Drama in Teaching English as a Second Language


Drama is a very important element in teaching. The objective of every teacher is to make students understand and excel in their studies. In languages, the objective is to help students gain fluency in the language they are studying. Every educator wants to implement a learning method that is as effective as possible (Coldewey & Streitberger, p. 13). However, there have been controversies over what can be considered as the best method for teaching.

Teaching English as a second language has especially been a major source of concern. Among the methods that have been debated in the past, including the bilingual education, was later replaced by Structured English Immersion (SEI). The second method is the immersion method. In the former, students are placed in SEI classes, and they are said to experience feelings of frustration, anger, and anxiety. Therefore, this method of teaching fails to achieve a major objective of educators. In this case, the method cannot teach students the English Language effectively (Coldewey & Streitberger, p. 14).

The result of this method of teaching is that students do not have confidence in expressing themselves using their languages. Also, there is a general lack of motivation towards learning the language (Taylor & Warner, 34). This poses a big problem for educators. It is important to note that the motivation level of a student and their emotional and self-image, can have a very significant effect in their acquisition of a second language. For instance, if students’ morale is down and they are not motivated, it will be very hard for them to learn the language.

Similarly, anxious students will also find it hard to learn a second language. The teaching methods, which are dependent on mimicking, are not effective, and they do not help gain the confidence of students. Here, the students are passive factors, and thus, they will not gain fluency in speaking. In this case, their anxiety will be high.

In trying to help the students learn a second language effectively, the first initiative that the educator should embark on will be to win the students’ morale. They should find ways in which they can motivate the students. In addition, the educators should find out teaching also will help to reduce the students’ anxiety, as well as raise their level of confidence (Wooster, p. 9).

The use of drama as a teaching method can be used to increase students’ confidence and motivation. Use of drama in teaching English as a second language will help students gain fluency when speaking the language. Also, the use of role-playing skills will also serve the purpose of reducing anxiety in students; increase their confidence and fluency. It is important to note that drama is important to students, but it can also be very important to help teachers who teach a second language.

It will help them achieve their target goals to teach the language effectively. Some educators may also not be very fluent in the language, and thus, the drama will be a very important teaching tool for them. According to Wagner, “drama is powerful because of its unique balance of thought and feeling makes learning exciting, challenging, relevant to real-life concerns, and enjoyable” (p. 9).

Moreover, drama allows learners to speak and practice the language. It is usually noted, “Practice makes perfect.” Therefore, as students make more and more practice through drama, they get to better understand the language. They advance their fluency. The method has worked remarkably well for students engaged in drama, and the key role plays during their learning time (Wagner, p. 11). Research has indicated that students engaged in drama are more confident when speaking in English than their counterparts who do not participate in drama.

Also, such students have a lower level of anxiety. They have high motivation and are considerably interested in learning the language; hence they understand it much better. These students have great courage when they address a group of people. Notably, the drama is enjoyable, and thus students are motivated to learn English to communicate well when they are playing drama.

In Arab countries, English is a second language. This poses a difficulty to learners when they are trying to learn English as a second language. In the current world, English is increasingly becoming a major language for communication since most nations across the world are now using it as an official language. Therefore, students should be well equipped with the language to express themselves using the language fluently and confidently.

Thus, students in Arab countries should learn the language too. Educators need to come up with methods that are better than the current methods used in teaching. Educators do not widely use drama as a tool for teaching. As a result, it has become difficult to teach English in Arabic speaking countries. Educators in Arabic countries have dismissed the use of drama in teaching as a waste of time. Therefore, students lack morale to learn the language and their anxiety increases. They also do not have confidence when speaking in English.

I have had much difficulty in teaching languages since the curriculum is old fashioned, and the method of teaching is through mimicking, which is not very effective. This has caused a lot of concern to me since I find it difficult to achieve my goals as an educator. Even though the drama is not widely used, and it is highly dismissed as a waste of time; I am determined to make a change in the education process. I wish to introduce the use of drama and role-play as a tool for teaching in English classes. This research paper is aimed at describing the importance of drama in teaching and how drama can be used to teach English effectively.

Definition of Drama

Drama can have various definitions depending on the context in which the term is being used. The question of the exact definition of drama is has been asked by many people (Wee, p. 7). While teachers can use drama in entertainment, the teacher can also use it in the context of education and in the case of an event that is controversial or drawing much attention from the general crowd. The main concern of this paper is educational drama. However, the paper will start by giving the general definition of the term drama.

