Emphasising oral language
Many children do not recognise the ‘repertoires of linguistic practice’ (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003) that they bring to school, and they often internalise deficit views of their own skills. Creating opportunities for students to reveal what they know and can do values the student voice and supports the move from spoken to written language. It offers teachers invaluable information and promotes student self-esteem, confidence and classroom learning (D’warte, 2014), and can be achieved through a number of drama-based strategies.
Using drama techniques
Drama techniques such as walk-in-role and mantle of the expert (Heathcote & Bolton, 1995; Ewing & Simons, 2016) provide opportunities for students and/or teachers to take on expert roles. These techniques emphasise the use of oral language and can have a significant impact on students’ views of themselves as learners, as well as on the use of language and on the culture of the classroom. Table 2 provides examples of expert roles where students can be introduced to a rich task (Gibbons, 2014) by the teacher (in the role indicated) and then placed in their role of expert. A classroom example based on TV journalists presenting reports following an earthquake can be found in Dutton et al. (2018).
If students are asked to re-tell a story from their heart, such as from their home or family, it can help to confirm their identity (Cummins, 1981, 1986, 2000; Cummins & Early, 2011; Cummins, Hu, Markus & Montero, 2015). If they are also invited to use their home language in the telling of the story then the importance of their stories and languages is confirmed and an authentic link is made between the school curriculum and the home culture.
To support listening and speaking, and to develop storytelling, teachers can use the advance/detail strategy (Ewing & Simons, 2016). It requires one student to tell their story to a listener who says either 'advance' or 'detail' to indicate when they want the speaker to either continue or provide more detail about the last statement they made. Classroom examples using advance/detail can be found in Dutton et al. (2018).
Students as researchers
This strategy involves students in studying how they communicate — the ways in which they read, write, talk, listen and view in one or more languages inside and outside of school (D'warte, 2014). This strategy can support language learning by enabling students to make authentic connections between languages and to develop their use of metalanguage (language about language).
This strategy begins with a discussion of the multimodal ways people communicate in different situations. Students then collect more detailed information about their communications and how language changes for different audiences and purposes. The class then develops specific interview questions about, for example, individual languages spoken and learned, and use audio recording devices to interview each other in small groups. The teacher combines all group data to create a class dataset. Dutton et al. (2018) present a classroom example.