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Towards Speaking English Through Creative Drama English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5302 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of creative drama on the enhancement of learners positive attitude towards speaking English in state high schools. A one-group pre-test/post-test study was carried out with 12 intermediate level students who were voluntarily selected. As a treatment students attended a 4-week creative drama program run by the researcher who received 320 hours of training for being a creative drama instructor. Four different instruments were employed to collect data in the study: Attitude questionnaire, student interviews, teacher observation notes and reflective journals. The attitude test was administered to the participants before and after the 4-week creative drama program, and the findings were compared to see the impact of the treatment. The data obtained by reflective journals, observation notes and interviews was grouped and analyzed. The results of the obtained data indicate that there were significant differences before and after the treatment in terms of enhancement of positive attitude towards speaking English.

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I.INTRODUCTION

Statement of the purpose

The present study was designed to determine the empirical validity of the assumption that providing learners of English as a foreign language with creative drama activities during English classes can enhance their positive attitude towards speaking English. It is suggested that learners will be more eager to learn and practice English if they adopt a positive attitude towards it.

Justification

It is clear that in the age of communication the role attached to speaking skill is far greater than it used to be. Due to the increasing mobility of nations, it is not surprising to see people who witness others speaking a number of languages in their daily life. The change in social structure has been reflected in linguistics through shifts in thoughts and notions, methods and techniques. What was once linguistic-oriented has now become a communicative one.

With the increasing importance of learning English as a foreign language, many studies have been conducted to investigate better ways to teach English so far. Creative drama is shown as one of those ways by contemporary trends in language teaching. It is suggested that with creative drama activities learners cooperate with each other effectively during the application of the knowledge and the skills that they have acquired, learn better and discover new things about themselves.

Creative drama is a kind of education technique that was developed by Peter Slade, Brian Way, Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton in England and is applied for almost all kinds of learning activities especially in improving verbal and written expression in language learning lessons. According to Davis (1996), in national education programmes in England, it is obligatory to use drama in English lessons. It is a known fact that in England, drama is being used as a method in “speaking and writing” fields of language teaching for a long time.

In Turkey creative drama started to be applied especially in preschool education and elementary schools, in order to develop their creativity, self-confidence, independent thinking, self-control, and problem solving skills. In our world where individual, national and international competition is getting hard and there is a constant change, existing is based on having these qualities not on rote learning. In order to bring the children and adults in these qualities, instead of traditional education methods, methods of learning by living in social and natural environment should be used. One of these methods is creative drama.

Adıgüzel (2006) defines creative drama as follows: ‘Creative drama is to represent or animate a subject, an experience, an event, a concept or behaviour with a group utilizing improvisation and role play techniques and using the experiences of group members. These improvising activities are carried out with an experienced leader and creative drama directly utilizes the general facilities of children games.’ In the light of this definition creative drama may be considered as a method of learning, a tool for self-expression, as well as art. In order to add more to this definition, UlaÅŸ (2008) briefly explains the scope of creative drama through six learning principles:

– A student learns meaningful content better than other contents.

– Learning occurs as a result of a student’s interaction with his environment.

– The more sensory organs a student uses while learning, the greater the retention of the lessons.

– A student learns best by doing and experiencing.

– Effective participation is important in learning emotional conduct.

– Learning becomes easier and more permanent in educational environments where there is more than one stimulus. (p.876)

Creative drama emerged from the work of John Dewey which emphasized the importance of the instinctive and impulsive attitudes and activities of children to education (Siks, 1981; cited in Freeman, 2000, p.7). It is believed that if the children’s natural activities and the games they played with their friends in daily life are transferred to the field of education, children will be more motivated towards learning. ‘Learning by doing’ is the core of the idea that creative drama is an effective method of learning.

As Mally (1983) said, “Drama is more concerned with what is happening within and between members of a group placed in a dramatic situation. It is never intended for performance and rarely if ever rehearsed, since it depends on the spontaneous inventions and reactions of people involved in it. Drama involves the participants themselves” (cited in AldaÄŸ, 2009). As it is stated participants are completely active in drama activities. They have to receive the message quickly, find out practical solutions to the problems, and convey their responses to the other players.

Like other fields drama is an effective technique in language teaching. By integrating drama activities in English classes, the monotony of a conventional language class can be broken and the syllabus can be transformed into a more meaningful one which prepares learners to face their immediate world better.