A drama can be defined as a composition that is in a prose form and is presented through action on stage through dialogue. In most cases, there is the main character and the contrasting character. It is a fiction story that is presented through stage action (Siewert, p. 53). The term drama was adapted from the Greek word that means action. Drama is performed on stage mainly in a theatre, and before a crowd of people referred to as the audience. The story presented through drama is conveyed by the use of theatre elements. The elements include scenery, acting, costumes, sound, music, and props and lighting (Hines, p. 7). The drama has some impact on the people who are watching it, as well as the performers. The impact is either emotional or intellectual.

In the educational context, educators can use drama in the teaching of languages. Here, a student is required to portray him or herself in an imaginary situation. The students can also be required to portray themselves as other individuals in an imaginary situation. The students pretend that they are in an imaginary situation, and then they portray themselves in that situation on stage. The actors can act as a persona to the different persons who they present. It is important to ensure that students can do the representation alone or do it while in a group of other students.

In most cases, a drama is performed by more than one character. The character can act in a controlled way. In this case, the actor is supposed to follow a list of linguistic guidelines that have been laid down by the educator. On the other hand, the student can do the presentation freely by following his own parameters. No matter how the student does his representation, the bottom line is that he will interact with other people. The student will react to whatever he does or say, and draw his knowledge of language to communicate meaningfully (Coldewey & Streitberger, p. 13).

According to Basom, drama in education uses drama in educating students (para. 4). It is used as an educational pedagogy. It facilitates the development of the learners’ social, physical, emotional, and cognitive development (Basom, para. 4). Drama can be referred to as a multisensory mode of learning. It is designed to raise the understanding of one’s mind, body, and voice, as well as an understanding of others’ collaboration and empathy. The drama also can improve communication clarity and creativity when one is conveying both verbal and non-verbal ideas. Also, drama can enhance the understanding of human behaviour, history, and motivation. It enriches the learning experience of an individual.

Layman defines educational drama as an approach of teaching whereby a student is given a chance to freely express a self-imposed discipline of knowledge and experience that they pose (Layman, p. 1). Drama makes one express even the knowledge that cannot be expressed through other means. It expresses the dormant knowledge, which has been dormant due to the little opportunity available for it to be expressed. This is very important in language learning since the learner will have a detailed understanding of the language. The learner will gain confidence, as well as the motivation to learn.

Drama can be viewed as a mirror where the participants examine themselves. Individuals can also deepen their human motivational and behaviour understanding. Also, drama helps the participants broaden their perspective via stories that portray life from varying points of view and different cultures and periods.


Anxiety is a psychological state whereby the individual has feelings of emotions and worry. It is characterized by cognitive, somatic, and behavioural components. One has a feeling of fear and concern (Jantz & McMurray, p. 10). When one has a feeling of anxiety, it is because he is anticipating some trouble in the future or at present. Therefore, individuals develop the fear, feel worried, and have a feeling of uneasiness. It is important to note that anxiety is not the same as fear. Anxiety is more dreadful than fear. It is a feeling that is usually intimidating. It can even overcome an individual. It is a reaction to a stressor. Therefore, anxiety can follow a stressing situation (Peters & Peters, p. 5).

Moreover, anxiety can cause nervousness in an individual and thus affects the way people affected behave. It can be manifested through physical symptoms. It affects the cognitive behaviour of an individual and the ability of a person to comprehend and interpret situations. Therefore, problem-solving might be affected (DiTomasso, p. 43). Anxiety can be very serious to cause a disorder referred to as an anxiety disorder. The disorder manifests its effects on the psychological and physiological states of the individual.

Anxiety can affect people of all ages. It can affect the young ones, as well as the old. In the case of the young ones, it is likely to affect their learning. The acquisition of a second language by a student has been closely associated with anxiety. The methods used to teach the second language could raise the anxiety of a student and hence hinder his or her ability to comprehend the language. According to Dörnyei, anxiety has a significant effect on students’ second language performance (p., 198).

The higher level of anxiety that a student has limited his or her ability to learn the second language. The anxiety that the student has is dependent on the methods that the educator applies to teach the language. Therefore, an educator has to ensure that the tools he uses in teaching a second language serve the purpose of lowering the level of anxiety of the students (Dörnyei, p. 199).

