Teachers should plan for and adapt a curriculum with a learner-centered strategy that engages students in a culturally responsive and developmentally appropriate way.
When it comes to developmentally appropriate instruction, planning can be informed by the study of the fourth phase of Piaget’s stages of development, the Formal Operational Period. As a part of this study I researched the importance of this important stage of development. As a part of coursework, I wrote, “students at the age of 11 are starting to think about the world in a way this is broader than themselves.”
As Piaget’s fourth stage of development suggests, drama can help students to think both abstractly and logically. By studying a script they must both analyze the meaning of the text and interpret the meaning that is personally relevant. One example of this is a lesson I completed in the eighth grade. Students had to study a neutral scene and interpret the text by adding personal meaning in the performance. Students created a range of performances. By identifying the who, what, and where of the scene, students created a unique world from the abstract idea that was logically created. Student work included a daughter (One) and a mother (Two) after the daughter came home late from a party; another performance had a boyfriend (One) getting dumped by a girlfriend (Two); lastly, the most memorable performance was a rock-star (One) meeting a fan (Two) as the rock-star left a performance and unfortunately the rock-star disappoints the fan by not being everything the fan thought they were.
In this lesson, students had to imagine a situation that both logically fit the text and fit their own personal interpretation of the text. This exercise met both conditions found in Piaget’s fourth stage.
In summary, I have presented this lesson in the past. What changed this time was the insertion of personal meaning into the text. Students had to place themselves into the concepts that they were creating. The resulting performances were filled with significantly more meaning and emotional impact than I had previously seen.
Student learning in drama must include personal meaning. It is through this concept that students can personalize the work and create authentic performances. While this is typically a high-level skill that college students pursue, it is achievable in the middle school classroom through this tactic.
I propose that more of my work with text include personal meaning in performance. I will even add it to my evaluation rubric as a self-assessment component for all performances. I often talk about the symbiotic relationship between text and performer. This will bring that idea into reality; the performer must put their opinion into the text and bring it to life in a way that only they can. This key idea brought out new talent that was previously un-tapped by the students. These changes will both increase the artistry that the students produce and, more importantly, increase the student ownership of the work in drama.