If it is remembered that one of the significant problems for English language learners in Turkey is having a negative attitude towards speaking English, it will be more meaningful to claim that creative drama activities should be used in language classes. Learners’ negative attitudes are mainly caused by anxiety, lack of confidence and motivation Thus, it is important for teachers to find ways to motivate learners and reduce their anxiety while enhancing their confidence. Recent studies show that the use of creative drama activities could be regarded as one of the effective methods to help learners improve a positive attitude towards speaking English and also support them to acquire necessary communication skills. As Wagner (as cited in AldaÄŸ, 2010) states that drama is powerful because its unique balance of thought and feeling makes learning exciting, challenging, relevant to real life concerns, and enjoyable.

The integration of drama brings both real life and imaginary situations and characters into the language classroom. Through their imagination the students have to produce various actions that fit in with the situation they encounter. Teaching language skills through drama gives students a context for listening and meaningful language production provides opportunities for reading and writing development and involves children in reading and writing as a holistic and meaningful communication process. As Slade and Way (1967) state, “Drama is a good way of teaching second language because students are learning and practicing the language with communicative activities in a real context.”

Another important benefit of integrating drama with second language teaching is that it improves relationships among learners and consequently, the class atmosphere. When the classroom context is relaxing and friendly, anxiety levels of learners are expected to be low. This principle is supported by Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis. According to the affective filter hypothesis, there is a kind of filter which determines how input is turned into intake. It is this filter through which learners’ motivation, anxiety level and self-confidence are shaped. Thus, who have a low anxiety have a low filter while the opposite is true for the opposite case. In the light of this hypothesis, it can be postulated that when the learner is unmotivated or lacks confidence, the filter will be “up”. (Gas and Selinker, as cited in SaÄŸlamel, 2009). Therefore, the classroom environment needs to be as stress-free as possible in order to lower the affective filter of the learner and consequently let the acquisition take place. (Krashen and Terrell, as cited in Shand, 2008).

According to AldaÄŸ (2009), the most important benefit of using drama in second language teaching is that it increases self-esteem, self-confidence and spontaneity by reducing inhibitions, alienation feeling and sensitivity to rejection. In addition, drama develops problem-solving skills, working in groups, taking more risks and communicational skills such as turn taking, topic changing, and leave taking.

To sum up the advantages of drama Şamlıoğlu and Karakuş (2008) list what effective use of creative drama can achieve in learners:

Creative drama;

1. Promotes long-lasting learning

2. Nurtures empathy

3. Empowers imagination,

4. Offers new dimensions,

5. Triggers curiosity and investigation,

6. Improves problem-solving and analysis-synthesis skills,

7. Concretizes the abstract,

8. Provokes creativity,

9. Assures self-confidence and personal development,

10. Enhances students‟ repertoire,

11. Helps students develop effective addressing strategies and improve their rhetoric.

1.3 Significance

Although there are a number of studies on attitude towards speaking English and those studies, to a great extent, give a rough idea about the importance of the problem. However, there is still need to elaborate on the issue with respect to creative drama applications. When we reduce the scale to Turkey, it is possible to see the scanty literature welcoming further studies.

The literature on creative drama is pretty abundant, as well. However, the literature about the use of creative drama in EFL contexts is rather scarce. Thus, documenting any probable advantage of creative drama techniques for EFL contexts would be of great help for those who want to experiment without losing the enjoyable and pedagogical nature of the courses.

1.4 Literature Review

There are several studies (AldaÄŸ, 2010; Fuentes, 2010; Kılıç, 2009; SaÄŸlamel, 2009; Saraç, 2007, Shand, 2008; ) which have demonstrated that the use of creative drama activities not only creates a motivating environment for speaking English but also contribute positively to learners’ speaking skills in the field of EFL both abroad and Turkey.

1.4.1 Studies Conducted Abroad

Shand (2008) conducted a study on the effects of a creative drama curriculum for a group of third, sixth and seventh graders. As a mixed study participants’ response to the drama curriculum was measured by pre-test and post-test, observations and interviews. Results of the study showed that drama activities were successful in lowering the third grade participants’ anxiety and increasing their confidence and motivation towards speaking English. Drama clearly helped motivate these students, reduce their anxiety, and increase their confidence. Shand (2008) stated that the students were much more relaxed when speaking English. They spoke more, and when they spoke, they were louder and uninhibited.

