Children’s Literary Club conducts 3-week workshop on ‘English language learning through English theatre’
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Children’s Literary Club conducts 3-week workshop on ‘English language learning through English theatre’

March 7, 2017

By Dr. Malathi

Just a few days ago, a unique experiment was conducted at Bharathi Sthree Higher Primary School. This was to do with workshop relating to strengthening the English language skills of the Kannada medium students through English theatre. The outcome of the workshop was a production titled ‘Theatre Does Educate.’ It was watched by citizens, who were teachers/administrators, actors, science writers, business persons, Professors etc; a few of them were Central and State Government Award winners.  Some of them had decades of experience as actor/director/producer.

‘Theatre Does Educate’ was also presented as an item for the School’s Annual Day celebrations. For those who were tired of watching dances of film numbers, there was a feast for the eyes; an English drama by the students of Kannada medium school, that too all tiny tots within the age group of 7 to 13 years.

The play ‘Theatre Does Educate’ is a new concept envisioned by Dr. R. Purnima, Director of Children’s Literary Club, Mysuru, to make use of theatre to teach English to underprivileged students along with providing entertainment to them as well as to the audience.  She has conceived the concept, written the script and directed the play. It is a unique experiment because it is not like the run-of-the-mill play where a single concept is elaborated. Dr. Purnima introduces to children a variety of concepts through a play.

The play opens with Sahana reading the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her friends invite her to join them in playing a game but she instead makes them watch Yamuna enacting the role of Eliza, a character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  The girl who played the role of Eliza was a sixth standard student, who by her dialogue delivery mesmerised the audience.  I am sure many of the students must have had the first taste of Classics. This would certainly initiate them to explore more.

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Sahana and her friends then move on to playing indoor games.  A Mathematical game in which number seven and its multiples are not mentioned by the students sitting in a circle is played out.  It not only entertains the children but also enhances their skill of quick thinking. The students did a wonderful job of playing a genuine game though they were play acting.

Then was the turn of language game: tongue-twisters. It was a treat to see the students reel out tongue-twisters one after another breathlessly, happily and with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

Many other important aspects of language learning were woven into the play all through. For example there was an Idiom — raining cats and dogs — which the students learnt through a leg-pulling activity which I am sure they will remember forever.

However, while singing accolades about the students, one should not forget the efforts of Dr. Purnima who endeavoured to make the venture a possibility.  She being a task master made sure the students deliver the dialogue with proper pronunciation and intonation. It must have been a very difficult task given the fact that those students are not exposed to English theatre at all.   Her motto is “Art is for everyone” and she does everything to amplify the extraordinary in the ordinary.  She goes out of her way to make a difference in the society through her unique projects.

Similar workshops were conducted by Dr. Purnima at Government Girls Hostel, Adi Pampa Road, V.V. Mohalla, Mysuru and  at Vivekananda School in Muganahundi.

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