Aoife O'Keffe is an English teacher in a Cork secondary school. She founded AOK Arts Academy in 2019. Aoife has a masters degree in Drama & Theatre Studies from UCC.

Speech and drama can teach kids lifeskills

Speech and drama classes have never been so important for our children; classes ignite their imagination, promote clear speech and boost confidence.

The benefits of speech and drama are extensive for children and young people. The skills learned serve students well beyond the classroom.

The recent rollercoaster of Covid-19 threw social and school plans out the window for parents around Ireland. It is not uncommon for parents and children alike to be anxious about returning to the classroom after almost six months off school.

Speech and drama classes ease anxiety and bolster self-esteem in our little ones. Classes promote social and creative learning as children acquire a myriad of skills that will equip them for whatever life throws at them.

I believe the arts have never been so important because it is art, especially theatre, that mimics real life and through its existence, enables humanity to soar in the face of adversity.

Storytelling is part of our history - the Irish are known for their storytelling around the world, we don’t want to lose that accolade! Whether a tale is shared over a woe or a laugh, the connection is crucial and the tale adds to the fabric of our culture.

What are the benefits of speech and drama?

- Performance skills, confidence and speech

Children learn through creative play and each week they perform their confidence grows little by little. Their classmates enjoy their performance and each child often receives warm applause and great laughter for a funny line or moment during improvisation.

This supports their self-esteem and confidence. It can also ease tensions in the school classroom; some children fear reading aloud when called upon, or the stress of relaying learned homework can be a worry.

Speech and drama can help soothe this stress and worry can become a challenge they relish instead. Many children have issues with their speech and find it tricky to “just say” the ‘correct’ word, this alone can knock their confidence. Speech and drama teaches them to articulate and project through fun tongue twisters which they love.

Children enjoy progression through speech and drama grade examinations as they master new skills expressing themselves through storytelling, poetry and drama in an informal setting.

Teamwork and friends

Speech and drama promotes teamwork, concentration, listening, critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as, self-awareness - crucial for our children’s emotional development. Encourage your child to navigate our new normal with the gift of performance fun, while layering their learning in a creative way.

One positive aspect of speech and drama is the space it creates for new friendships and bonds to grow. Students bond as the nature of teambuilding ensemble work and rehearsals offer them the opportunity to form happy alliances every term. This is another way it promotes your child’s well-being and self-worth.

Team spirit is created through ensemble work and this encourages children to further explore the world around them through performance. Appreciation of literature and the arts is fostered through exposure and performance.

Children are exposed to Shakespeare early and they discuss poetry so naturally this supports their English in secondary school. Primary school children are exposed to new texts and learn to read aloud with confidence. The fact that classes complement both primary and secondary national curriculum is a bonus.

Communication skills and storytelling

As children listen to each other’s ideas and storytelling and learn to develop stories working collectively they are enhancing their vocabulary, analytical and critical skills and developing concentration: a vital skill for life within and beyond the classroom.

Students explore expression verbally using different voices and tones, and through facial expressions and body language as they tell stories, recite poetry or read from their favourite book. So they enhance their communication skills and vocabulary seamlessly. Children learn the world around them through stories and exploring the ideas they raise.

In our younger classes we use interesting, educational books to springboard ideas, lead discussions, explore vocabulary and embed the learning through improvisation.

Supports emotional well-being

Through acting as different characters, children fine tune their emotions. Children can assert their true feelings or sense of personality without fear of being judged or criticized. They can solve personal dilemmas while in character supporting their emotional well-being.

My father passed away when I was 12 years old and speech and drama became a haven for me to expel negative emotions and tension. The transformative power of the arts supports healthy minds.

Speech and drama classes give children a safe space to be themselves and whomever they need to be in each class.

Zoom classes during lockdown

Each week our AOK Arts Academy Speech and Drama students attended classes via Zoom during lockdown in preparation for their speech and drama grade examinations.

Students socialised, shared stories, improvised, performed and had fun. Students completed their examinations via video and passed with flying colours. We have 100 per cent examination success rate, with each student gaining honours, first class honours or distinction. It was a delight to see the hard work come to fruition and students were thrilled with their results.

During these bizarre Covid-19 times, we all want to feel good and our children are no exception.

It has never been more important for children to celebrate the arts. The arts enable children and adults to make sense of a mad world: lament sadness and embrace joy.

Lockdown was emotionally and mentally challenging. It highlighted the fact that simplicity is key. Students thrive emotionally and academically in a supportive environment where creative learning is fun - in person or online.

Class structure

A typical speech and drama class involves a fun starter activity to warm up the body, stretch the imagination followed by exercise for the mouth trying new tongue twisters!

Fun theatre games are played before we work on drama, prose or poetry pieces.

Our story at the end is always linked in theme to our pieces providing an excellent springboard for discussion before we broaden the learning through improvisation. Children bow to joyous applause! Students love the high energy of each class but they equally love a relaxation mindfulness meditation at the end of the class. Layering the learning in a fun creative way keeps them wanting more.

Give them the gift of speech and drama and you give them the gift of happiness.


Get in touch

We are making plans and putting all measures in place for a safe return at the end of September 2020 and are currently enrolling for the new term. We look forward to welcoming new and current students back to AOK Arts Academy in Bishopstown.

Email: for further information.

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