AUTOMATED or AUTHENTIC ACTING

Does acting in acting class need to be authentic to the student?  I recently came across this question in a professional forum.

Certainly authenticity is good – especially in theatre. It is a creative process; the product is best when it is personal to the actor. However – I contend that this may only be the desired end product.

A novice actor needs skills to build from – guidance even clear direction to develop with. Ready, set, create… GO! Open ended creation can be difficult. Giving a student a framework, blocking, gesture, vocal placement, clear direction is not only good teaching, it is a real-world occurrence. In doing so, the teacher is supporting the skill level of the student and scaffolding from that point forward. Yes in theatre education, there should equally be as many opportunities to collaborate, devise, and create in an open-ended forum. These are key skills that theatre can main-line to the student; these later skills, require a prerequisite of experience to build from.

Consider instruction in English Language Arts. In middle school and high school, writing instruction is often prescribed. A teacher may say, “use these sign post words” or “use a first person voice”; they may further say submit your paper in 12 pt font and MLA format. And in the execution of that prescription, the student learns the structure, the form,  the style required and then can learn to write in that mode authentically. But, their first prescribed may not be authentic to the student.

I contend that the instruction of an acting student does not need to be much different. I am curious to see what other teachers of theatre may think on this point.

This approach of prescribed movements and highly directed or choreographed work could also be described as an “outside-in” style of acting. Physically based styles are widely used around the world. Included in this would be the Lazzo of the Fly from Commedia and the stylized movement and voice of Kabuki. Here are some examples.

You can see in the Lazzo, the movements are very planned, even choreographed in response to the music.

Here you can see an example of a planned combat scene in Kabuki. It has been done in this exact prescribed style for the past 400 years.

 

 

 

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Teaching beyond Facts…

What does teaching beyond facts mean? I recently read a fascinating article on soft and hard skills in the 21st century. Here is a summary of the article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  

The school system that most adults today grew up with should not be in the classroom of today. The memorization of facts is not the most valuable resource for a student. The analysis and understanding of information – using the information in a way that develops the student and prepares them for the future is more important.

We live in an ever connected world. The future that the children of today face is increasingly changing and complex. To prepare students for the world of tomorrow, a world we cannot fully understand, educators must teach 21st century skills. These skills include Social-emotional learning, Habits of Mind, character strengths and grit. But, these skills are often seen as “soft” or non-cognitive. How does an educator teach them in the classroom. A more interesting question is how does one know when the student has acquired the skill?

Students need to learn literacy and numeracy. These things are still important. Test scores reveal a piece of the puzzle that develops a student. But, teaching a clear skill such as multiplication or letter recognition is not the same as the application of the real-world math problem incorporated with constructing a building or the value that comes with understanding humanity when one interprets and analyzes a poem.

In a 21st century classroom, we distinguish between different types of thinking. We ask questions of varied complexity; from fact to analysis to an application of skills, students must learn to work in a variety of ways: critical thinking, creative thinking, communication and collaboration. These skills move the student from the foundations of fact into the potential to apply their “soft” skills in a variety of situations.

What is uniquely different about these skills is that they are continually developed. The school can give each student the opportunity to practice critical and creative thinking, communication and collaboration through project based learning that targets these skills.
The full article can be found at: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar16/vol73/num06/Hard-Thinking-about-Soft-Skills.aspx

Graduation 2015

The following speech was delivered to the class of 2015 on June 9, 2015 in Seattle WA.

