Moral dilemmas

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By Jane Bowerprimary consultant in drama, art, dance and literacy

Discuss the sensitive issue of stealing, through drama and role play

The following activities introduce children to a possible real-life situation (as depicted on the A1 poster), and ask them to deal with the moral dilemmas it raises. The aim is to help children reach decisions that will bring about positive solutions without causing hurt to others. Drama strategies and discussion are used, and different possibilities explored, to show various possible outcomes. The intention of this is that once children have examined the effect of their choices from the safety of a simulated situation, they will feel more confident to apply these strategies to situations they may actually face. The subject of stealing has been chosen because it raises issues about motivation – children have to consider whether the reason for the theft influences how it should be dealt with.

Getting started

  • There are various ways to approach problem solving through drama. It is an ideal learning medium through which to raise sensitive issues. Children may find it far easier to voice their thoughts from behind the safety of a character rather than voicing their thoughts as themselves.
  • Drama and writing, unlike life, provide the opportunity to stop and erase mistakes and retell a story in an improved way. By exploring alternative possibilities, children can build life skills to help them make wise choices.
  • Once children have applied these strategies to the situation on the poster, you can invite them to apply it to another simulated situation, such as bullying or vandalism, for further practice.
  • It is important when dealing with such issues to make sure that every child is actively involved in decision making. Children who normally ‘cruise’ or look to others to take the lead should be encouraged to make their own choices about the situation. If they are not confident enough to speak about them, suggest that they write or draw them (opportunities to do this are given in the lesson ideas opposite).
  • The essential point of the drama is for children to experience the situation from different viewpoints. By ‘turning the tables’ (in other words, asking the children to take on the role of the teacher, a vandal, a victim, a thief’s mother, and so on), they are given the opportunity to see how an action can affect others.
  • The eight drama techniques used in the activity for 7- to 9-year-olds are listed in the QCA Primary National Strategy document Drama – Making it work in the classroom. They can also be applied to far less serious situations (see Junior Education Topics’ March issue on ‘Drama & role play’).
  • The letter given on Activity sheet 3 is from Ways Into Drama by Jane Bower (First and Best in Education Ltd, ISBN 1860832415, £15.95), which contains other similar activity sheet resources.
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