Horwitz explains that the anxiety for a foreign language is not affected or influenced by other causes (p. 113). Such anxieties include test-taking, public speaking, and innate personality. Therefore, there is no correlation, or rather; the correlation that exists between foreign language anxiety and other causes of anxiety is negative. Some academicians and observers maintain that anxiety is caused by poor performance in the acquisition of a second language.

However, it is anxiety that leads to poor performance in second language acquisition. A student fears that other students might reject him or her in case he or she makes a mistake while speaking in the second language. A student fears about what others are likely to think about him in case he makes a mistake (Horwitz, p. 121). The fear then develops to cause anxiety and negatively affects the learning process of the second language. This fear that a student develops is mostly because of a lack of self-confidence. The second language is not natural to students. Thus, they do not have the confidence to speak in it since they fear they might be making mistakes as they speak. A student is even likely to lose interest in the language completely if the anxiety does not put to an end.


Confidence is very important in anything that one does since it will affect the results to be achieved. If individuals are not confident in whatever they are doing, the results will likely be negatively affected, and vice versa (De, p. 5). Confidence is a state where individuals are certain that whatever course of action they are taking will be successful. They do not fear that it might fail them along the way.

Having confidence is very important since individuals can pursue whatever they wish without fear, thereby enhancing success. Lack of confidence might even hinder the chances of trying out something completely; hence, no success is likely to be achieved. If one tries out something, success is probable; however, if one does not try, then the probability of success is zero. This is where the aspect of confidence gains its importance. However, it is important to be wary of being over-confident since the results may turn out to be negative. It is important to note that confidence allows an individual to achieve his objective goals (Yeung, p. 4).

Confidence helps an individual to build a self-image. When individuals have a positive self-image, they will be able to believe in themselves. This will boost their level of self-confidence as compared to a person who has a negative self-image. In young language learners, self-image is very critical since the student can communicate using the language without fear. In this case, the students are always confident that they are correct in whatever they are saying (Harris, p. 164). That way, the educator will be able to notice mistakes that they make and correct them. As the students continue to practice, they will eventually gain confidence and will excel in the second language.

Communicative competence

The success of language depends on the ability to communicate fluently and understand it. This means that the individual has a good knowledge of the language and proper knowledge of grammar (Paulston, p. 37). It also refers to the social know-how of when to use certain utterances, how to use them, and where to use them. It is important to note that communication is the process whereby information is passed from one party to another, and the other party gives their view in response.

One has to be competent with the language for the process to be successful. Therefore, the term communicative competence is the ability to interact successfully with other people. For the language to be well communicated, it has to be accurate, clear, appropriate, effective, coherent, and comprehensive. To achieve this, the one communicating should possess grammatical knowledge of languages, including the phonological, syntax, and morphological aspects (Paulston, p. 40). The users of a language should have a grammatical competence for them to be in a position to communicate effectively.

According to Rickheit and Strohner, communicative competence has a great influence on an individual’s ability to achieve their goals in social life (p. 15). Dell Hymes introduced the concept of communicative influence in the 1960s. He emphasized the importance of an individual to understand the grammatical rules of a language. However, Hymes went further to state that the knowledge of grammatical rules is not sufficient to help an individual speak the language fluently (Rickheit & Strohner, p. 15). The ability to communicate effectively will depend largely on the fluency, and the accuracy that one has on the language.


Language fluency is an individual’s ability to deliver information in an expert manner and with perfection (Wood, p. 9). The term can refer to a high level of language proficiency, especially the second language. However, language fluency is not the same as language proficiency. Nevertheless, one must have language proficiency (Benati, p. 15). A fluent person in a language can speak without difficulties in the way he or she utters words. The speech comes in a manner that seems natural (Stone et al., p. 443). One should be able to communicate in a manner that both the native speakers and the non-native speakers can understand him or her.

One can acquire language fluency through constantly speaking and practising the language (Ray & Ray, p. 12). The students are offered this platform when they participate in drama. When students have language fluency, they can communicate effectively (Segalowitz, p. 107). Also, they have the confidence to speak in front of a crowd, and they are motivated to learn since they gain an aspect of interest.


