Bears don't need phonics: An examination of the role of drama in laying the foundations for critical thinking in the reading process
Montgomerie, D., & Ferguson, J. (1999). Bears don't need phonics: An examination of the role of drama in laying the foundations for critical thinking in the reading process. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 4(1), 11 - 20.
The researchers use a case study approach to discover whether and how educators’ use of process drama contributes to the development of critical literacy skills for four- to eight-year-old students, some who speak another language in addition to English. The researchers used a six-week intervention program in inner-city sections of the United Kingdom, which focused on the joint use of process drama and standard reading activities. The drama program utilized a range of picture books that met the needs of the children and the requirements of the teachers. The books and reading exercises were used as a jumping off point for the process drama portion of the program, making use of gaps and unresolved issues in the narrative to encourage critical thinking in reading through a balance of engagement and content knowledge or understanding.
The researchers selected two stories to use as their case studies. Through the process drama activities, students explored multiple viewpoints, identified and attempted to solve problems, and applied their own logic, competencies necessary in critical reading (challenging the text). Additionally, process drama activities provided a catalyst for English language learners to access and use their language skills in a safe environment.
By using process drama as part of the reading curriculum, educators were able to elicit competencies needed for critical thinking. Specifically, students became aware of and explored multiple and alternative viewpoints in addition to those presented in the text. Also, the use of process drama provided a rich context for language development including the construction of argument and adoption of different ways of speaking depending on circumstances.
The process drama program also offered English language learners the opportunity to access and use their language skills. In one case, an Arabic student applied his linguistic competence and experiences in being misunderstood to assess the language barriers between characters in the drama, and to build a scaffolding mechanism to bridge the gaps in understanding between characters. This type of communication success exemplifies the type of skills and competencies necessary for critical reading and language development.