Methods of teaching English through drama

Sam Nfor


Sam Nfor from the Universities of Tsukuba and Saitama explains how the world of drama can motivate both students and SLA professionals. He is an expert on this subject because he originally came from his native Cameroon on a Bunkacho (Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan) Scholarship to study traditional Japanese dance and theater.


Methods of teaching English through drama

 I participated this summer in a TEFL graduate course entitled Methods of Teaching English through Drama, tutored by Professor Gary Carkin at South New Hampshire University, to learn the critical areas of applied drama, scripted drama, readers’ theatre and process drama. 

Applied drama consists of a wide variety of activities including warm-up exercises, mime, role-playing, and simulations. Teachers can assist students in imitating, mimicking, and expressing themselves through gestures and facial expressions.

Scripted drama in ESL/EFL is informal performance with no audience and limited costumes and props and allows students to educe speech behaviors that have been previously taught in the classroom. Emphasis is not usually placed on the performance (product) but on the rehearsal (process). Students are guided through the rehearsal process to complete accuracy in order to communicate during a performance. 

Readers’ theater is a dramatic presentation of a written work. No memorization, costumes, blocking, or special lighting is needed. Readers hold scripts, and the focus is on reading the text with expressive voices and gestures. This makes comprehending the text meaningful and fun for students.

Process drama is created by teachers and students working together to identify and explore a fictional role by a selected group. It requires language used in meaningful and authentic situations where the focus is on problem posing and problem solving. Teachers support students’ communicative efforts, model appropriate behaviors within situations, and challenge their responses as co-creators and actors.

These drama techniques can help language learners stay motivated, gain confidence, develop fluency, and build up clearer speech in the course of language acquisition. The teacher does not need to be a trained drama expert to use drama in the classroom. Classroom drama should be a standard part of teacher-training curricula. 


Further Reading

Process drama:

  • Bowell, P., & Heap, B. S. (2001). Planning process drama. London: David Fulton Publishers.
  • Kao, S. M., & O’Neill, C. (1998). Words into worlds: Learning a second language through process drama. Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing.

Applied Drama:

  • Duff, A., & Maley, A. (2007). Drama techniques in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Scripted Drama:

  • Case, D., & Wilson, K. (1979). Off stage: Sketches from the English teaching theatre. London: Heinemann.


Readers’ Theater:

  • Montgomery, C. Haiku (1993). In B. Ross (Ed.), Haiku moment: An anthology of North American contemporary haiku. P.138-9. Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing.



  • Carkin, G. (2003). Ten plays for the ESL classroom. Manchester: Carlise Publications.