Tools to Teach Traits
Schools should be fun and classrooms should be lively to keep the appetite up in students. Is learning fun for our students? Is the craving for learning there in our students? If not, who is responsible for that?
Learning becomes fun and more effective when it is not deliberate. For most of the things which are forced upon will have similar force striking back just as a defensive mechanism rather than occupying a perpetual emplacement in the mind. The life span of learning depends a lot on how we learn
“Your craving for learning helps you learn.”
In most schools the primary classes enjoy the privilege of ‘learning is fun’ theory whereas the high school and higher secondary classes will have only depressing stress and undesirable struggle to reach the target. Unfortunately, many of the high school teachers keep their target as to complete the syllabus and to conduct exams; hence ignore the fact that the young minds in front of them have bundles of imagination and creativity in them. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the duty of a teacher also includes the successful completion of the syllabus and equipping her students for exams. In that case, what teachers should aim at is to make their classroom a platform for letting go the brimming creativity and imagination of the students in their curricular topics by giving them a chance to explore further and fathom out the syllabus with much ease than becoming the passive viewers of the one-man show of the teacher. Students would be exhausted and bored with our monotonous chant advising them to make learning fun. The more we advise the more they would feel bored. If we can’t make our teaching fun, how can we expect the students to make learning fun? So, instead of advising them, we should find ways to make teaching and learning fun.
Learning becomes fun and more effective when it is not deliberate. For most of the things which are forced upon will have similar force striking back just as a defensive mechanism rather than occupying a perpetual emplacement in the mind. The life span of learning depends a lot on how we learn. As we say learning is for life, let our students love learning and be active, imaginative and creative in class. Let them take initiative to make use of every single opportunity. Let them come out with original thoughts and ideas.
Teaching of drama is one of the many areas of the study of literature that we should give adequate consideration as while learning a drama the students get to improve their linguistic skills too. In most of the cases drama is taught very undramatically. Kinaesthetic learning of drama will help the learners to understand it better. Understanding the theme, character, setting etc may not be the cup of tea for everyone especially in the learning of dramatic pieces of literature. Some at least would find it unrealistic, tedious and extraneous because of their lack of interest in it. Better comprehension (natural learning) of the subject is always better than rotten learning (deliberate learning) of the same. Varying teaching techniques involving Roleplays, Improvisation, Choral Dramatisation etc will help to make the class lively, engaging and productive. But learning unless it is concretised with writing will not satisfy the exam requirements. Learners will never enjoy memorising the notes teachers give as it may be far different from their writing style and lacks originality. When an answer is attempted in their own words, it becomes easier for the learners to remember it. That makes learning happen in the natural way.
Monologues, Acrostic poems, Autobiography or Diary Entry of the characters and Mini sagas are interesting ways to learn drama. The students can be asked to imagine themselves as any of the characters and write an autobiography with multiple episodes or a diary entry on a daily basis. Even though the teacher does not get any time to correct the linguistic errors in their writing, she can make them read it to the class and consider it as a warming up activity. Precision in writing matters a lot in different sections of the question papers. Mini sagas help them to acquire the skill of precision and attempt summaries with confidence. Writing mini sagas help the students to learn various scenes by summarising them into 50-word stories.
Preparing and presenting monologues and writing acrostic poems are detailed below:
Activity 1 – Prepare and present monologues
Monologues and acrostic poems enhance the ways of learning different traits of characters in drama. In theatre, a monologue (mono means single and logue means discourse) is a speech presented by a single character most often to express their thoughts and feelings aloud. When students place themselves as the characters to speak out the thoughts and feelings of characters, they unknowingly learn about even the trivial qualities of those characters. Students who prepare and present the monologues of different characters on different situations learn the traits and motives of those characters and their role and relevance in the play.
Let’s consider William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The topics for monologue presentation can be:
- The melancholy of Antonio and his deliberation on how the others interpret it
- The thoughts of Bassanio regarding borrowing money again from Antonio
- The thoughts of Bassanio on the possible risks of approaching Shylock to borrow money on Antonio’s name
- Portia’s thoughts on the lottery of caskets, her father’s will and her destiny
- The dilemma of Launcelot whether to continue with the cruel Shylock or run away to the generous Bassanio
- Jessica’s feelings as she leaves her house and elopes with Lorenzo
- Lorenzo’s views on Jessica as a lover, as a Jew and as Shylock’s daughter
- Shylock’s thoughts when he hears the news of Antonio’s shipwreck from Tubal
- Shylock’s thoughts when he hears the news of Jessica spending money lavishly on even buying monkeys
- Prince of Morocco’s and Prince of Aragon’s thoughts about themselves and the lottery of caskets
- Bassanio’s thoughts as he stands in front of the lottery of caskets
- Portia’s thoughts as Bassanio stands in front of the lottery of caskets
- The agony that Bassanio has after reading the letter regarding how destiny played in to make Antonio receive the forfeiture
- Antonio’s feelings as he stands in front of the Duke in the trial scene
- Portia, as Balthasar, contemplating on the stubbornness of Shylock
- Portia’s/Nerissa’s secret plans to catch their husbands for gifting their rings to someone
Students should be given the freedom to select any character or any scene from the play and prepare their speech well-in-advance before the actual presentation of the monologue in class. Either videos of monologue presentations can be shown to the students or teachers can present a model monologue to give the students a better picture of it. Presenting a monologue with proper voice modulation, facial expressions and gestures by the teacher will undoubtedly boost up the confidence of the students; the students will not have any inhibitions to present their monologues in front an audience. When they present a character, they get to understand and experience the character better; that would eventually leave an eternal impression of the character in their minds. Watching their peers present the other characters will both help them to learn the same without any difficulty and enjoy the enacting of their peers.It also benefits the students to mould their personality as they become more flexible with a welcoming attitude to any impromptu activities that they may face in any scenario of their life.
Activity 2 – Acrostic poems
Writing acrostic poems too is an effective tool to learn the characters, their traits and events associated with them. An acrostic poem is a fun poem with a topic idea running down the left side of the poem. The first letters of each line spell out the topic word. Character analysis can be done with much ease by relating the traits and anecdotes to the character names.
Shakespeare’s brilliant villain
Had no mercy, even on demand
Yearning to take revenge
Lends money not gratis
Obstinate, vile and vociferous
Cur, as called by Antonio
Knelt before the Venetian law when Portia caught him on the hip.
Student Specimen Writing:
(Chinmaya Bijumon, student, L’ecoleChempaka)
This is not the end of it as the ways to make learning fun are infinite. If we let our creativity do the magic, we will be surprised to know that ‘infinite’ is not just any number any more.
“Where there is a will, there is a way.” Let it be the resolution that every single teacher makes to nurture the creativity of the beautiful bunch of buds they receive and hence help the buds to bloom. Learning becomes fun and teaching too.
Teaching of drama is one of the many areas of the study of literature that we should give adequate consideration as while learning a drama the students get to improve their linguistic skills too. In most of the cases drama is taught very undramatically. Kinaesthetic learning of drama will help the learners to understand it better.
Jyotsna Manoj is a trained post-graduate in English Language and literature with SET, CTET certifications and 19 years of experience in teaching Indian (State, CBSE&ICSE/ISC) and Cambridge International syllabi. She is presently working in one of the most reputed schools in the city, L’ecole Chempaka, Trivandrum, as the Head of the Department of English. She has profound experience in scripting and directing plays, writing stories, poems and articles for magazines and blogs. As an educator, she is still hunting for and implementing innovative and child-friendly methods and activities to ‘make learning a joyous adventure.’