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What's the difference between Speech & Drama lessons and Drama lessons?

It’s a question we often hear at Head Held High… “what’s the difference between speech & drama lessons, and drama classes?”

Our world is full of curious little things with seemingly little or no differences between them, that can confuse us. Sometimes for many years. We end up wondering whether X and Y the same thing with two names, or are they just similar things that we don’t understand the nuances of? Take, for example, granola and muesli? What is the difference between these two breakfast favourites? Are they grainy cousins - related yet distinct? Or are they the same thing masquerading behind different names?

I have long wondered the same question about labradors and golden retrievers.

Are emojis the same as an emoticon? What’s the difference (if any) between cement and concrete? To the uninitiated, ‘speech & drama lessons’ and ‘drama lessons’ are often lumped together in the same way as many of the pairs mentioned above.

They are, however, very different. This article is for those of you reading this and wondering whether your child is better suited to drama classes or speech & drama lessons.

What are speech & drama lessons?

Hundreds of fun games and activities that teach conversation skills, drama skills, positive body language, respecting ourselves and others, how to interact positively with peers and adults, public speaking skills, good manners, and how to harness creativity. Speech and drama lessons teach the skills that allow us to communicate, to be creative, and to have a grounded sense of self-confidence. OK… so what is the difference between speech & drama lessons and drama lessons?

The differences are numerous. And they’re important to know, as they’ll help you as a parent to decide whether one or the other are better suited to the learning objectives you have for your child or teenager. We’ve summarised the main ones, below...

1) Class sizes

Speaking as a generalisation, drama classes are great for providing a large group experience, whereas speech & drama lessons are taught in small groups. This is because the nature of speech & drama content lends itself to more individualised and personalised teaching styles.

2) Single focus vs twin focus of lessons

Drama classes have a dominant focus on teaching acting skills, while speech and drama lessons have a twin focus. In speech and drama lessons public speaking/presentation skills are the primary focus of lessons, and acting skills are taught as a secondary and complementary set of skills.

3) Singing and dancing

Typically, speech and drama teachers weave elements of physical expression and vocal games into lessons, most often as warm-up games. On occasions, they’ll also add music or songs to the group experience.

However, in general, singing and dancing are not strong or regular parts of speech & drama lessons. If your child’s predominant interests are singing and dancing then they may thrive in drama and/or musical theatre lessons, where those activities have a much stronger presence.

4) The yearly goal

Again speaking under generalisation, there is an important difference between what students work towards at the end of their calendar year in speech & drama lessons as opposed to drama classes.

Typically drama lessons will build towards a big end-of-year production. Often this will be a stage show or musical theatre performance.

In contrast to this, speech and drama students don’t normally put on a big performance at the end of the year. Their ‘performance’ experience happens each week in front of their peers in the classroom, and the end of year focus is often on gaining their next grade of external qualification.

For example, roughly 50% of our 600+ students choose to work towards a Trinity College of London or Speech NZ qualification in the last third of each year.


We are proud of what speech & drama lessons bring to our students’ lives. We know they love the close relationships they form with their teachers and peers in their small classes.

We take joy in seeing them learning public speaking skills, communication skills, acting skills and core life skills. And each year we share in their sense of achievement as they work towards and then acquire internationally recognised speech & drama qualifications. Most of all, we love the fun and energy that our students bring to their lessons, and give back to us as their teachers!

But it’s important to note at this point that although we’re a speech & drama company, we’re not writing this article to promote speech & drama lessons as being “better” than drama lessons. They’re simply different. For children and teenagers that lean towards developing acting, singing and dancing skills, that thrive in the energy of large group environments, and who revel in the thrill of stage performance - drama lessons are likely to be their fix.

There are many drama companies in Auckland that do fantastic work with their young people. We see them not as competitors but as allies in a mutual quest to develop a love in young NZers for the performing arts, and all the fabulous life skills that they entail. Like you probably do for labradors and golden retrievers, you and your child/teenager are likely to have a preference for either speech & drama or drama, and that’s just fine with us!

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