On Theatre and Drama in the Classroom

Recently I started going to my daughter’s first grade class to help them prepare for an Earth Day play. Sarah is so lucky to have a teacher who recognizes the value of creative play to learning, and I am privileged to be able to participate.  Beyond this play, she’s had them do biography tv (where the students interview famous people) and a penguin parade (where the students, dressed as penguins, went from classroom to classroom explaining facts about penguins).  Watching this teacher, witnessing my daughter embrace learning, and participating in this play project merely reinforces what I’ve always known and spent my education understanding, that use of theatre and drama in a classroom creates deep learning activities beyond what it means to be an actor. Of course, I’m coming in to lend my expertise in staging and creating characters, etc. But what these students are doing is so much more than that.  Let’s review:

  • They wrote the scripts in class, thus practicing writing.
  • They read the script in rehearsal (practicing reading) until they memorize their lines (memorization and understanding)
  • They chose their characters themselves, and are learning how to present those characters. (social/emotional learning)
  • They chose the theme, and decided to focus on the need to protect the earth (social issues, social studies).
  • They are practicing what to happen if something goes wrong (social/emotional learning).
  • Each time we rehearse, I am inundated with ideas for how to create sets/props/costumes (art, creative thinking, etc.)

These times are dangerous times for arts in education, including theatre, music, and visual arts. But seeing these children, in the short time that I am there, embracing ideas and challenging themselves makes me wish that those who control the finances would go into a classroom and witness the learning that goes on.  I can give all the empirical evidence I want and back it all up with theory as to why theatre or drama needs to be included in education, but the reality is in the classroom. And it is a reality that we will be foolish to ignore.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nathan
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 18:40:08

    It is a wonderful thing that needs to continue. Not just with you but all though the education curriculum. I hope that the generation children become more than just fact reciters and are able to be creative, and learn social skills.

    Reply

  2. Donna Johnson
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 17:44:57

    When my daughter was in the third grade, she and her classmates organized rehearsals for The Cat in the Hat during recess. They cast it, appointed Hannah director (of course), and began blocking. When her teacher got wind of what they were doing outside during recess she could have thought, “Isn’t that nice!” and moved on. She didn’t. She embraced their play and brought it into the classroom without taking over. She and the other teachers supported the students as they rehearsed, built props, made costumes. At one point, a teacher made a suggestion. The students conferred with Hannah and came back to say “No, thank you.” The teachers were delighted that the students considered then rejected their suggestion.

    Eventually the play was performed on Dr. Seuss’ birthday as part of the Read Across America celebration. Every child in the class took part – acting, creating programs, tickets, ushering, making costumes etc. Parents and teachers and students from the other grades came to see the play.

    All this happened in the midst of MCAS preparation. What a fantastic teacher!

    Reply

    • lkramer14
      Mar 13, 2010 @ 18:33:12

      What a great story Donna. And what a wonderful teacher. I know there are many teachers out there who are willing to embrace those truly wonderful moments. Sadly, though, as the pressure builds to achieve higher test scores, and as the load builds on teachers, I fear those moments will become fewer and farther between. I’m sure that Hannah will always have that memory. Just like I have the one of creating a production of Cinderella for my neighborhood. Kudos to that teacher!!!

      Reply

  3. Beth Boucher
    Mar 18, 2010 @ 19:36:20

    I’ m thinking your next book should embrace your creativity and teaching background. Pen an instructional book for elementary ed. teachers that give suggestions and guidelines on how to insert dramatics in the classroom. Sarah is fortunate enough to have a teacher who’s figured it out on her own, but not all teacher’s know where to begin. P.S. I love your blog…keep it up!

    Reply

    • lkramer14
      Mar 19, 2010 @ 06:30:50

      That is one of the books in my pile of book ideas. But, in the midst of all my drama here, it was recommended that I not write anything about that because I was dealing with too much mental crap abou theatre. Maybe once we’ve moved on from this situation, I can look at the idea again.

      Reply

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