Top Ten Benefits of Global Kids Through Drama and English

“Highly intelligent play!”
Sarka R., parent, Prague, Czech Republic

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Top Ten Benefits of Joining Global Kids Through Drama and English

1. Global awareness: Globalism is a defining feature of the 21st century world in which we live. Global Kids Through Drama and English intensifies children’s consciousness of the world as a whole, and inspires them to take an active part in it by learning, speaking and performing in English. For groups of children who already speak English at home, the global themes experienced in the workshops are still a huge benefit. Additionally, for such groups, there is a strong emphasis on Spanish, French, German and non-European languages as well.

2. Social communication and connection skills in English – or in the target languages internalised in the workshops. The future is brighter for bilingual children. How about the future for children who are exposed to the most widely used foreign language, so that they can quickly break social barriers ANYWHERE they go ? Be a stronger candidate for admission to university ? Be more competitive in future job interviews careers ? In future networking ? There will be many opportunities for children to develop their public speaking skills.

3. A sense of familiarity and “being at homeANYWHERE in the world. Language associated with FUN gets results in record time. Children make friends quickly ! They ask for help in tricky situations and get it ! They can know more than their parents ! They can help their parents when traveling. They make connections quickly, even help their parents to do the same! (And feel great about themselves !)

4. GAMES WITH AIMS: If play is a child’s “work” then toys are the tools. The workshops are structured but the children have no idea that they are actually working! I am an avid collector of funny toys, many Famous People dolls, good quality, realistic toy animals , theatrical backdrops, scores of costumes (including traditional clothes from around the world), souvenirs both natural and man-made from my travels … and then there are the diverse methods I employ to make sure no one is bored and everyone is included: (music, drama and art, with a Montessori approach) and multiple resources for learning languages, geography, history and world culture. Children will have authentic, hands-on materials, as well as access to technology, for learning the continents, countries, cities, nature, climate, history, famous people, food, clothing and customs of the languages taught in this course. I have scores of costumes, hundreds of props, and lots of materials taken from real life and from many countries. My students use them all in their language games, theatre rehearsals and final performances. They love to learn through them !

5. Your child is an amazing actor! Most children look for any chance to be the centre of attention. The 2nd half of each 90 minute workshop (45 minutes) is devoted to putting together into theatre practice everything that has been learned in the first half of the workshop. Your child is shy or an introvert? Drama (and drama production) offers roles and activities for every type of child, including those who do not wish to be the centre of attention but still take part. There is the role of cameraman/camerawoman, director, scriptwriter, stage designer … During the workshop and the performance, it is impossible that this child does not also internalise the target language. Lots of choices for involvement guarantees the child’s feeling of safety and acceptance. This also guarantees that every child will “own” his or her education.

6. An experience both authentic and practical: Drama practice and performance allows languages to be taught in the context in which they will be used, which makes students aware of the languages first and foremost as a means of communication. A child will never forget the words when there is a gesture, a character and a JOKE behind them ! Every lesson includes the use of materials that have been taken from real life, including airplane tickets to use for making flight reservations, real life jackets donated from airlines, every day items from supermarkets from around the world, flyers from museums, authentic souvenirs and much, much more.

7. Speaking skills – projection, clarity and resulting confidence: Frequent theatrical performances in English or in the target language(s) for parents and friends, will cement what they have learned. Moreover, as actors and story-makers, they prove to themselves – and their families – that they can not only speak English and other languages, but also entertain  in English or in other languages. Their self-confidence SOARS. Public speaking at an early age will pay dividends later in high school, college and beyond! Many of my students, now grown into successful adults, have returned to tell me how much more prepared they feel to speak in public, and the benefits that they enjoy professionally, socially and in their private lives.

8. Essential skills, disciplines and subjects are covered in the instruction, practice and performance. This includes increased literacy (children learn to make distinctions between English and Czech phonetics), visual arts, maths, sciences, geography, geology, topography, Earth history, meteorology, zoology, evolution, world history, and of course, communication skills. It’s a perfect complement to school and preparation for any child’s higher education. Children as young as first graders will already know sophisticated words that they would otherwise learn at a later age and grade.