Accuracy is a term that can be used to refer to closeness to perfection. Something accurate is either perfect with no error at all, or very close to being error-free. Language accuracy is whereby an individual hardly makes a mistake when speaking in a language, especially the second language. It becomes quite difficult to distinguish accuracy from fluency since a person who is fluent in a language does not make mistakes while speaking, and thus he is accurate.

Fluency and accuracy jointly contribute to communication competency. One can use accuracy to measure the number of mistakes that a speaker makes when communicating. A speaker can measure his or her second languages using any of the following measures: morphological accuracy measure, syntactic accuracy, and lexical accuracy (Polio, p. 101; Agustín, p. 129).

Effectiveness of Drama in Second language Learning

The teaching of a second language is a task that poses a big challenge to educators. In this case, they are supposed to make students develop and become confident speakers of the language. On the other hand, the process is also a challenge to the learners since they are also supposed to understand and communicate confidently in a completely new language. The students become anxious about the language, and they are not confident since they do not understand the language. Therefore, the educator has to help the students overcome fear and anxiety.

For a long time, it has been argued that drama in English classes is one of the most effective methods to teach English in classrooms. However, some people have rubbished this claiming that drama will be a waste of time and that it has no positive implications to the language teaching. Drama allows the student to practice his or her language fluency while performing the plays. Also, the drama has helped students gain confidence, and they will be able to communicate with no fear in front of a crowd (Chan, Chin & Titima, p. 286). Drama is interesting, and a student who is participating in drama will gain interest to learn more language aspects so that they can perfect in drama.

According to Burke and O’Sullivan, drama can be very effective in overcoming the anxiety that a student is likely to develop as a result of the second language (p.67). The drama also helps the student to get rid of shyness, and thus he or she will be able to gain confidence. In addition, the drama is engaging, and thus it can stimulate the students’ interest to learn the language. In fact, students even forget that they are learning, and they will just communicate freely due to the interest they gain. They forget their fears and hence overcome the anxiety involved when one is learning a new language (Chan, Chin & Titima, p. 287).

The objective of drama in learning is primarily to make the student understand the language rather than playmaking. However, the process will have to involve a play for it to be successful. The drama eventually becomes a natural way through which an individual learns throughout his or her developmental history. Drama can foster skills that one needs to develop language proficiency. These are skills such as reading and writing, as well as listening and speaking. Drama is a very powerful tool that can be used to teach the English language or any other second language (Bräuer, p. 162).

There are various benefits associated with the use of drama in second language acquisition. This includes the fact that drama can be effective in helping individuals understand their personal and human experiences. The students can enter into a reality of situations that are imaginary and present them on stage (Richards, p. 74). The effect of this is that students will be able to explore their emotions, attitudes, relationships, as well as attitudes towards the language.

The other benefit that drama has on the learning ability of a student is that it helps them think in an effective manner. This is because drama demands a person to be constantly imaginative. Therefore, individuals will develop the ability to think effectively. They will be able to develop the abilities to invent, analyze, and judge efficiently (O’Malley & Chamot, p. 7).

Limitations in implementing Drama in TESOL

Implementation of drama in TESOL has not been an easy task since there is so much resistance from people who view it as a waste of time. Various limitations can be identified about the implementation. This includes the fact that interest in drama is an issue of talent, and not all students may be interested. This will mean that the strategy is not likely to work for all students. Those who are not interested in drama will feel that they are being forced into what they do not like or being intimidated, and this will affect them negatively. In addition, a drama may not be in a position to teach the students on the theoretical rules of grammar. It may also not have a very significant effect on the writing ability of the student, and thus it will not be effective if used alone.


Learning a second language is an issue that poses a big challenge to all the parties involved. It is a challenge to the educators, as well as to the learners. Implementing a strategy that can make the process as effective as possible has not been easy. Among the strategies that are currently being used, there is no one that can effectively help students become confident and fluent speakers of the English language in the Arabic countries.

Drama can be effective in increasing the confidence of the student, as well as reducing the anxiety. In this case, while students are doing drama, they are practising to speak the language. In addition, they perform in front of an audience and thus gain confidence. Notably, participating in drama will help the student gain motivation. Drama is interesting and engaging, and thus it will win the interest of students. Therefore, it is important for teachers and institutions to embrace the use of drama in teaching English or any other second language.

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