The Plurality Drama creative expression workshops aim to help immigrant and/or refugee adolescents integrate into their new school and social environment, independently of their academic background. The workshops enable adolescents to represent the multitude of internal and external values and references, they face. The workshops help them share their experiences and attribute meaning to their lives. They facilitate the transitions inherent to adolescence, support harmonious identity-building and permit the passage towards a hybrid identity.
Sometimes, the workshops relieve the distress caused by losses related to migration and to tensions arising from a minority position in the host society. They ease interpersonal and intergroup conflicts by examining perceptions of discrimination while increasing personal and collective self-esteem (cultural group affiliation and class group), and thus help improve the adolescents’ performance and school success. Encouraging and promoting an inclusive society entails implementing policies, programs and practices that foster transcultural understanding between communities and between individuals.
The Plurality Drama program is intended for adolescents aged 12 to 17 attending multiethnic schools. The students may be enrolled in an integration or a regular class, may have learning or behavioral difficulties or may have severe educational delays.
Plurality Drama workshops address the adolescents’ developmental level by including games, personal stories, role play and various forms of verbal and nonverbal expression (fabrics, musical instruments, etc.) Since adolescence represents a transition from childhood to adulthood, it is important to offer a means of expression that bridges both worlds, evoking childhood memories and tensions as well as the imaginary and symbolic worlds of dreams, ceremonies and rituals. Working with drama, adolescents can express their weaknesses and their strengths, act out situations, explore alternatives for changing them, benefit from the classmates’ experiences and feel less isolated and alone.
Musical instruments and sounds
Young people enjoy using an array of instruments from a variety of countries. The instruments should be in good condition and of good quality. They should be handled with care. Musical activities involve exploring rhythms, learning to play together and listening to one another. Music can help underline, arouse and release emotions. It can also help reflect the stories and other experiences of the young people.
Fabrics in various textures, colours and sizes stimulate creative play. It is important to provide clean, supple, good-quality materials and mend them when necessary. Fabrics serve as a tool to help symbolize emotional states and provide visual support for emotions expressed through metaphor. Fabrics carry considerable nonverbal evocative power.
The play space
It is important to choose a space where the young people feel at ease, away from view. If the classroom is used as the play area, the desks should be pushed to the side to make as much room as possible. It is a good idea to use the same play space consistently so that the adolescents will identify the room as the theatre play space.
Plurality Drama workshops are based on improvisation, not on performance. Young people are not evaluated academically during the workshops. We recommend a minimum of 12 weekly workshops, each 75 minutes in length.
a) An opening ritual helps the adolescents transition between the classroom and the theatre space.
b) A period of social play encourages the young people to enjoy themselves together, accept themselves and others and connect with childhood and emerging memories.
c) Drama exercises provide technical resources that enable young people to feel more at ease expressing themselves in many ways while accessing the emotional world and experiences they are willing to share.
d) Sharing personal stories and exploring alternative scenarios. To do so, the young people use several approaches that they learned in the workshops.
e) A closing ritual enables the adolescents, teacher and other school professionals to return from the theatre space to the class space, knowing that something special that belongs to the group, not to the school, has taken place, requiring respect and some confidentiality.
Plurality Drama-ÉLODiL, the product of close cooperation between two teams (Erit and ÉLODiL), focuses on multilingual practices in dramatic expression activities. In this variation, adolescents in multilingual schools use French, the common language, to share their experiences or invented stories with all the participants and also use a few words or phrases in their native language(s) or other languages they know to express their emotions, react to another student’s remarks, and act out stories. Then translation arrangements are made for sharing information. The skills that Allophone students display in a variety of languages are acknowledged and valued by the school.
This project combines multilingual writing approaches and multilingual drama expression workshops to create a class climate that gives the students a feeling of security and promotes written and oral expression. The workshops encourage students to express themselves orally in French and in a language of their choice (translated by their peers into French) on various themes (trip, friends, family, dreams, etc.). Next, the students follow their oral expression activities with writing on the various themes supported by corrective feedback.