9. While leadership thinking and skills are inspired here, the greatest foundation for success in engaging a child is LOVE, CARE and HUMOUR. Children – especially those in prestigious, “high end” schools, are often pushed to their limits, and after school, they need to feel that they are free to to play without a sense of “working” under any obligation. Here, children can push themselves intrinsically, without external rewards or punishments – but from curiosity, inspiration, engagement, and intelligent FUN. A frequent feedback which I hear is “when I ask my son what he does with you, he says he doesn’t work on anything. He says everyone just plays.” Luckily, the mother knew better than to take her son literally. Excitement and laughter are key experiences of every Global Kids Through Drama and English workshop. In the first half of each workshop, the new vocabulary – from even the most “academically serious” subjects – is introduced through theater, followed by play. The past vocabulary is reinforced in imaginative, quirky and comic ways, so that children not only remember the English words but also the concepts. Once inspired and incited to play themselves, the children practice towards a performance. The end result, per child, could be two minutes, or twenty. It is up to them. It is extremely rare that a child does not wish to perform in some way and most perform as much as possible. In any case, they learn the vocabulary, the expressions AND sophisticated topics, disciplines and ideas, in a global framework, with quirky, entertaining, real life examples from around the world. The content-rich plays and songs have a humorous twist or outcome. Guaranteed laughs, guaranteed fascination, and even for parents, a chance to learn something new from from their own children: life before the dinosaurs – so many fascinating animals preceded them; how Van Gogh lost one ear; why Da Vinci never finished the Mona Lisa; how to become a knight in modern England.

10. Drama has something for EVERYONE. Every child is unique and joins the workshop with his or her own level of language skills, experience, personality and learning style. There is a job for everyone. Drama accommodates ALL levels, learning styles and personalities !


The Power of Play

“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

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Kids love to play.  Playing helps them to be happy, to explore, to create original thoughts and to express themselves without guidance.  Most importantly, playing helps children make sense of the world around them. 

The first independent learning that  a child will ever experience, is through play. Playing is a such a powerful thing!

Obviously, I have been watching children play all my life.  As an educator, I have been observing children play for as long as I can remember being a teacher (nearly 17 years to date 🙂 ).

Yet I never fully appreciated the POWER in their playing – until I started teaching English (with Spanish and French as occasional lessons), in a Montessori school, seven years ago.  It was in such an environment that I finally “got it” about why play is so important and so powerful.  For the first time, I started to see children playing with new eyes.  This was not just play I was observing.  This was work.  

Have you ever taken care of a child (or spent time with your own child or students), and said something to that child, while he or she was playing – only to find your words falling on deaf ears? Have you ever had to physically interrupt your child from playing – a tap on the shoulder, for example, because, lost in the deep focus of the play activity, that was the only way the child could “hear” you?


If your answer is yes, then that is not surprising at all, because what you observed was far more than just play.  A child working on an art project – whether devised by the teacher, parent or by the child, is using the hands to create something first devised by the mind, or to realise something tangible without having a goal initially, but to “see what will happen”  with the materials once the work is done.  According to philosopher and pedagogue Maria Montessori, the child “does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 25.)  And if a child’s play can be considered by its own, intrinsic value, as a means to identify and solve problems, experiment with data and formulate questions (responding to the world around him or her as experienced with all five senses)  and indulge in his or her curiosity about the outcomes of his or her play, it is work in a child’s eyes.

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This is true even if the child is not highly conscious of the fact that he or she has actually done anything that is work in the conventional sense of the word: it can be guided or it can be 100 percent agenda-free.  There is fantasy play with dolls and toy animals that are given a voice, where life is breathed into them through the voice and hands of the child.  I am talking about a child mesmerised by the feeling of various materials (modelling clay, sand, mud, different types of paper) between the fingers.  I am thinking about the quirky things that children do when they are given funny toys and told to simply create stories with those toys, and how they enjoy making a doll character “smell the breath” of a “dead [toy] dinosaur”, or tickle the feet of a “sleeping” plush toy gorilla to “see” (or decide 😉 ) what that great big, fearsome animal will do to the “tickler” when he wakes up.

Then there is also fantasy play that does include an agenda – an academic one  that includes real people from our time or from the past.  I use lots famous people in my English workshops-  and the learning of culture they represent or contribute to the world.  Encouraging make-believe not only  “involves multiple perspectives and the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions that reflect a critical feature of the child’s cognitive and social development” for the normal development of a child (Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Beautiful Minds, 2012), but gives a teacher a chance to engage children in learning about the great minds of scientists and artists and the work those masters did which, like children, was “play ‘at work'”:

Below, a second grade boy impersonates Leonardo Da Vinci.  His contemporaries complained that he took ages to complete a task or never completed it at all, in addition to abandoning it to take up something else.

