Looking for a speech and drama class for your child? Here’s what you must look out for in a speech and drama class in Singapore.
Speech and drama classes are not about acting
Speech and drama classes aren’t just about talking and role-playing. “Some parents think the focus is on acting, but it’s actually on speaking properly and being able to express yourself.
Drama is a tool to accomplish that,” says Jean Chan, COO and executive principal of Cerebral (the parent company of Helen O’Grady Drama Singapore).
Good communication and public-speaking skills are essential for both kids and adults, our experts say.
The speech and drama lessons will help her build up her vocabulary and become more articulate. Your kid will learn to communicate his thoughts, which build a strong foundation for the skills required to speak publicly and present effectively.
Says Paula Rawlins, speech and drama head teacher at Lorna Whiston Schools: “More importantly, it discovers, nurtures and develops something that cannot be merely ‘learned’ – confidence.”
Speech and drama classes also train your kid to be brave enough to ask questions in class, which is important for her learning.
Speech and drama classes can help your kid’s writing skills
The ability to speak fluently translates to the capacity to write, adds Lynette Chua, head of Speech and Drama at Julia Gabriel Centre.
It’s hard to teach language, Lynette says. So, it’s important that you expose her early to an environment where good language is used and expressed freely. You may want to consider sending her for speech and drama classes when she begins to express herself, at around age two or three.
Paula believes the earlier your child gains confidence, the more likely it will stay with her for life. That said, no one is too old to start speech and drama lessons either.
What to look for in teachers for speech and drama classes
Like any other enrichment, consider the quality of the teachers – what are their qualifications and are they good language models for your kid?
Many experts say kids learn best when they’re having fun, so the lessons should be enjoyable while building their critical thinking and social skills with each year.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of a native speaker is one who has spoken the language in question from earliest childhood. As such, many Singaporeans are native speakers, says Lynette.
“A lot of centres define the term as someone who’s Caucasian – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what I think is more important than having native speakers is how they use English and whether they’re good language models,” she adds.
Jean and Lynette say they instead look for teachers who speak with an international accent (one that’s easily understood by others), are passionate about teaching and build a rapport with young children easily.
Speech and drama is for active kids and shy kids, too
It’s fine to enrol your kid in speech and drama classes even if she’s shy. Jean says it will probably take a few lessons for her to come out of her shell. But once she sees her classmates having loads of fun, she’ll want to join in. AndPaula adds that heaping encouragement on her and throwing a little challenge will draw the best out of her.
For the child who relishes performing, such speech and drama classes will help her redirect her energy and imagination, perfect her articulation and provide a channel to build her interest.
On top of its speech and drama classes, Julia Gabriel also runs the Stage Lights Programme, where talented kids are trained in performing arts like singing, dancing and acting.
And centres like Helen O’Grady, Julia Gabriel and Lorna Whiston offer performance-ready kids the prestigious and internationally recognised Trinity Guildhall Grade examinations from Trinity College London.
With the certificates under her belt, it could become a second career for her in the future as a speech and drama teacher or a performer.
Speech and drama classes may help kids with some speech-related problems
If you are concerned that your child might have a speech delay or impediment, speech and drama classes might help if the root of the problem is a fear of speaking or a lack of confidence and exposure to good language, Lynette says.
But if it stems from physiological or hearing issues, she would need some form of specialist intervention.
Nevertheless, speech and drama lessons can still play a supporting role.
For instance, Helen O’Grady offers children classes at the speech therapy centre, Therapy Inc, which are specially tailored to kids with speech problems.
The pace is slower and there’s a greater emphasis on getting the right pronunciation through fun activities. The class size is also smaller, with one teacher to about five children.
What goes on in a typical speech and drama class
Every speech and drama school has its own lesson plans but, generally, the speech aspect is where kids learn about voice projection and correct pronunciation through activities like storytelling and the recital of prose, poems or tongue-twisters.
The little ones then have role-playing games and expand their imagination thinking up original stories in the second aspect – drama.
How speech and drama classes compare to phonics classes
Both are excellent ways of improving her English capabilities, our experts say, and they target different aspects of her literacy development. Phonics helps her figure out letters and their sounds, and how they come together.
But equally important are her listening and speaking skills. Lynette explains: “What some parents don’t realise is that it’s important for kids to speak well before they’re ready to read and write. If she can’t say the sounds right, she wouldn’t be able to print the words correctly.”
So, iron out the speech issues and, at the same time, let her learn how to write, she adds and further explains: “It’s essential that they do the latter with understanding. Many children who’ve gone to phonics class can sound and write long, difficult words, but they cannot explain what the words mean.”
Paula, on the other hand, says phonics classes are ideal for pupils who learn well through a structured classroom environment, while speech and drama classes are great for those who enjoy a visual, active and hands-on approach to learning.
Related: 5 ways to teach your child to read