Getting Them Back to Class: A Project to Engage Refugee Children in School Using Drama Pedagogy


  • Magda Vitsou University of Thessaly
  • Maria Papadopoulou Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Εleni Gana University of Thessaly



Refugee children, Drama pedagogy, Literacy through drama, Second language learning, Communication skills, Performative language teaching


The paper presents aspects of a drama based six months’ project with refugee children during their first period of schooling in Greece. The project1 aimed to investigate whether drama sessions could facilitate second language learning, strengthen children’s participation in classroom communication and enhance interaction among pupils and teachers with few shared language resources in an attempt to provide them with positive experiences.
Drama strategies were used to provide a joyful and welcoming environment and boost children’s communication skills. In most cases, drawing and painting, music and art were also used to support the drama activities. According to the research results, the children made use of various linguistic and non-linguistic resources (mother tongue, English, Greek, gestures, facial expressions, body movements, eye contact etc.) for interaction and self-expression and they developed positive feelings towards their classmates, their tutors and schooling. The language, which was produced through drama, was employed within a social context and was appropriate to the specific participants, setting and topic. Thus, the students were engaged in purposeful and meaningful communication. The findings from this case study highlight the beneficial effect of drama pedagogy on refugee children’s second language learning and on their socialization in the school environment.

Author Biographies

Magda Vitsou, University of Thessaly

Magda Vitsou is a Laboratory Teaching Staff in the Department of Early Childhood Education, University of Thessaly. She holds a PhD in Theatre in Education and has majored in "Puppetry in education and art therapy", in London School of Puppetry. She has been certified in the development of levels of certification of Greek as a foreign/second language. Her scientific interests and publications focus on issues of Drama in Education, puppetry, bilingualism and social life of minority groups. She has contributed to several research projects related to drama in education and school inclusion of students from minority background.

Maria Papadopoulou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Maria Papadopoulou is Associate Professor of Literacies and Language Education at the department of Early Childhood Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She has participated in twenty European and national research projects for literacy and second language learning. She has also developed resources for language learning. Currently, she is director of the Postgraduate program ‘Language education for Refugees and Migrants” at the Hellenic Open University. Her research interests focus on language teaching and learning, language education for refugees and migrants, designing of educational material for literacy, second/foreign language learning, multimodality and visual literacy.

Εleni Gana, University of Thessaly

Εleni Gana is Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education, University of Thessaly, Greece. Her teaching and research interests include literacies and language education, socio-cultural and socio-semiotic perspectives on language education, learning and teaching in multilingual and multicultural environments. She has contributed to several research projects, international and local, related to school inclusion of students from minority background, and to the design and development of educational material for literacy.


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