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Oct 2018 - Year 20 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

Teaching English through Drama

Shaun MacLoughlin is an M.A. Oxford University, retired BBC Drama and Documentaries Script Editor and Producer for TV and Radio, and ex-Creative Studies Tutor at Wales and Bath Spa Universities. His websites are: and Email:

I have hugely enjoyed being a BBC radio drama, poetry and documentaries producer of some 400 programmes.  I cannot imagine having had a more rewarding life, in helping the work of so many writers, actors, technicians and musicians to come to life and entertain and inform millions of listeners.  Now in my retirement I would like to bequeath what I have learnt to students around the world. 

English through Drama is a fun way to learn English, in which students learn English as they learnt their mother tongue.

As well as learning English, ETD helps students to develop many life skills, such as writing stories, journalism and promotional material, acting in plays, public speaking, singing, composing and performing music, drawing, painting, costume design, creating props, set design, photography, videoing, computer post production, internet research, audio recording, gathering sound effects, uploading to the internet and, most important, working as a team.

With the help of Romana (Mimie) Acuna, ETD's Academic Director, who recently attended the English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Oxford, I have spent the last three years preparing these courses, which, alongside conventional teaching, contain drama games for kindergarten children and dramatizations for primary and secondary schools. 

For example for primary level we have dramatised Winnie-the-Pooh, Snow White, The Ugly Duckling, Presents from Heaven (about the ASEAN community), The Wise Little Girl (a Russian Folk Tale), The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time (an ecological adventure story, in which children will wear bird costumes and imitate bird calls), a Nativity play and Beauty and the Beast. 

For the secondary level we have modified The Shipwreck (part of a radio soap opera written and performed by British Special Needs children in Bristol).  We have dramatised The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, Sleeping Beauty and David Copperfield. Then we have simplified the English of Romeo and Juliet.

We shall be developing tertiary courses using dramas, such as the History and Myths of Angkor  and The Story of Mahajanaka, a  pre-incarnation of the Buddha, and also dramatisatised Lives and Works of Poets and Composers from my personal website

We have stage versions of the primary course plays and stage and audio versions of secondary course plays that students and families can keep and review.

In all these plays there is a 'cliffhanger', after which students are inspired to work in groups to write and perform their own endings. For example ho does the Bad Queen plan to kill Snow White and in Romeo and Juliet what does Juliet decide after Romeo kills Tybalt?  We then provide the full scripts for school and drama club productions.

In Nepal, co-operating with the charities Right4children and The Child Welfare Scheme, we taught a hundred teachers how to use the courses and they in turn inspired their students to write and perform their own original plays, largely based on contemporary issues.

As well as 10 kindergarten, 10 primary and 8 secondary courses for teachers, we have 28 matching and complementary courses for parents.  In this way parents and teachers can work closely together to help students.  We enjoyed a three day English camp  in North East Thailand, in which we produced part of The Jungle Book, part of Romeo and Juliet and the play, Presents from Heaven.  Parents were really helpful and imaginative in creating props, scenery and costumes and with music, and helping their children to learn their lines.  In this way parents, families and friends also improved their English.

In order to become a sustainable business that is enabled to provide scholarships and other benefits for poor and talented children, we plan to charge $15 twice a year to each parent for the sets of courses both online and in the form of booklets. Of this total of $30 a year, $12 will go the franchisee, $6 to the school and $12 to English through Drama. 

We are already talking to potential and enthusiastic franchisees for Morocco and other Arabic speaking nations, for Bangladesh and Bengali speaking regions of India and also for Hindi speaking regions of India.  These partners will translate the parents' courses, so that there are dual language versions.

We should particularly like to find Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Italian, Vietnamese and  Korean partners; but do not wish to exclude any potential partners in other language groups.

We are also in discussion with poor regions,  such as Ethiopia and Nepal, where the parents courses should be free.

Trevor Smallwood, chairman of UKRD that has 11 local radio stations reaching 764.000 listeners throughout the UK, is committed to education and is helping us to introduce ETD into Somali and Muslim schools in Bristol; so that we have a British base and so that we can help immigrants to integrate into British society.  We also hope to interest education trusts and schools in other areas, where a significant proportion of the population cannot speak English.  According to the Daily Telegraph in 2015, in the following districts these percentages could not could not speak English: 8.0% Tower Hamlets, 8.0% Brent,  7.8% Leicester, 7.2% Haringey, 7.2% Ealing, 6.2% Slough, 6.0% Hackney, 5.8% Enfield, 5.8% Waltham Forest, 4.8% Bradford, 4.6% Birmingham.  Through ETD clubs and camps we should hope to help reduce these percentages.

Apart from the parents' courses all the resources such as the teachers courses, drama games, phonics exercises, songs, sound effects, lesson plans, alphabet colouring and writing sheets, etc, are free.

One of our ambitions is to become a global community, a sort of Facebook of Drama and the Arts, where students can become friends and post and share their scripts, videos, performances, pictures, music, etc, etc. is under continuous development. We are currently applying for investment.

If you care to look at the website, we should welcome your feedback and suggestions, please.


Please check the Drama Techniques for the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

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  • Teaching English through Drama
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