Below,  Degas, played by a third grade girl, is grumpy because his “work is interrupted” by the curious class members.  They are happy to learn about impressionism and art history, through make-believe:

Kaufman also talks about “the important concept of ‘theory of mind,’ [as]  an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to  imaginative play.” (Jenkins & Astington, 2000; Leslie, 1987; Singer & Singer, 1990; Singer & Singer, 2005).

Play is what children do best. We have all done it, and our children do it too. It is a very special kind of work that gives pleasure and therefore motivation.

Back in the 5th century B.C.,  Confucius said:  “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”.  If this is true, then play is every child (and adult’s) opportunity to do something that is both pleasurable and useful.  Play gives children the chance to practice what they are working on, the chance to practice what they are learning.  “Play is the work of the child”, said Maria Montessori at the start of the 20th century.  By extension, she continues to say that “a child’s work is the man [or woman] who he [or she] will become.”

The Power of Play:  What are the benefits that the child (and his or her family) get to enjoy? What are the powers?

  1. Problem-solving:  Play helps a child to develop all these wonderful and necessary life skills.  How about the child that understands how frustrating but necessary it is to do something over and over again in order to produce a result, despite countless failures?  Below, a “scientist” is given a gift of two robots for his birthday.   When the robot does not follow his commands properly because it is not yet “programmed properly”, the “scientist” must keep trying to fix the problem, the way he sees his parents do, in the adult world.  And when the robots are finally programmed, the scientist discovers the irony of the statement “Be careful what you wish for …” :

2.  Practicing empathy and tolerance: how many times have we seen children pretending to be a mother comforting a child? Or pretending to work in a zoo, “washing and feeding” the animals?

Or practicing what they are taught regarding loyalty and kindness to those who love them?As wisely stated by Scott Barry Kaufmann (Beautiful Minds, 2012): “When children use toys to  introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally.”

In the “sequel” to the above video, evil does not ultimately triumph; the young student chooses, in his subsequent English workshop, to have a natural catastrophe kill Darth Vader – using the same meteor that fell on Earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs! See below: 

3.  Play allows for what psychologist Sandra Russ (2004) calls divergent thinking (the ability to come up with many  different ideas, story themes, and symbols) and reinforcement of previous learning  – including the learning of academic subjects, historical notions and cultural practices from around the world.  Given a bunch of toys, and breathing life into them, a child can both internalise and integrate elements of a teacher’s lesson (the culture content which I always include in my English lessons) into his play.   I tell a second grader who loves Star Wars about the tradition of English knighthood, both medieval and modern and this is what he comes up with:

The above video also shows another component and benefit of the power of play – laughter and creativity – which lead us to #5, below:

5.   CREATIVITY! I call it “a child’s magic realism“. I love the oxymoron of the words “magic realism”.  And I love its definition by Merriam Webster. “a literary genre or style [associated especially with Latin America] that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.”  Watch the video below for an example of  a child’s magic realism – putting Frida Khalo, Mozart, Beethoven, a T-Rex and a Firefly together into a Mexican jungle and creating a story.   Pure creative genius that comes from the power of play: 

There is also Magical Realism that involves other Famous People : Take Gandhi, who lost his sandal, for example – a cute little improvisation entirely thought up by a first grader, on the spot!

Or the toy lobster (“Mr. Lobster”) who has committed some “crime” and is now in “court”. What will be the final verdict?

Sometimes play is too much fun for me not to get involved. I love toys as much as children do! I want to play as well. In English, of course!
Our class restaurant is irresistible:

Watch the five year old waiter in this video improve his service skills as he progresses through the role play, and how well he (and the others) learn English expressions for use in the restaurant – and the kids’ spontaneous improvisation throughout this little video. I love their creative “in the moment” contributions, mixed in with my suggestions.

Long live the power of a child’s play … and the power of the imagination!

