Podcast Episode 004: Theater in the ELA Classroom


In this episode, I share creative ideas for building theater into your ELA curriculum without having any acting or performance background.

You can lay a great foundation for performance projects with two easy steps.

1. Build up a Theater Corner. Or shelf. Or closet. Gather random costumes and props from your closet and your friends, Goodwill and Rummage Sales. Let students use them for theatrical activities. Watch the engagement rise when you say "feel free to use the theater corner as you work."

2. Consider bringing in a Guest Theater Artist, in person or on Skype, to talk about performance and teach your students a few theater games. No one spring to mind? No problem! You can also peruse an amazing selection of theater games to teach your own students over on the site Drama Notebook or pick up the book Theater Games for the Classroom.

Once you've dabbled in creating a foundation, it's go time! Try one of these five wonderful ways to use drama in your classroom curriculum.

#1 The Progressive Performance (inspired by Professor Martha Andresen's Shakespeare class at Pomona College): Choose critical scenes from throughout a play you are studying in class, and assign groups of students to put them on. Let them choose their own costumes, themes, and location, and design a program for the class. After giving rehearsal days throughout your unit, travel around your campus on performance day viewing the various scenes in order.

 #2 One Minute Version: After reading any text, invite groups of students to script, rehearse and then perform a one minute version of it, focusing on the most critical moments and themes.

#3: Character Feature Sketches: Choose one critical character from your text. Invite pairs or groups of students to choose a scene from the book to turn into a brief performance which showcases some critical facet(s) of the character. After viewing the performances, have students vote on which one illustrated the character best.

#4: Running Performance: While reading a play, act out critical scenes in class throughout the unit. Warm students up with theater games, then select students to play the cast for that day (potentially switching out major roles partway through the acting portion of class). Keep a set of character props ready so that from day to day, each character is recognizable by some fun prop. Consider traveling around your school to act in locations that reflect the setting in that part of the play.

#5: One Act Play Festival: Either after reading a play or in any gap in your curriculum, divide students into groups and assign them to script and rehearse a one act play of their own, reflecting themes of your course. As in the progressive performance, they may choose the location, costumes, conflicts, etc. for their play.



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