In another study, Fuentes (2010) conducted a qualitative study to examine the effect of drama on second language learning. A total of 40 pupils of the first year of Primary Education participated in the study. The participants were separated into two groups. With group A, a didactic unit based on a simple play adapted to their level was developed and with group B several drama activities and techniques to support the existing planning were used. The implementation of the unit in group A took seven sessions of 50 minutes each; whereas in group B six sessions were dedicated to drama techniques. For evaluation a diary was used by the researcher in which she has taken notes of the learners’ difficulties and progress. Children also evaluate their own performance in the L2 (self-assessment), they received feedback from both their partners and the teacher (co-assessment). Fuentes’ study demonstrated that the activities presented during the study had some very positive and interesting results regarding learner autonomy, motivation and pronunciation.

1.4.2 Studies Conducted in Turkey

Several studies on creative drama and teaching English as a foreign language have also been conducted in Turkey. One of those studies is SaÄŸlamel’s study (2009), which aimed to find the effects of creative drama as an alternative way to reduce language anxiety of university students in English speaking classes. At the beginning of the study the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale was administered to 565 randomly selected students from different levels. Next, semi-structured interviews were carried out with 30 students and 20 speaking teachers to get their perceptions of language anxiety in speaking courses. In the light of the findings from the interviews carried out with students, it was observed that almost half of the students found learning and speaking English as an anxiety-provoking experience. The possible reasons for language anxiety were investigated from the students’ perspective through interviews. It was found that linguistic difficulties (vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation), cognitive challenges (fear of failure in front of others, fear of exams, fear of failure in communication, lack of self-esteem, fear of making mistakes), the role of the teachers, competitiveness and lack of information were considered to be correlates of language anxiety. After covering the role and possible sources of language anxiety and possible ways to alleviate language anxiety from a variety of perspectives, the study focused on a single way to lower language anxiety in speaking classes: applying creative drama activities. 22 participants chosen on a voluntary basis attended a 6-week creative drama program. The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale was administered both at the beginning and at the end of the study, and then the findings were compared. The difference between the pre-test and the pos-test was found to be statistically significant and the findings indicated that creative drama activities could be useful to lower language anxiety.

In another study Aldag (2010) aimed to investigate the effectiveness of creative drama on the enhancement of motivation of the students who learn English in public elementary schools. Fifty randomly sampled 4th grade students of a state school participated in the study. The Control Group continued their conventional lessons while the Experimental Group was exposed to drama-based curriculum, but the content of the course was the same. Five different instruments were employed to collect data in the study: Motivation Questionnaire, Personal Information Form, Student and Teacher Interviews, Individual Diaries, and Observational Field Notes. Motivation test was applied twice: Firstly at the beginning of the study as pre-test; and secondly at the end of the study as post-test. The results of the obtained data indicate that there were significant differences between Experimental Group and the Control Group in terms of enhancement of motivation and speaking skills. At the end of the study, motivation of the students of Experimental Group who were exposed to creative drama activities increased in a considerable extent, whereas motivation of the students of Control Group who continued their traditional curriculum remained the same. AldaÄŸ (2010) states that ‘when learners overcame the fear of making mistakes in foreign language and relied on themselves, they were very eager to speak in English during activities. They were more enthusiastic about speaking in later stages of training.’

In another study Saraç (2007) aimed to investigate whether creative drama has a positive impact on developing the speaking skills of young learners. For this purpose, the researcher conducted eight English lessons in which creative drama activities were applied. The lessons were recorded and checked by an observer. In addition, with the purpose of determining the expectations, feelings and thoughts of the students in terms of the influence of creative drama on the learners, the students were asked to keep journals. The observed lessons showed that speaking skills gradually increased towards the end of the research implementation. In addition, the students’ journals indicated that creative drama made a positive influence on the learners, such as providing a stress free environment, developing self confidence and providing high learner participation. Saraç (2007) highlights that after the creative drama activities the students experienced only the positive feelings, most were happy and found the activity to be fun. Not a single student felt anything negative about the activity afterwards. According to the data obtained, almost all the students show some of information routine, negotiation skills, simplification skills and rephrasing, use of fillers and hesitation devices in their journals. The results also showed that class participation and learner motivation was at the highest level in creative drama classroom enabling even the most shy and passive learner gain self confidence and thus become more active in the classroom.