Culture, Star Wars, Dinosaurs and a Child’s Imagination in the English Classroom


A second-grade English learner practices story-telling across four Earth Time eons/eras: Hadean (pre-Cambrian) with our paper-mâché volcano in the background, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras color-coded (matching mats with pictures and information not in this photo.)  The student has to put animals in their respective times.  He will then choose some Famous People and have them interact with some of these animals in a time travel story –

As a parent or teacher, you tend to “go along” with the play-acting of your child.  If you film it though, and replay the “lesson” you had with him or her, you see all kinds of things that go  far beyond chance comdedy. You see all kinds of brilliance!   And you see, in many, many ways, exactly how your child’s work is brilliant.

Take Christopher, an 8 year old boy, for example.  He is precociously conversational in English, even though his parents are both Czech and speak mostly Czech at home.    As progressive and caring parents, they wanted him to be in an English speaking environment where he would be challenged, given the means to do his best and also have fun in the process. So he did just that, and more.  How? Well, I gave him

  • some Famous People dolls. (I suggested Queen Elizabeth and Leonardo Da Vinci; he chose Sherlock Holmes and Barack Obama.
  • some plush-toy Star Wars characters from both sides of the Force  (they’re so funny and cute, even Darth Vader!)
  • an element of adventure (a Time Machine) –  endless in possibilities for story-making.
  • a taste of prehistory – with toy dinosaurs (carnivorous and herbivorous), giant spiders (mesothelae), various mammals, a jungle setting and colored mats to represent the different Earth Time periods that the Time-Machine might land in.
  • some facts about the Time Periods, their Earth and atmosphere characteristics, what kinds of animals, if any, are in them, etc.  The student then chooses which Earth times he or she prefers.
  • some facts about the Famous People we chose together.


Christopher with the majority of his chosen “cast”: Star Wars characters to the let, some mammals behind him, in front of him Leonardo Da Vinci, Queen Elizabeth the 1st, President Barack Obama, composer Beethoven (who puts dinosaurs to sleep in one of our little episodes), and detective Sherlock Holmes.

Left: Leonardo Da Vinci cleans some mammoth bones. Right: Christopher poses with his “Cenozoic mammal/people friends”.

Any child can entertain himself with Star Wars and dinosaur toys –  and entertain his peers and his parents, too.   Maybe even teach or enlighten someone about something previously unknown!  For such a presentation, all the teacher needs to do is

  • make sure the child plays and performs in English only
  • make sure the child incorporates some of the cultural or scientific facts learned before the play-session or during the play-session.
  • “go along” with the child’s improvised dialogue and play, working with his or her ideas as he or she has them.  The teacher must then support the child’s choices as much as possible and interact with them, staying in character.
  • give the student a few historically or scientifically-based ideas.
  • find a comic way together with the student to express these ideas. (Children will quickly find a way, trust me.)
  • leave the rest to the kids, and have fun!

Here are some compiled clips of what we produced together:

Do you find them funny? I sure do. I knew I was going to have a good time teaching and learning alongside of my young student.  What I didn’t know is just how much he would end up contributing on his own.  It’s not so much because the Famous People, the plush Star Wars characters or the T-Rex are cute.   It’s because of what the boy does with them.  With engaged play there is the opportunity for the added learning of facts, and the child’s incorporation of those facts in the play.  Done in ways that only the child could devise.  Always turn to a child for good ideas, or for how to put good ideas to use.  Here are some of Christopher’s original contributions to our “film series”:

  • making R2D2 the computer part of the Time-Travel machine, and DaVinci the inventor and the pilot of the machine.
  • the traditional dubbing  (making someone a knight) by every English/British monarch.  In our little film,   Christopher has Elizabeth the 1st pronounce to the robot R2D2, that he is now a knight.  It’s a reward for saving her from being eaten by a T-Rex.
  • using a giant spider toy to be Darth Vader’s “walking robot”, reminding me of the AT-AT Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • making the Famous People  + Yoda, Chewbacca + R2D2 go back in time to the birth of the Earth “by mistake.”
  • producing great visual special effects, appropriate to the Hadean Eon of Earth; responding appropriately to to facts given to him spontaneously as we play along. (Hadean heavy meteor bombardment ? He grabs some orange rubber balls and drops them on to the characters who he moves out of the balls’ way with effortless coordination. )
  • making the characters start choking, as soon as he hears me telling him there is no oxygen in Hadean Earth’s atmosphere.  But he doesn’t exaggerate the choking, or forget to make his characters speak (always in English).   He continues the dialogue of his characters, and the appropriate actions too,  while they escape to the next Earth Time.
  • turning Darth Vader into a fossil.   What an original kind of fossil – a fossilized robot.  Is that possible?  It gave us both food for thought about how long it takes to make a fossil, and who would be the one to discover it.  Human or post human? Deep questions, which we addressed briefly.  Then my student decided to use a Barack Obama doll, and have him make a cameo appearance, discovering the Darth Vader fossil with Queen Elizabeth, Da Vinci and Sherlock Holmes.  Detective Holmes  comes late to the scene, having previously wandered off to inspect another dead dinosaur’s tongue, and smell his breath (Christopher, you are so funny.)

