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Lights, Camera, Action! Teaching with Drama in Education

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

This summer TESOL Drama had the opportunity to collaborate with Europass Teacher Academy in Florence, to design and teach new Professional Development Drama Workshops tailored to Erasmus Plus and K-Adult teachers. Here is an interview with the organizers: Marisol Santana, Professor of English in the ESL Department of New Jersey City University, and José Angel Santana, who teaches “Directing Actors” at Columbia University School of the Arts, Graduate Film School and “The Art of Connecting” at the School of Visual Arts, in New York City.

Lights, Camera, Action!


How were the TESOL Drama courses structured?

We had three courses: “Bring Your Classroom to Life: Learn to Teach English and Other Languages with Drama!”, “Acting Techniques for Teachers: Performing on the Classroom Stage”, and Can We Talk? Discussion Tools for Teaching and Learning”. Throughout July and August, we taught seven 5-Day intensive workshops with teachers, school counselors, education administrators, and social workers who taught kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, college students, and worked in community programs in their respective countries

Where were the participants from? Was group heterogeneity an obstacle?

We had participants from all over the world: Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Slovakia, Spain, and the United States. Although not every participant was fluent in English, we all learned how to communicate and connect with each other through drama, organized play, and active (deep) listening activities. Given the diversity and fluctuation of fluency levels of English within each group, it took much more than translation to unite and get everyone on the same page.

What did the participants enjoy the most?

Our participants felt that together we had truly created a safe environment that was conducive to collaboration, creative expression, rigorous thought, and meaningful discussion. They were inspired and ignited. In an environment that focused on mutual respect and understanding, they were trusting, emotionally transparent, and felt safe to express themselves fully and unapologetically within our democratic classroom.  

What did you like the most of this experience?

We found it remarkable how each and every teacher was fully committed to performing all the tasks at hand, which included writing and performing scenes, engaging in debates, and creating lesson plans. We learned quickly how dedicated and brilliant each of our teacher-participants were at creating lesson plans to bring the value and practicality of our highly engaging activities back to their students.

Is there something you would like to add?

It was a privilege to share years of experience using our specialized knowledge and approaches learned first-hand from some of the most influential masters and pioneers of the “American School” of acting

(Picture below of Instructor José Angel Santana in rehearsal in Off-Broadway production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” starring Al Pacino). 

We are also truly grateful for all we learned from our teacher-participants and from this amazing experience with Europass Teacher Academy. We dedicate this interview to all teachers, education administrators, and social workers who continue to give endlessly of themselves to make the world a more joyful place.  

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