1 All students all alike in dignity

2 In dear Seattle where we lay our scene

3 from ancient text to music harmony

4 We study things we know and things unseen

5 From the communal mind of what we know

6 Each student now walks across this great stage

7 To celebrate all that they’ve done to grow

8 and now to walk onto histories page

9 their wondrous passage into their high school

10 is now for everyone to take in stride

11 just please remember Our one golden rule

12 respect is how you live your life with pride

13 and with today as in all of your dates

14 go forth and make us proud dear graduates

My speech tonight is filled with quotes. Words of people I admire. Listen closely for the quotes. There may be hidden wisdom in them. Friends, Romans, Graduates, lend me your ears. It is an honor to have been selected to speak. Thank you. I would like to reflect on the purpose and path of education and why all of you are in an excellent position to succeed beyond your imagination. First, the teachers, faculty and especially your families have helped you to get to this point – please be sure to personally thank them. Then, be sure to thank yourself. Your work, all your efforts, has gotten you here- sitting in the garb of a graduate. Graduates oh graduates, wherefore are thou graduates? That is to say, why are you graduates? Culminating in walking across the stage today your education has been formidable. I know there has been struggle and angst; yes there has been the predictable blood, sweat, and tears of learning in Middle School. But, there has also been great joy that details your memories of EW. I will guess that you will look back on your time here and recognize the achievement of completing middle school at EW. It is an excellent preparation for any of the schools that you are each attending next year. I think that once you get out of the metaphoric woods that EW lives in, and start comparing your experience to other ninth grade students, you will see how vast and deep your education has already been. As you move from middle to high school, remember this, to learn or not to learn that is the question; to tank and fail – perchance to be in the zone and succeed. Ay there is the rub. Yes, the difference between learning and tanking is the task of the student. Ultimately – and I am sure this may spark great debate – it is not about the grade. Your memory of each score will fade, but the lessons learned will last longer and always be there to support your future ambitions. One of my favorite Zen quotes is, “The expert in anything was once a beginner.” I am reminded of the learning process daily. Not only as I watch the students of EW grow, but as I watch my own children grow too. My daughter, almost six months old now, has recently learned how to belly crawl across the floor. She illuminates the idea that learning is failing and then trying again. That is how you stay away from tanking. She, regardless of her failure to get her knees involved in the process of crawling properly, is in the zone and continues to work on the task of moving across the floor. I believe that the EW graduates align with this idea and Bruce Lee when he said, “I either win or I learn.” I hope that each of you can take that mentality with you in your future years as life continues to present the challenges and rewards of being an engaged life long learner. “You don’t always need a plan” I saw this quote recently posted online and read on. “Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” The powerful moment here is the potential of each one of you. Through the following years each of you will earn, win, face challenge, experience success. These events will continue to shape who you are: A Nobel Lauriat; A social worker eliminating homelessness; A politician fighting for equal rights; An artist that addresses the concerns of society? Doctors that work across boarders; lawyers that advocate for the rights of everyone; the next inventor of the next tech revolution; Loving Parents; Loyal friends; engaged people that care about the world around them and a sustainable future? I hope so. I have said for a long time, “The essence of life is not about being perfect. In fact, perfection exists so that we have something to strive for.” This is at the heart of education, for me. There will always be someone that knows more than you; someone that can run faster than you; someone that will outperform you in one-way or another. Yet, for every person better than you, there is someone looking at you with the same thoughts. And, today, we are looking at you with pride in our hearts. Your achievement today, makes us proud. Regardless of who is better than whom, what matters is that you each run your own race and “don’t let your perceived limitations ruin your creativity.” Creativity is one of the greatest assets that you all have acquired at EW. From Drama to every other subject, creative thought is required. Every vocation benefits from creativity. It is our imagination that spurs ingenuity. It is one of my favorite parts of this school: creativity is held in the same regard as responsibility, confidence, and integrity. When students arrive here, in my class and every other, one of the other great lessons they learn is self-confidence. And, this is important because self-doubt is one of the most crippling forces. Self-confidence is one of the most empowering. EW Graduates know that have a voice that both matters and will be heard, because they have self-confidence. Education Researchers, Fay and Funk put it this way, “A positive self concept comes from feeling capable.” EW graduates are highly capable: from challenge assignments to an immersive curriculum that spans many of the most essential subjects, EW Students are empowered to take on the world. EW Graduates, you amaze me with your self-confidence. You are empowered to speak you mind, engage in civil debate, solve problems with elegance, change the world and address the problems that have been handed to you. Gandhi was smart and can give us this guide, “You can be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Rumi would add, “You should first change yourself.” I hope that I have not been too dogmatic here. The best teachers show you where to look but not what to see. To turn this idea around here Graduates, I predict that you will be showing the world where to look. In just one short decade, you will be entering the workforce as informed impassioned leaders. I would like to credit you time at EW as partially responsible for that. Regardless of where you end up, no matter where you are, how educated you are, how rich, poor, or cool you are, what matters in the end is how you treat people. Ultimately, this tells everything about you. Act with integrity and respect in all things. I know you graduates will stand up for what matters and for what is right in the world. I know it is in good hands. Vince Lombardi gives me my final words for you, “Every job is a self portrait of the person who did it. Autograph you work with excellence.” Congratulations graduates. I am truly proud of each and every one of you.