The findings from a qualitative evaluation of the drama expression workshops suggest that the adolescents who participated emerge with the sense that they are valued and that a climate of solidarity has developed (Rousseau, Gauthier, et al., 2005). According to the quantitative evaluation of the Plurality Drama program, the adolescents report that their difficulties have diminished and that these impair their functioning to a significantly less degree in various areas. At the cognitive level, improved academic performance, particularly in mathematics, was noted (Rousseau et al., 2007).
A second randomized trial (CIHR grant) was carried out in five Montréal high schools in 2012 involving 29 classes attended by adolescents with learning and/or behavioral difficulties. Preliminary results suggest that the drama expression program is of particular cognitive and emotional benefit for young people with clinical-level problems.
The drama workshops, paired with language awareness activities (ÉLODiL), were adapted and implemented in classes of underschooled adolescents in the Montréal region. The evaluation findings from this pilot project indicate that these young people emerged from the experience with increased self-esteem bolstered by the valorization of their multiple cultural affiliations. They also reported significantly lower levels of impairment associated with symptoms (Rousseau, Armand, Laurin-Lamothe, Gauthier, & Saboundjian, 2012). In addition, students who attended these workshops felt less stressed about speaking French (in general) and were more capable of learning the language. Finally, students’ empowerment enhanced their language-learning capacity, including their ability to speak in a group and adjust the volume of their voice as needed, their willingness to make new statements (risk-taking), their pronunciation and their syntax (Armand, Rousseau, Lory, Machouf, 2011).
Furthermore, these workshops have instilled a class climate conducive to expressing emotions and learning. They also gave rise to the emergence of a new dynamic in the relationships between the adolescents. (Armand, Lory and Rousseau, to be published). These findings are in line with previous studies (Rousseau et al., 2007).
- A DVD presenting the Plurality Drama approach and concrete activities with children and teenagers is available upon request. Contact the Creative Expression Team to order a copy.
- Armand, F., Lory, M.-P., & Rousseau, C. (2013). « Les histoires, ça montre les personnes dedans, les feelings. Pas possible si pas de théâtre. » (Tahina) Ateliers d’expression théâtrale plurilingues en classe d’accueil. Lidil, Revue de linguistique et de didactique des langues, 48, 37-55.
- Armand, F., Rousseau, C., Lory M.-P., & Machouf, A. (2011). Les ateliers d’expression théâtrale plurilingue en classe d’accueil. Dans Fasal Kanouté et Gina Lafortune (dir.), Familles québécoises d’origine immigrante : Les dynamiques de l’établissement, Montréal, Presses de l’université de Montréal (p. 97-112).
- Machouf, A., Gauthier, M.F., Sierra, T., & Rousseau, C. (2013). Se raconter autour du jeu et jouer autour d’une histoire pour se bricoler une identité. Adolescence, 31(3), 551–563.
- oneta, I., & Rousseau, C. (2008). Emotional expression and regulation in a school-based drama workshop for immigrant adolescents with behavioral and learning difficulties. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 35(5), 329–340.
- Rousseau, C., Armand, F., Laurin-Lamothe, A., Gauthier, M.-F., & Saboundjian, R. (2012). A pilot project of school-based intervention integrating drama and language awareness. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 17(3), 187–190.
- Rousseau, C., Beauregard, C., Daignault, K., Petrakos, H., Thombs, B. D., Steele, R., … Hechtman, L. (2014). A Cluster Randomized-Controlled Trial of a Classroom-Based Drama Workshop Program to Improve Mental Health Outcomes among Immigrant and Refugee Youth in Special Classes.
- ousseau, C., Benoit, M., Gauthier, M.-F., Lacroix, L., Alain, N., Viger Rojas, M., … Bourassa, D. (2007). Classroom drama therapy program for immigrant and refugee adolescents: A pilot study. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 12(3), 451–465.
- Rousseau, C., Gauthier, M.-F., Benoit, M., Lacroix, L., Moran, A., Viger Rojas, M. & Bourassa, D. (2006). Du jeu des identités à la transformation de réalités partagées : un programme d’ateliers d’expression théâtrale pour adolescents immigrants et réfugiés. Santé mentale au Québec, 31(2), 135-152.