Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Teachers’ Guidelines

Homepage > Teachers’ Guidelines > Theatre as Experiential Learning Tool

The role of theatre as a site for learning in a community context and how it can provide informal learning opportunities for young people experiencing social difficulty

Theatre as Experiential Learning Tool:
Step by Step Process to Implement Theatrical Laboratories in Classroom

Table of Content

6.2 Techniques
OFF-Book Theatre Labs are based on three key concepts: respect, listening and freedom, which together mean empathy. We have already specified that this is a work that uses theatre techniques to work on the person, not on characters. The techniques to reach the aim of this project, as fighting early school leaving, bullying and negative environment inside school in general are lots. Generally speaking we can divide the path of an OFF-Book Theatre Lab in 5 steps:
  • Team building (Knowledge)
  • Confidence and strengthening of the group (Inclusion)
  • Freedom and self-confidence of the individual (Deconstructing)
  • Development of skills (Positive Relationships Building)
  • Artistic creation (Performance Elaboration)
  • Final debriefing (Process Understanding)

These phases also appear in the project's descriptive tabs, where we suggest different kinds of practical exercises, related to this paragraph.

The first point to go through is the team building. Understanding not to be alone and judged, not to be outcasts; being part of something, where everyone is important for the others and for the work itself: this is the most relevant thing to reach, in the very first part of the laboratory.

The second aim comes naturally. When girls and boys feel the opportunities of a group, the increasing energy, the strong effects the team has on the individual, they start to let themselves go.

Only at this moment, you can successfully prove the third phase. The most difficult finality of this project is deconstructing. It means you set the students free from the mental and judgemental approach, they always experience in everyday life, and you bring out their pure energy, their free bodies and voices. The students understand they are free when they do something stupid, wrong, ugly. But especially they understand that in this special place, the theatre lab, where they can do everything they feel, they can be who they are.

After they recognise themselves in a very natural way, they are ready to recognise the others, in a protective space where intimacy, respect and lightness are allowed, and rational thinking, categories and critical attitudes are not. This is what we call empathy and positive relationships building.

This is the perfect moment to work on a topic, and ask them to produce some kind of materials with their own skills, one by one, in small groups, all together (acting, writing, singing, dancing, moving, drawing...)

The last step can be the most interesting. Remember it is not about organizing rehearsals of a show. You have a strong team, knowing each-other deeply, you have worked on a specific topic and the individuals and the group have brought, built, prepared some materials: now they can put all together and build a performance, a creation they actively participate in. Something that can turn the materials they built for themselves into something to donate to an audience.

A well done work lasts also after the laboratory ends. Every phase can be followed by a teacher, next to the professional educator, so that the teacher can give a sense of continuity of the work during school life.
Online Resources
  • What Is Positive Youth Development? This article explores the recent approach to youth research and practice that has been called positive youth development. The author makes the case that the approach grew out of the dissatisfaction with a predominant view that underestimated the true capacities of young people by focusing on their deficits rather than on their developmental potentials. The article examines three areas of research that have been transformed by the positive youth approach: the nature of the child; the interaction between the child and the community; and moral growth. It concludes with the point that positive youth development does not simply mean an examination of anything that appears to be beneficial for young people. On the contrary, it is an approach with strong defining assumptions about what is important to look at if we are to accurately capture the full potential of all young people to learn and thrive in the diverse settings where they live.
  • Development of Self-Concept in Diverse StudentsAn individual’s self-concept is the complex product of all life’s experiences. During the elementary and middle school years, the students develop a sense of independence; they learn to cope with feelings of jealousy, fear, and aggression; and they form friendships and develop empathy. Each of these social areas seems to be universal across cultures, although they may be expressed differently in various societies.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.