Theatre Changes: Sign One

Journal Entry from October 5, 2014 for Theatre Methods

IMG_2406On the theme of reflection and change, Lazarus (2012) proposes a series of questions to engage with Appreciative Inquiry. The first question: what is it that has changed in the last year of my teaching; what has stayed the same? The simplest of my answers, I have enrolled in graduate school, MAT and certification. After seven years of developing my middle school drama program and ten years of teaching youth theatre, I have chosen to take this climactic step so that I can change my practice of teaching: in doing so it is my hope to become a better teacher with increased efficacy, increased student impact, and increased knowledge regarding the implementation of best practices.

This does not mean that I have lacked impact over my teaching career. I have had Continue reading “Theatre Changes: Sign One”


A teacher is a practitioner of education. Because of this, their understanding and contextual information continues to grow. To nurture this growth, they must collaborate with colleagues, reflect on their experiences, and evaluate their progress based on the feedback from their collaborations and reflections.

One deep aspect of reflection that I engage with continually is the relevance of arts education. Continue reading “STEM v. ARTS?”

Theatre of Differentiation

Over the course of teaching and teacher training, it is important to center one’s practice on areas of potential growth. To do this, one must be reflective, collaborative, and evaluative of one’s teaching practice.

From one classroom to the next and one student to the next, education is never the same. There are similar aspects and best practices that are universal. However, the reality of it is that every day educators face new situations caused by a combination of contextual issues that come with each student.

These issues include: developmental issues of nature and nurture, an integration of multiple learning styles, and a student’s Zone of Proximal Development.

Nature and Nurture: As I noted in the first class discussion, neither side is every completely correct. Continue reading “Theatre of Differentiation”

Planning for Instruction

To improve as a teacher, one must reflect upon their progress, plan for future instruction, and adapt standards that are uniform across classes while allowing for the diverse needs of each student (P1). I have and will continue to do this in my teaching practice (E1).

It is interesting to think about teaching as a practice. It is never something that is perfected – it is practiced. Like medicine or an instrument it must be a continual activity where the practitioner improves and changes over time.

At the beginning of the summer, I made very general comments about lesson plans as I reflected on my past experience in the classroom. I stated, “At a basic level, lesson plans are a guide for the class. Lesson plans help to prepare for and to teach a class. A clear plan will help students understand the purpose, learning goals, and content.” I still stand by what I said. Continue reading “Planning for Instruction”

Students in a Plural World

Students deserve an education they can easily access. It should be of the highest possible quality, developmentally appropriate, and stretch the learning into proximal development. Student learning happens best across language barriers and ability levels.

John Medina writes on the value of Multimedia presentations. In the book, “Brain Rules (2008)” he cites five rules for multi-media teaching. These rules offer a memory boost to students because they engage the student across language land earning abilities. Their application to Theatre Arts or English Language Arts is immediate and necessary.

Rule One, Multimedia Principle. Application: Have students create maps of their learning. Students learn from words and pictures together. Students should map their knowledge. When they do this they are creating a framework for present knowledge and future knowledge organized into nodes of learning.

Rule Two, Temporal Contiguity Principle. Application: present a concept map or picture that has text integrated into the image. For drama or ELA, this can be done with a storyboard. The storyboard can pre-view the chapter or entire story. The storyboard can include images of major characters and places that they go along with character relationships, such as family relationships.

Rule Three, Spatial Contiguity Principle. Application: Words need to be presented near the image. For a theatre classroom, all the equipment, costumes, and props, can have labels that both help to organize the room and instruct students about what they are as they passively observe the room.

Continue reading “Students in a Plural World”

Learning Drama in the Face of the Learner Paradox

IMG_1976Drama is a perfect study for the middle school student as they enter the fourth phase of Piaget’s stages of development, the Formal Operational Period (Smith, 2012). Students at the age of 11 are starting to think about the world is way that is broader than themselves. They must think both abstractly, logically, and systematically; they begin to look outside of themselves and the surrounding world becomes palpable as their identity begins to blossom. These attributes are applied directly to the study of theatre and English. Both of these courses are text based. In my classroom I expect students to exercise their emerging ability to analyze a text and to connect their new knowledge to life-long lessons.
There are several important factors that the middle school educator must consider for their students. First, teachers must operate in a classroom that is filled with individuals. Each individual has been influenced by elements of nature and nurture as well as their gender (both internal and external). Second, teachers must operate in a classroom that is standardized. Each student must meet the objectives of the course, pass specific tests, and memorize the same material. The learner paradox that the teacher faces is inherent. Students must be simultaneously treated as both individuals and as a collective. This paradox can be accounted for as I create a classroom of differentiation. State learning standards are written with a degree of interpretation that I can take advantage of as a teacher. Because of this, students are able to work towards the standards in different ways; each student can build their path to knowledge and achievement. The practice solidifies my belief in a constructivist approach to learning. I intend to continue to use constructivism as a central modality for all my classes.

There are two central camps in the child development debate, The Nature Camp and the Nurture Camp. Those on the side of nature argue that all of development is pre-determined and the outcomes of character are set at birth. Those in favor of nurture posit that the outcome of a person’s character is primarily from the forces that one experiences as they go through life. However, this relationship is far too binary. There are traits that people are born with, sexual orientation for example, and traits that develop over time, acting with confidence on a stage for example. As Pressley and McCormick (2007) point out, the potential development of a person is subject to both genetics and environmental factors.

Continue reading “Learning Drama in the Face of the Learner Paradox”

The Developing Child in Middle School

IMG_1782Jean Piaget was instrumental in positing four stages of human development. These stages can be directly applied to the work of educators. The fourth stage, Formal Operational, generally starts as students enter middle school in sixth grade around the age of eleven. As an educator of middle school students, my experience is primarily limited to beginning of this final stage. To summarize, the previous three stages are sensorimotor, preoperational, and concrete (Smith, 2012).
The Sensorimotor Period is best represented with the prototypical baby and the game of peek-a-boo. In this stage, babies develop the concept of object permanence in addition to learning to control their motor responses as they coordinate the information from all five senses. The Preoperational Period begins at age two and lasts through age seven, young children develop the idea of abstract thinking. This includes symbolic thinking and ego centered thought. The final stage before middle school is The Concrete Operational Period. This stage starts around the age of seven and continues through 11 years old. Here youth develop the ability to apply their intellectual thinking to actual events (Smith 2012).
The development of an individual is greatly influenced by both their natural born genetics and their surrounding environment as they grow up. There are a number of variable factors that can influence this later category. These factors include: the child’s family members (and their beliefs), the geographical location of the child, the quality of the child’s care as they grow up, the school they attend, the media that the child consumes, and the era that the child grows up in. Continue reading “The Developing Child in Middle School”