Another study which aimed to investigate the effect of creative drama on speaking English and students’ attitudes towards speaking English was submitted by Kılıç (2009). She included a research sample composed of high school students, who are between 15-16 years old. Research was designed according to experimental model with pre and post test control group. The advised methods and techniques in the course book were applied by the teacher to the students of control group. Unlike the control group, in addition to the methods and techniques recommended, drama activities were also applied to the experimental group. Speaking test and attitude test were applied before and after the treatment to determine the effect. The results of the study suggested that there had been a significant change on the attitudes of the students in the experimental group towards speaking English. Learners’ answers to the questionnaire after treatment showed that they felt more relaxed and were not afraid of making mistakes while speaking English. Kılıç (2009) stated that this may be because of the power of creative drama to help learners gain self-confidence during creative drama activities.

In the light of this literature review the current study aims to find out whether creative drama has a positive effect on the attitudes of intermediate level high-school students towards speaking English in Turkey.

1.5 Research Question

Does the use of creative drama in English classes help learners developing a positive attitude towards speaking English?

1.6 Research Hypothesis

Creative drama activities can help developing positive attitude towards speaking English among intermediate level learners of English in state high schools in Turkey.

1.7 Limitations and Delimitations

In this study the number of participants was one of the limitations. Since high school students have a very tough program during the week it was not possible for so many students to stay at school for the study. Therefore, only 12 students were available. This may limit the generalization of the study results to other populations.

Another limitation is the time factor. The treatment was only applied for four weeks despite the fact that this kind of treatment must take a great deal of time. If the treatment had been applied for a longer period, it is anticipated that the results would have been more significant.

II. METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

2.1 Sampling and Setting

The study took place at a state high-school in Sultanbeyli. The school is located in a socio-economically disadvantaged district of Istanbul. There are approximately 600 students and 50 teachers in the school. 9th grade students have 6 hours of English every week, while 10th, 11th and 12th grade students have 4 hours. As it is an Anatolian high-school, great importance is attached to the teaching of English. The administration provides support to ensure that there are enough foreign language teaching materials and resources. However, there is a shared opinion among English teachers that students are not eager to communicate in English. Instead they prefer studying grammar as memorizing grammar rules is easier for them than producing real language.

The participants of the study are 12 students who were chosen on a voluntary basis. There are 8 females and 4 males. They are 15-16 years old and this is their third year at the school.

2.2 Design of the study

The study is a combination of pre-experimental and qualitative research design. It is pre-experimental because there is no control group. Due to curricular issues, participants were not assigned as the Experimental Group and the Control Group during the study. Therefore, only the impact on the experimental group was measured.

The study contains elements of both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Qualitative data was obtained from students’ reflective journals, semi-structured interviews with students, and a colleague’s observation notes on the study. Quantitative data was obtained from the attitude questionnaire which was applied before and after the treatment.

2.3 Instrumentation

In this study four types of instruments were used for data collection. These instruments are attitude questionnaire towards speaking English, students’ reflective journals, semi-structured interviews with participants and a colleague’s observation notes.

The attitude questionnaire was developed by Kılıç (2009). It was designed to explore what an individual’s attitude towards speaking English. The questionnaire has 30 phrases and designed as a five likert scale (1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree). This scale was applied before the treatment as a pre-test and after the treatment as a post-test.

At the end of each creative drama session the students were asked to write in their reflective journals about that session. They were provided with some guideline questions and asked to write in their journals in a way to answer those questions. The questions are:

What did you learn in this session?

What did you feel in this session?

Was it different from your other English classes?

Which three words would you choose to describe this session?

Do you think you could express yourself in English? In which activity?

Would you like to attend more creative drama sessions? Why?

The main purpose for keeping journals was to collect data about students’ feelings and opinions about the session in order to find out how the session affected their attitude towards speaking English. Participants were allowed to write in Turkish as the priority is to reach their ideas and feelings rather than evaluating their language competence.

At the end of the creative drama program two randomly selected students were interviewed with the aim of getting more information about how creative drama activities affected their attitude towards speaking English. They were asked open-ended questions related to the activities and their responses were recorded, transcribed and evaluated by the researcher. The questions asked in the interview are:

What do you think about creative drama?

Do you think creative drama sessions are beneficial for you?

Can you compare the English lessons in the classroom and the creative drama lessons?

Would you like this program continue?

What would happen if this program continued?

In order to decrease the level of researcher subjectivity, a colleague was invited to observe one of the creative drama sessions. She was kindly asked to take notes during the session and share those notes with the researcher.

