Actors and actresses often have a reputation for being emotional and flamboyant; we’re sure you can call up a mental image of one stalking across a set or stage, waving their arms about, and possibly shouting at the top of their voice. If your child were acting like that, you’d probably decide that it was time for a “time out” session and send them to their room. However, some of these dramatic behaviors can be channeled into productive study techniques, which will help your child (or you) improve their vocabulary and memorization skills. Remember, actresses and actors also have a reputation – and a well-deserved one – for being able to quickly memorize pages and pages of scripts, often containing unfamiliar words. Wouldn’t that be useful when it’s examination time at school?
Studies have shown that incorporating some aspects of drama into language learning has a higher success rate than memorization alone. There are two main reasons for this: first, you’re likely to be less bored; second, you’re using more of your body, and therefore your brain. If you’re not bored, you’ll be more focused, which will improve your ability to accurately store information. And if you’re using multiple areas of your brain in the learning process, you’ll be able to retrieve that information later more easily, because you will have created more “triggers” associated with the memory. Here are three ways you can use drama to help increase vocabulary and hone memory skills at the same time:
Read, write, and recite. When you’re trying to learn a new word, or any bit of information, it’s helpful to use many mental muscles at the same time to reinforce your ability to memorize it. Use your eyes to scan the words, use your hands to write them out on a piece of paper, and then use your mouth to read them out loud. In this way you’ll activate several different areas of your brain, and that will create firm connections between the information you’re memorizing and the short- and long-term memory storage where you’ll keep that information.
Act it out. While not all words are easy to incorporate into a game of Charades (where you’re not allowed to talk), if you add a spoken element to the game, you can act out any word. The only rule is that you can’t use the word itself, or any derivation of it. That is, if your target word is aviation, you couldn’t say something like “I’m the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.” This is a good group activity, but it’s also useful to practice on your own. The process of thinking about how you’d describe a word without actually using that word is a great way to get a deeper understanding of its meaning, and that will help you memorize it.
Learn to improvise. In this exercise, you are allowed to use the word – in fact that’s the whole point. Again, this is a good game for groups or individuals (though it will be more fun in a group!). Using one or more of the vocabulary words you’re memorizing, improvise a scene in which you have to use those words at least once. If you can find different ways to use the same words in the same scene, that’s even better. For example, you might come up with a line about “the beauty of the sky on a clear summer evening” as well as one like “after we finished evening up the number of players on each side, the basketball game was much more fun.”
References: Drama activities for language learning, J. Dougill, Macmillan (1987); Reexamining memorization, A.G. Osburne, CTESOL (1993)
Cross-posted at The Vocabulary Builder’s Blog.