Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Reflections on a Teacher-in-Role Approach in the Classroom

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Reflections on a Teacher-in-Role Approach in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

This project investigates children's responses to visual communication in an English primary classroom in an EFL context. A teacher-in-role approach was adopted to introduce drama into the classroom. Children of primary school age, from a range of backgrounds, studied English vocabulary and sentences with eight student teachers utilising drama techniques to facilitate the teaching of English. Student teachers designed a play based on a famous tale to attract young learners' attention and with an interactive approach to learning. The results show that young learners were better able to understand better items of English. Moreover the experiment was of considerable benefit to the eight student teachers in their understanding of pedagogical issues as they grappled with the challenges and implications of using drama and sketch books in the classroom.

Keywords: teacher-in-role, drama, storytelling

1. Introduction

The use of a variety of teaching methods and of meaningful learning material is often expected to provide adequate support for young learners and to promote English second language acquisition. Accordingly, this project concentrated on the usefulness of strong visual forms of communication to stimulate young learners' motivation to learn English.

Visual communication is usually more clearly and therefore more easily understood than just words. Visual communication is not a new tool. Many teachers have recourse to various forms of visual communication including pictures, posters, slides, drama and video in the language classroom (Arizpe & Styles, 2003; Britsch, 2010). Therefore, this study explores how teachers can incorporate a broad range of types of visual communication such as, for example, the dramatisation of a well known tale. A teacher-in-role approach, when teachers act out a role or roles in a play, is used to support learning. Instead of explaining the printed content of a coursebook, they used dramatic techniques to present a popular story. When a student teacher plays a part, it is expected that a learner's attention will be attracted and retained. This study examines these expectations and also investigates the interaction between student teachers and young learners.

2. Literature Review

There is a lot of research supporting the view that visual elements are able to enhance students' learning (Plass et al., 1998). The reason is that visual representation provides a holistic understanding that words alone cannot convey (Racine, 2002). The study draws upon three elements that focus on educating and motivating young learners using storytelling, a teacher-in-role approach and drama.

2.1 Storytelling in the Classroom

Storytelling captures interest and attention (Spaulding, 2011). As Davies points out:

Storytelling entertains and excites, which is an important part of learning. If children are having fun they are involved, and motivated to learn more. (Davies, 2007, p.6)

Teachers tell the story using different voices and intonations that attract student attention; in this way, stories encourage students to ask questions and teachers can thus get a better idea of what students have learnt. Sheu (2008, p.4) states that "Stories have the potential to help them make the links with their prior knowledge, and to make the foreign language classroom less foreign."

Storytellers use body language and facial expressions to communicate with the audience (Haven & Ducey, 2007; Roney, 2009). Good stories have the potential of arousing the interest of students, of helping them concentrate on the lesson and of stimulating their imagination (Matulka, 2008). Accordingly, storytelling can be considered as a way of developing children's ability to interpret and understand learning material. As Wright (1995) states, when children can tell a story in their own or a second language, the language becomes theirs. However, who is the best storyteller in a classroom? …

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