Procedures

Necessary permission was taken from the school management in order to conduct the study at school. It was announced to the intermediate level students that there would be a 4-week study about English teaching. Twelve students were chosen on a voluntary basis. Since the study was going to be carried out after the school, their parents were asked to sign a form which showed that they were willing to let their children participate in the study. The room for the sessions was determined and prepared for creative drama activities by placing comfortable seats, cushions and costumes. Before the first session the pre-test (the attitude questionnaire towards speaking English) was administered to the participants to identify their attitudes towards speaking English. They were also provided with guideline questions for their reflective journals. The participants were exposed to the creative drama program for 4 weeks. The program was planned as 3 hours each week. Therefore, it consisted of 12 hours in total. The participants were requested to write about their opinions and feelings in their reflective journals by following the guidelines after each session. A colleague was invited to observe the third week’s session. The post-test (attitude questionnaire towards speaking English) was administered to the participants reporting their attitude towards speaking English at the end of the creative drama program. Interviews were conducted with four randomly selected participants at the end of the treatment. The findings gathered from the instruments were analyzed and compared to see the impact of the treatment.

III. DATA ANALYSIS

3.1 Results

In this section, the analysis of the data obtained from the pre-test and post-test of attitude questionnaire of the participants will be presented.

3.1.1 Results of attitude questionnaires

The attitude questionnaire was applied twice during the research study. It was firstly applied before the treatment as pre-test and then secondly at the end of the treatment as post-test. It was applied before and after the treatment in order to reveal whether there is any effect of creative drama on enhancing positive attitude or not. This questionnaire was formed by using Likert Scale (1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree). The results of these tests were analyzed through Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows 20.0, in this programme Paired Samples T-test was used in order to reveal whether drama activities affect the learners’ attitude towards learning English in a positive way or not.

Pre-test Results of the Participants

Pre-test Results

Table 1

ITEM

Strongly agree

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Strongly disagree

1.I have difficulty speaking English.

0

0

5

5

2

2.I am afraid of making mistakes.

2

3

4

2

1

3.I don’t want to speak English.

0

1

0

0

11

4.Lack of grammar knowledge inhibits my speaking.

0

1

2

4

5

5.Lack of vocabulary inhibits my speaking.

1

3

2

4

2

6.I can speak English fluently.

0

4

6

2

0

7.I feel nervous while speaking English.

3

2

2

2

3

8.I forget what to say when I am nervous.

2

2

4

1

3

9.Lack of correct pronunciation inhibits my speaking.

1

1

4

2

4

10.Lack of knowledge inhibits my speaking.

0

1

1

9

1

11.I can’t express my ideas.

1

1

3

7

0

12.I can’t understand what others say.

1

1

0

3

7

13.I don’t know how to study to speak English.

0

0

2

3

7

14.Because of my teacher’s negative attitude.

0

0

1

0

11

15.I think nobody will understand me while speaking.

0

1

1

3

7

16.I think in Turkish.

1

1

2

4

3

17.Because my friends are teasing me for my mistakes.

0

0

0

1

11

18.Other students are better at speaking English.

2

1

1

0

8

19.I am afraid of not being understood by others.

1

1

2

4

4

20.I think I have no ability in learning a foreign language.

0

0

1

1

10

21.I can’t remember the English meaning of words while speaking.

0

2

6

3

1

22.I think my teacher isn’t interested in what I am saying.

0

0

0

0

12

23.I don’t have to speak English in class.

1

0

4

1

5

24.My friends tell what I think before me.

0

3

2

4

3

25.I can’t realize the mistakes I have done while speaking English.

1

0

1

5

5

26.I prefer learning grammar structures rather than speaking English.

0

0

1

6

5

27.I can’t use computer because I don’t know English.

0

0

0

1

11

28.I can’t surf the Internet.

0

1

0

0

11

29.I can’t watch movies in English.

1

1

0

2

8

30.I can’t read newspapers or magazines in English.

5

5

2

0

0

Table 1 summarizes the participants’ responses to the items in the questionnaire which demonstrate their attitude towards learning English before the treatment.

Post-test Results of the participants

Post-test Results

Table 2

ITEM

Strongly agree

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Strongly disagree

1. I have difficulty speaking English.

1

1

2

5

3

2.I am afraid of making mistakes.

1

3

0

3

5

3.I don’t want to speak English.

1

1

 

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