Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Liberal Studies


Tom Mikotowicz

Second Committee Member

Richard Brucher

Third Committee Member

Marcia Douglas


This paper explains how and why to implement dramatic activities to teach literature in the secondary English classroom. My primary objective in using this approach is to help the high school student develop his or her capacity for empathy. Students in high school struggle to empathize but lack practice and skill in understanding the feelings and perspectives of others. In the English/Language Arts classroom, an educator has the opportunity to help strengthen these communication skills. Dramatic activities, including improvisational acting, writing dialogue, and acting out scenes from fiction, help high school students to understand better the themes in literature. When adolescents stand before their peers in a safe learning environment to act out scenes, they develop several skills. Students who can better empathize with experiences of a fictional character can learn about their own emotions and motivations in a similar situation and can understand and assess interactions between and among people. Students discover how to think like a character by participating in role play of a given situation. The outcomes resulting from dramatic work with teenagers in the classroom have been inspiring. Most teenagers undeniably show growth and development in the aforementioned areas of interpersonal communication and, subsequently, know themselves better after participation in the classroom activities. Students gain confidence in using their voices, achieve higher scores on accompanying assessments of other kinds, and offer positive feedback for dramatic arts in the classroom. These indicators have fueled my enthusiasm for further study in the applications of drama in working with teenagers. As an advocate of structured use of drama in the classroom, I draw on the research and scholarship of educational theorist Howard Gardner, whose theory of multiple intelligences provides the fundamental ideas on which I have designed my lessons in the high school English classroom. Also, Gary Fenstermacher and Jonas Soltis' Approaches to Teaching demonstrates both the therapist and humanist approaches to classroom instruction, out of which dramatic activities naturally emerge. My studies have led me to experienced professors of education who utilize drama in working with learners. I am interested, further, in the work of drama therapist and educator Stephen Snow, who has used dramatic activities to help teach adults and adolescents with a wide range of special needs in a variety of settings. I may also pursue opportunities to study further the work of Augusto Boal and his "Theater of the Oppressed." Boal is an expert in using theater to instigate change in political structures, acts of injustice, tendencies to stereotype, among many other topics.