Drama strategies can be used to develop enquiry skills, the skills of negotiation and the skills of empathy. The use of performance skills such as character development and storytelling can actively enhance students understanding and appreciation of historical context and the constraints and opportunities it presented to individuals in the past.
The use of personal stories such as eye witness accounts of people as told in their own words, speeches, letters and diaries are powerful addition to any history class. Students identify key images and important moments, and retell a story in their own words using historical film or photographs which mark out some key moments. Younger children could draw storyboards and story maps or sorting pictures into the right order
Writing an eye witness account in their own words and then presenting this to an audience will help the students (as the audience) to appreciate social, economic and political effects of events in the past on individuals and their families. This can also provide opportunities for students to explore how conflict affected the lives of men and women and children who tell a story. These stories can tell of prejudice, patriotism, loyalty, and the fight for equality and justice.
Story telling is especially powerful for exploring motivation of key individuals in history and the reasons for the choices they made and the consequences of their decisions.
Mantle of the expert
In this drama strategy the students are working in teams and given a topic to research for an audience. They are asked to work through the eyes of other people for a period of time as if they were wearing a mantle of expertise such as a team of experts who have been commissioned by museum to develop an exhibition on the commemoration of a historical The experts will use enquiry processes to set questions, chose a focus for the exhibition and then carry out their research. The students can also be involved in role play exercises , improvisation and discussion.
The use of an imagined enterprise which is being created with an imaginary client helps to drive the enquiry. At the same time understanding of historical context, significant people and events, and the construction of a historical interpretation such as an exhibition can be developed.
Important questions which could lead different stages of the enquiry are
- Which aspects of the past would you chose to represent in the exhibition and to whom?
- How will you represent the past? What are the key messages you will communicate to your audience?
- How will you connect the key messages of your exhibition to peoples’ lives today?
Flashbacks flash forwards
Using film clips or a selection of photographs of an event , students can improvise scenes a week, month, and minutes before and after a key event. This strategy provides opportunities to explore aspects of the background and character of historical figures, their motivation and the consequences of their actions. It explores what led up to a particular moment in history, the issues the event raised at the time and what challenges it led to in the future. This detailed examination of a dramatic moment creates the beginning of a story or narrative based on the event.
Students use a flashback to create still images of moments before the event and then move the drama forward in time to focus on what happened after the event. In this way the action can be broken up into sequences to enhance tension or the narrative. The students can then reorder the sequences to create a drama which goes forward and backwards in time.