It is Christopher’s fast reaction and original (and hilarious) interpretation of information that make his performance on videos so brilliant.  Through toys, some facts and a story-line, he practices three out of the four areas of language learning: reading, listening and speaking.  But this student doesn’t merely learn to use English better.  He entertains.  He entertains himself and,  if there are …

  • enlightening facts
  • adventure
  • comedy

… he entertains others, too. Imagine what that does for a child’s self-esteem 🙂

What possibilities there are for learning a language (and everything else), through play and  imagination! The originality of a child’s ideas gives you food for thought. Ah, children … give them some of their favorite toys, a few basic facts, and leave the rest to their fertile imagination. The results are amazing!


Christopher and characters from the Future –


Characters from the deep past (Hadean, Pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic times), from the dinosaur times (Mesozoic times), the present (Cenozoic times and today), and also characters (Star Wars) in the Future.

Queen Elizabeth and Leonardo Da Vinci discover a fossil … of Darth Vader, who almost killed them in a previous episode!

But wait … there is more.    By chance, this 8 year old created “dramatic devices” which I could not fully appreciate while we were playing and filming.  I caught them when I watched our work together on video.  They explain just why these “Sci-Fi series” make me laugh, every time I see them:

  • Tongue and cheek leitmotifs –

“We need to look”Christopher repeatedly makes the characters go peer into the jungle, in every Earth Period they land in.   The viewer also gets to enjoy some dramatic irony.  It’s obvious that the impetuous Queen Elizabeth, the nosy Sherlock Holmes and even the wise Yoda will pay a price for their recklessness.  And which child does not delight in setting up a dramatic ’cause and effect’?

“Oh, this is just a T-Rex” Yoda nonchalantly and effortlessly zaps to death every T-Rex he sees and saves the life of his time-traveling friends.  He does this with every dangerous animal that crosses his path, in every Earth time period.

  • Slapstick – 

The impetuous and bossy Queen Elizabeth is always fainting at the first dinosaur ambush.  Well, who wouldn’t faint at the sight of a T-Rex?  Whenever I watch certain clips from the film Jurassic Park, my heart almost jumps out of my chest!

Here, Sherlock Holmes is curious detective who then loses his cool in the face of danger, fainting frequently, contradicting his image of a character with self-control and intelligent foresight.  Who would have thought? I suggested we have Leonardo Da Vinci improvise some natural “smelling salts” from the environment  to ‘recovers’ the detective.  Instead, Christopher grabs the Queen Elizabeth doll and makes her give the detective a few smacks in the face. I can only imagine the real Queen Elizabeth doing this ;).   “I have the body of a weak and feeble woman” the real Queen once told her troops, “but I have the  heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England too.”  I don’t think Christopher is making a feminist statement here, but he is seems to be using role-reversal slapstick – AND making a compelling rendering of the famous monarch.

  • A sense of irony –

Such a grown-up thing, and so important when it comes to adding  depth of character to a story. Here, an 8 year old child does it randomly and effortlessly, through make-believe play.  Sherlock Holmes is traditionally famous for his  intelligence and sang-froid in the face of danger; yet here, the student makes Sherlock Holmes  comic and subtly self-ridiculing.  You will see Sherlock Holmes inspecting dead dinosaurs’ mouths and smelling their breath  (the same with the meteor-barbecued Darth Vader’s still-smoking mask) with all  the seriousness and pragmatism of the “real” Sherlock Holmes, yet his findings are completely useless in preventing or averting danger.  And as Christopher previously suggested, the detective turns out to be a coward! Always fainting at the sight of danger.  A typical “Christopher touch” :).

We finished our series with a filming of Christopher’s explanation of the dinosaurs’ extinction.  I let him know that the meteor that crashed into Earth 65 million years ago is one of several possible reasons.  He then reported back –