Our little ones follow our example, not our advice. Just the other day, I caught my 1 year old transferring her clean nappies from the packet straight into the nappy bin! She sees mummy putting nappies into the nappy bin all the time, so logistically; she thinks she is doing me a favour! I told her “No!” closed the door behind us and we got on with our day. The next time I put a dirty nappy into the nappy bin a little voice shouted “No, no, no!” Children are very clever, they are like little sponges and soak up information even when you least expect. You will tell them to do one thing, they will do the other… this is because they respond to action rather than words.
So in this case, how are we as parents supposed to prepare our children for life? We humans act with instinct, drawing on similar past experiences to help us decide how to play out a situation. For children, particularly of pre-school age who don’t have an awful lot of life experience to draw on. This is where the importance of drama in young children enters the equation. At the Pauline Quirke Academy, we have specifically developed our “Poppets” class for children aged 4-5 as a fun introduction to singing, dancing and acting. We take the children on a themed, improvised journey during each class. During our “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” theme, children start off in Charlie’s house. Charlie of course is very poor and his family can’t afford to heat the house, so they are very cold. All they can afford to eat for dinner is cabbage soup. But there isn’t enough for everyone, so Charlie’s family go without food so Charlie can eat. We ask the children if they were Charlie how would you feel. The answer we get is “very sad”. Asking the children to put themselves into Charlie’s shoes teaches them to empathise with others.
Going forward in the story, we meet Slugworth who tries to bribe Charlie to tell him all of the secrets of Wonka’s chocolate factory. In return he will give Charlie lots of money and his family will be rich. Of course it would be nice for Charlie to be rich, but we have promised Mr Willy Wonka that we won’t tell anyone about his factory! What should we do? Shall we just take all of the money, Willy Wonka will probably never find out it was us anyway. But hang on, is it right to break promises? Willy Wonka is our friend. The children ALWAYS decide to keep Wonka’s secret. They children learn to say “No”.
The children then meet Augustus, Violet, Veruca and Mike. We explore greed, disobedience and spoilt behaviour as the children transform into each character. Obviously things do not end up well in the story for these characters, so what behaviour SHOULD we express? “We should be like Charlie!” Charlie’s good behaviour in the story prompts Willy Wonka to give the Chocolate factory to him as a reward.
Our PQA Poppets class is a fun filled and extremely safe environment. Through drama, we place children into situations where they will have to make a conscious decision for themselves. After taking part in our Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed class, our students will know the Oompa Loompa dance and the Candy Man song. They will also come away thinking about the situations they faced in the story. Next time they meet someone less fortunate than themselves, they may be able to empathise with their situation. Maybe in the school playground someone tempts them to do something they don’t want to do… it’s easy to say “No” just like they did to MR Slugworth!
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