Theatre & Drama in Foreign Language Teaching at Dante, Rijeka, Croatia

The workshop Theatre and Drama in Foreign Language Teaching  took place between Monday, 17 Jan. ‘22 and Friday, 21 Jan. ‘22 at the Adult Education Institution Dante in Rijeka, Croatia. During this workshop, representatives of the different institutions in the project worked on different subjects such as the incorporation of “storytelling”, “drama techniques” and other methods to improve creativity in a classroom setting when teaching languages to young and adult learners.
Here is a brief summary of the activities, experiences, sharing of knowledge, learning, reflection, laughs and good times from that workshop, as it can be appreciated in this Tik Tok Video by the EOI San Roque.

@eoisanroque #ka204flow #ka204erasmusflow #ErasmusPlus ♬ MILLE – Fedez & Achille Lauro & Orietta Berti

Monday, 17th January 2022

  • Presentation of the Adult Education Institution Dante and the agenda

During this first session of the workshop, the participants in the workshop got to know the host institution better. Antonela Marjanušić and Patrizia Pitacco, staff members at Dante, informed us about the past and present projects and endeavors of Dante. This provided us with an insight into what others who are in our same field of work do in relation to teaching, organization of their work and the development of Erasmus projects.

  • Drama Teaching

Most of the activities carried out this day already included a drama aspect and the participation of all the participants in an active way. For example, forming a circle in which people were arranged according to the initials of their first names. Then, each person shared with the others something that they are interested in by using a word starting with the same letter as their name. Also, we reflected, wrote down and shared what thoughts came to our minds when we thought of the word “Dante”.

  • Sightseeing Rijeka and storytelling techniques

As part of the training received this day, Dante had organized a sightseeing tour of the city of Rijeka with a twist: the information, provided by a professional tour guide, was given in a way that it resembled the way in which a story is told. This way, we immersed ourselves in the history of Rijeka through the voice of a narrator depicting the city as a female character involved in thousands of adventures.

Tuesday, 18th January 2022

  • Learning from each other
  • Storytelling & drama activities with adults
  • Interactive activities with adults & evaluation

We start the training session by working with the lines of a poem. Each of us has a line from a poem and by walking around the classroom and talking to each other, we need to manage to collocate all the lines in the same order as they appear in the poem. This is a good activity to practice with the use of connectors, writing techniques, collocation of words in sentences, the rhythm of words and sentences, rhyme, comparisons, metaphors, etc.

After this, we were involved in an activity in which someone has to describe a picture to someone who has their eyes closed. The person describing the picture can only use sounds to do this and the other person needs to guess the image in the picture. Another way of doing this is by using only the sense of “touch”, instead of sounds. We practiced both ways and the result was an activity that can be used to focus on the importance of “non-verbal communication”.

Afterwards, we took part in an activity which involved working in groups and thinking of an imaginary situation in which we were all involved, answering these questions: “who is speaking?”, “who are they?”, “what are their relationships?” and “what is the situation in detail?”. This is, one more time, another possibility of activity to use in the classroom, where the students would have to use the language they are learning while they are inventing a story and building up the characters, situations, etc.

Another activity from this day is “The Feel of Words”. We worked with different words and discussed what feelings each of them transmitted to us. We continue, this way, with the idea of reflecting about words, how we use them and what connotations we attribute to them.

Along the same lines, we also participated in an activity which consisted of choosing 3 words from a word map and combining them with another person’s 3 words to write a story. This gave us the opportunity to continue dealing with how to use creativity to incorporate specific words into a story and how to build a story from scratch. All the words that we used in this exercise were taken from Sara Kay & Phil Kaye – “When Love Arrives”. Another example of how we can really use any spoken or written text to choose the words that we want to be later used by students when writing their own stories.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022

  • Using drama and theatre techniques in foreign language youth work . TRY theatre – Sessions 1, 2 & 3

This day we worked with two staff members of the company Try Theatre Croatia. This company was founded by Ivan Verunica and it aims at teaching English through drama to children and young people. They usually prepare two performances per year and, as they mentioned, acting helps students to be less afraid of speaking in public, building their confidence and allowing them to learn in a fun environment.

Besides learning about this company, what they do and the benefits of using theatre activities with language young learners, we also practiced with some drama exercises such as the following ones. The instructions are an exact reproduction of what we were explained in this workshop:

That’s nothing – share with the group the craziest possible story of what has happened to you this morning. After 20 seconds, someone else will interrupt you by saying that’s nothing and start their own story.

Machines – choose a movement and sound to repeat on loop. Follow the trainer’s instructions on how fast or slow to go. What happens if the machine starts going too fast?

As part of this training we rehearsed and performed a theatrical scene. Divided in groups of 3 or 4 people, this task gave us the opportunity to experience, first hand, how working with theatre is an excellent exercise to promote motivation, innovation, creativity and cooperation, among other aspects. Undoubtedly, experiencing this in person will lead us to try to put this into practice in our own classes and share this experience with other teachers from our institutions and others as well.

Hecho con Padlet
Hecho con Padlet

Finally, we finished this day of training by practicing how to teach a foreign language using music. We talked about how to choose some words from the lyrics of a song in the language being taught and, by means of pictures, teach the meaning of these words without having to resort to translating them into the students’ native language. Again, another example of how to use drama, gestures, mime, pictures and art in general, to transmit knowledge. Here is the song we practiced with… A very popular Italian song from 2021:

Thursday, 20th January 2022

  • Using drama and theatre techniques in language teaching according to learner age
  • Creativity workshop on drama teaching

We continued working on creativity and performance. In the following Jamboard picture we can see a brief summary of the main activity carried out this day by the participants. This, again, is an exercise that requires thinking and developing a story while using imagination and drama strategies. Telling the story while counting with a mime factor is also a plus since it leads to using ways of expression different from the spoken word. Here is another example of how teachers can work with their students on writing, telling and performing a story to foster their imagination and writing and speaking skills.

Friday, 21st January 2022

  • Indoor and outdoor drama activities in Trsat & closing of the training

This was a day to continue getting to know Rijeka. Through a dramatized guided tour, we went up the 561 steps of the Petar Kružić stairway or Trsat stairway to go up from Rijeka to Trsat. This was another opportunity to enjoy the storytelling of the history/story of Rijeka. As part of this activity, we got to visit and hear stories about the Church of Our Lady of Trsat as well as the Trsat Castle. History, storytelling, legends and dramatization interwove in this last session of our training.

Dante had also organized the experiences on this day so we could all learn a little bit of Croatian, learning the language and trying to use it in an interactive way from the beginning of the day. Hvala (thank you), Dante, for all your work and effort!