Teaching through Musicals

by Bojana Urbanc

As a teacher, I often wondered how to inspire my students to love school and to encourage them to develop their skills and discover their talents. Teaching a language, I realized how confident students felt while acting out a certain scene from the book/film or in just a simple role-play; not only had they learnt vocabulary and grammar but also conquered the syllabus and were also able of making a critical analysis. Having started with classroom experience, I extended my schoolwork into an extracurricular activity and, together with some of my co-workers, set up a high school theatre group that produced 10 successful musicals from 2006 to 2015, which were very popular in our community and attracted viewers of all ages. Now, why do I think taking part in a musical/school play of any kind is good for your students?

Language and Communication Skills

Playing a part in a musical or theatre play expands students’ vocabulary, improves their pronunciation, encourages learning certain grammar without them even knowing it and makes learning English at an unconscious level, since repeating the lyrics and the script makes them master the language and body movement in a way where they can perform at their best.

From Musical Diaspora, 2015 where students learnt about different nationalities, their history and dances and the implications of immigration.

Emotional and Physical Development

Participation in a musical demands certain physical development. Students needed to learn new dance moves and were challenged to interpret their roles by using certain facial language and bodily movements, which forced them to stay in shape and build more confidence. Being successful in a musical and play an active part during all stages of its production (from writing a script, to learning the roles/dance moves) developed their emotional intelligence by understanding the world better (being able to distinguish between imaginary and real-life situation) and physical activity, which helped them improve their self-esteem.

Project Jukebox, 2014that presented the history of music as seen from the students’ point of view.

Being Organized

(Musical Pozabljene marionete – Forgotten Marionettes, 2013 talked about famous women in literature, their power and unrequited love and was supported with music from Romeo and Juliet, Phantom of the Opera, etc.)

Signing up for a play brings about a certain sense of responsibility. All of a sudden, you are a part of a group that pursues the same dream: finishing the play/musical and putting it on stage. Students need to go through a process of logistical production, from writing a script, taking part in an audition, scheduling rehearsals, etc. in order to be ready to perform in front of live audience. Therefore, students become committed to the project, which means they are obliged to organize their free time, since mornings are usually spend in classes, afternoons and weekends are reserved for rehearsals, preparations of sets, props, costumes. According to my experience, students that took part in my projects, managed to organize their time more successfully and even improved their grades in school.

 (Musical Pozabljene marionete – Forgotten Marionettes, 2013 talked about famous women in literature, their power and unrequited love and was supported with music from Romeo and Juliet, Phantom of the Opera, etc.)

A Lifelong Hobby

A member of a theatre group is creative and hardworking while carrying out the whole process of making a play, which doesn’t mean there is no time to have fun. Students discover new talents, make new friends, and get to know each other more. There is a certain bond that is created between a teacher and his students which builds respect and trust. Taking part in a theatre play might look good in your resume as well, and it can also evoke good memories of high school education, make lifelong friends and turn into a lifelong hobby. Some of my students proceeded to chase their singing/acting career, and if not that, I’m quite sure their perception of the world was changed to something better.  

Projects mentioned in my article can be found online:

Dukebox