Brianne Gidcumb | Septemer 2017

Using Drama to Cultivate Social Competence and Classroom Community

Drama is a great access point for integrating the arts and ELA standards, as well as a way to tap into character. Through the exploration of characters in a story, we consider the mood of a character, motivation behind actions, and cause and effect of those actions. In short, we have a chance to step outside of our own perspectives and view a situation through another’s eyes.

That kind of understanding is a way we can help our students access connections to their own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It can also help develop empathy and emotional competence to promote a cohesive classroom community and positive interactions among peers. As many begin a new school year, here are a few things to keep in mind to help promote an emotionally and socially healthy classroom community.


Develop a language of social competence. As you begin to access ELA standards this year, reading and writing stories, begin to draw attention to the Elements of Drama (space, time, imitation, action, language, and energy). Make sure you are paying particular attention to space, action, language, and energy. As you explore characters and their motivations, thoughts, and emotions, conflicts, and the cause and effect of their actions, begin to develop this common vocabulary between ELA, drama, and social-emotional competence. This will serve as a cohesive way for your students to discuss motivation, thoughts, emotions, conflicts, and cause and effect in your classroom community as well as in academic content.

Deconstruct communication. Take a dive into voice and body language. Have students explore how vocal expression and inflection might change the intention of a sentence or story. Have students record their own voices and play back in order to allow students to develop self-awareness of how the way in which they use their voice might be interpreted by a listener. As with voice, allow students to explore how body language and facial expressions can impact how communication is interpreted.

Tell stories. Storytelling is a way to build community, increase knowledge, teach problem solving skills, improve vocabulary and comprehension, and develop empathy and character. You might use readers theatre, social stories, fables, or any other text of your choosing to access ELA standards, as well as to unpack social-emotional aspects of characters and promote competence. Students may even write and perform their own stories to integrate writing standards, as well as to explore all the elements of drama. As students engage in performance, reference the language of social-emotional competence and elements of communication (voice, body, and space).

Enjoy using these starters and further develop your own routines for using drama to create a positive learning environment for your students!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: