises multiple episodes (i.e., separate dramatic encounters)
              • Initiated by a “pre-text”
              • Led largely through questioning
              • Students have maximum input in all decisions
                (Teacher has minimal decision-making role)
              • “Teacher-in-Role” (TIR)—teacher takes roles in the drama
              • Variety of different roles taken by students and teacher
              • Fosters reflection by participants
              • Variety of interaction patterns employed
                (Individual, paired, small groups, and whole class)
              • Mix of verbal and non-verbal activities
              • Non-linear chronology of episodes within the drama
                (Sequenced to stimulate maximum learner engagement and reflection)

© Leslie Sapp, 2011                                                                                   1
   Planning and Leading Effective Process Dramas for the L2 Classroom
         Although process drama in the L2 classroom differs slightly from process drama in most
     other contexts, leading any successful process drama requires applying four basic tactics,
     over and over again. These four basic tactics draw from the lifelong work of Dorothy
     Heathcote, the pioneer (in the 1960s) of the form that we now call process drama.
         Heathcote was an unswerving believer in involving the students extensively in the
     structuring of the entire drama, giving them a great deal of choice at every step along the
     way. However, a drama session was never a free-for-all; Heathcote’s leadership was always
     anchored by the principles underlying four basic tactics (Wagner, 1999), delineated below.

    Figure 2: Heathcote’s Four Basic Tactics for Leading Successful Process Dramas

     1.   Capture the participants’        Use a “hook” to draw the participants into the
                                           situation of the drama, making them want to know
                                           more about it and get involved in its world.
          (Ensures their initial           The most effective hooks (also known as “pre-texts”)
          engagement in the drama.)        provoke an attitude, and/or include a visual and/or
                                           tactile element, such as a prop, a picture, or a costume
                                           piece. (For beginner to intermediate L2 learners, a
                                           strong visual component is crucial.)
                                           [EXAMPLES: 1) Ceremonially taping a ribbon to each
                                           participant’s shirt to indicate membership in a secret society.
                                           2) Presenting a fictitious notice about a missing girl and
                                           asking whether anybody has seen her.]

     2.   Give the participants the        Ask a series of "branching questions” (either/or
                                           questions). This type of question allows you to
          opportunity to make some
                                           maintain considerable control, while also giving the
          clear-cut decisions.             participants the sense of ownership through choice.
          (Builds their commitment to      [EXAMPLES: “Does our drama take place in a city, or in a
          the drama.)                      small village?” “Is it early morning, or is it the end of the
                                           day?” “Are we people, or are we animals?”]

     3.   Bring something of what          Ask a series of information-seeking questions.
          the class already knows          [EXAMPLES: “What equipment do we need to take with us on
          into the drama.                  the trip?” “What sorts of jobs could people do in a hospital?”
                                           “What are some questions a police officer might ask after a
          (Supports their commitment       robbery?”]
          to the drama.)
     4.   Bring the class to periodic      1) Take a role in the drama as somebody with a
                                           particular attitude about the situation—curiosity,
          moments of reflection on
                                           concern, disapproval, delight, or opposition, etc.
          what is happening the            (This elicits reflective discussion and/or argument.)
                                           2) Periodically stop the drama to engage the
          (Ensures depth of experience participants in out-of-role reflective activities.
          through the drama.)

© Leslie Sapp, 2011                                                                                          2

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