Performance features extensively in a Steiner education. It is both integrated in classroom life and brought to life through plays and festivals throughout the School year.
The Speech and Drama program, works in context of the Main Lesson subject. Students write plays, and explore clarity in speech work, related to poetry and prose. Speech exercises become an integral part of each lesson. Time is given for students to explore and ‘inhabit’ the great characters who populate our rich curriculum, such as Julius Caesar or the Pharaohs. In doing so, children discover strengths within themselves that are already realised in the characters they are playing.
Children love to involve themselves in self-scripted plays and they have openness to exploring ‘exaggerated clarity’ in speech work on poetry and prose. This is also an essential element in developing clarity of thinking. Children often discover that they have unexpressed language skills with which to process the knowledge that is on the edge of their own consciousness, when they are involved in improvising drama with their peers in a supportive social setting.
Naturally, the performances should be as beautiful and polished as possible, with evocative sets and costumes. This however, needs to be balanced by the process that the children go through on their way to the final performance. Indeed, there are a number of considerations that a teacher must undertake when planning the play and preparing the children for it.
Teachers always consider what the children might be learning from the play, both as a group and as individuals. They not only learn about the play’s subject matter but also about working in groups, about taking responsibility for a part and, especially for older children, learning to produce the whole play.
If the play is appropriate for the age group then it speaks to the children on a deep level. The children learn about speech and its production, how to speak in chorus and in an individual part.
Quite apart from the sheer enjoyment of participating in a play, there is a clear pedagogical purpose in its use. When planning for a production, parts will be chosen for children, rather than children chosen for a particular part. For example, a shy child may be given a lead role to develop confidence in herself. In some cases, parts are written specifically for a child so that they might experience and balance a particular behaviour.