A casual conversation with a colleague raised the point that most English as Second Language (ESL) students are focused on exams, including IELTS and TOEFL. The traditional way of studying for the exams is to take special classes with special books focused on vocabulary and on how to take the exams. We both agreed that unfortunately this results in memorization rather than learning; in other words, after the exams, the material learned is quickly forgotten. Through my experience with teaching theatre I "felt" that theatre was a better way to both teach English and to make the learning last. The result is I researched the subject and found that studies have indeed shown the greater benefits of theatre training.
Some of the facts:
In the journal Children's Theatre Review, v33 n2 p23-26,33 Apr 1984, "...32 grade school children (ages 6 to 9 years) with limited English proficiency showed that when they participated in creative drama sessions over an eight-week period, drama proved to be effective in stimulating syntactic growth. Results suggest that interaction and purposeful communication are important in second-language acquisition." (From a French website, http://www.epim-mis.com.)
According to Patricia Guzman, a Chilean actress who speaks impeccable English, "The theater is an emotional venue and it is a wonderful place to learn English. You want to understand what the actors are saying because you empathize with them, you get to know them as people. This encourages you to expand your English vocabulary." In-class theater allows students to practice their English language skills in a non-threatening environment. (From an eHow article, http://www.ehow.com/how_7857652_learn-english-through-theater.html.)
There are many English classes already established that are essentially "disguised" as theatre classes, everywhere from London to Arizona to Japan to California to Rome to Hong Kong... .
Don brings years of performance expertise to the classroom, including guidance of students in conceiving, creating, producing and performing their own musicals and dramatic performances.
While not formally trained specifically for TOEFL, he utilizes his knowledge of both explicit ETS TOEFL guidelines for test preparation and ETS tips and resources in his programs. As students gain confidence in English, they also acquire a basis for application of their knowledge in the test environment. Thus they not only improve their vocabulary and understanding of the mechanics of the language, they also make the language a part of who they are.
(click on the image to see the full poster and to print the 4.3MG PDF file.)
This program is ideal for a middle or high school setting; alternatively, it may serve as a centerpiece program for an International school's extra-curricular activities. It is also suitable as a program for adults.
In the school setting, it may be used as a one- or two-term program. In either case, the first term would involve the students acquiring basic acting, writing and musical skills; Don would assist in the writing of their scripts. If there is a second term, they would take their first term experience to a higher level, and be completely responsible for the entire production. This approach if effective for grades five through adults.
Please contact Don with your questions and comments, and to explore possibilities.
Other References and Resources
ETS website (purveyers of the TOEFL, GRE, Praxis and other tests)
Lexile Measures (measures reading ability; part of ETS)