Developing oral language through drama: Investigating the success of the approach

Children’s oral language skills at the earliest stages of education are known to determine their
success at school. Improving oral language skills is achievable through targeted intervention, and
drama can be an effective intervention medium – but its potential has not been extensively
evaluated to date. In this talk, I will discuss the findings of an eight-week pilot, designed to
investigate how successful and effective a drama-based intervention can be. 21 children in Years 1-3
completed the intervention (12 followed a movement-based approach and 9 followed a text-based
approach), while 20 children of the same age acted as a control group. Quantitative data (i.e., oral
language assessments administered before and after the intervention) and qualitative data (i.e.,
interviews held before and after the intervention and observations held during the drama
workshops) were collected. No statistical differences in the oral language measures were found
between the two intervention groups, or between the intervention group and the control group at
the end of the intervention. However, the interviews and observations suggested that the
workshops were enjoyable and helped children develop their confidence, self-expression, and
leadership skills. Based on the qualitative findings, we believe that a drama-based intervention can
be successfully completed in the target context. Although more robust research is needed to
establish the effectiveness of the intervention, our findings emphasise that drama can be a useful
pedagogical tool as the socio-affective skills that it seems to boost can facilitate the development of
oral language.