Three Tiers of Words: Three Reading Strategies: Increased Personalization and Understanding

At the heart of great teaching is differentiation; this teaching tactic of differentiation inside of the teaching content area applies to language acquisition, stages of language, and academic language development; this work will help students across multiple content areas (P2).

In researching this teaching topic area, I reflected on two effective techniques for teaching academic language through a differentiated approach.

FIRST: Three Tiers of Words for Differentiated Instruction

  • Tier One includes vocabulary that the student already knows; teaching these words will help the student activate their prior knowledge.
  • Tier Two words are important over many years in many disciplines both your own and others; examples include parallel, theme, and base; teaching these words will help students make connections to ideas outside of the content and reinforce the meaning in the content.
  • Tier Three words are technical with narrow definition; these words should be taught for the lesson and looked up for further clarity; a student will engage the text at an analytical level.

SECOND: Three Levels of Reading for increased meaning and differentiated instruction

  • Level One, read for general understanding (identify words in all three tiers)
  • Level Two, making personal connections to other content areas
  • Level Three, extending the text to connect and converse with other texts

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(LINK TO POST)

Breaking the academic words into these three tiers allows both the teacher and the students to strategically approach the task of learning. By emphasizing the vocabulary early in the process of learning it can be reinforced at every step of the lesson.

In pre-reading students can identify words across tiers and note their meanings.

In connecting to personal experiences, a second stage of effective reading, students can connect their experiences of each word (especially Tier Two Words) in other classes to the text that they are examining and use the Tier One Words, words they already know, to build their knowledge and connection to the new text.

Finally as a student reads for deeper meaning, they are ready to ask bigger questions about the words and their interconnected meanings. By engaging in a process of inter-textuality, they will solidify the understanding and be able to comment on the text in relationship to other texts they have read.

Academic words in all three areas continually emerge in both Theatre Arts and English Language arts because both content areas examine texts from multiple sources with multiple narratives. I often tell my students that my class is not simply a drama class. Rather, my class is every class in the disguise of a drama class. Students must be prepared to speak about any topic that they know about. Because of this, they build their understanding of both of the first two tiers. Some common examples of these words are: inner-monologue, character development, and memorization.

The third tier words are then used most commonly through the language demand and are particular to the performance assignment. One simple example would be, blocking (the specific movement of actors on the stage).

Because of my research into the three tiers of academic language and three common phases of reading, my instruction has changed. I am more apt to point out academic words that make a connection between subjects and encourage students to read a text three times for increased clarity and deeper meaning. With each reading of the text I can guide the student by suggesting that they look for general understanding on their first time through a text, connections between the text and other subjects on their second read, and the conversation between one text and another in their third reading.

By using this three tier and three read through strategy, students are more likely to fully understand and personalize the text. Because a central practice of Theatre Arts is personalization and finding increased meaning, these strategies are invaluable to the students (and to myself). Further, different students will be reading at different levels. Knowing which level a reader is working on will allow myself to differentiate my instruction for that student.

One consequence of using this technique is lost time. It will take students three-times longer to complete any reading assignment. Because of this, reading assignments must be both shortened and be given in class time for guided completion. However, the benefits will outweigh the cost. Students will generate more connections inside of my content area and in content areas outside of my classroom.

Textbook Fail and Finesse

The lessons learned from years of teaching are rarely all put together into one lesson. Here is one example of many best practices for teaching literacy inside of just one lesson – watch to see why any teacher needs to know about them.

Here is a link to the full lesson: To Read or Not to Read

Literacy Lesson: To Read or Not To Read

Using the CCSS, the following lesson was created in collaboration between theatre arts and fine arts content areas to incorporate multiple strategies in literacy instruction; the lesson incorporates strategies that are based in constructivist interpretation, visual interpretation, and performative interpretation. (Follow this link to see the evolution of this lesson from a fail to finesse)

LESSON OUTLINE: LITERACY FOCUS – MINI LESSON: TO READ OR NOT TO READ

 

Title TO READ OR NOT TO READ
Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.4Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
Central Focus (CF) To interpret the question posed by Hamlet, “To be or not to be…” by using expressive gestural images of actors, the original text written by Shakespeare, and actor created interpretive performances.
Academic Language Interpret, Gesture, Emotion, Voice, Physicality
Learning Target (LT) To interpret Hamlet’s question “To be or not to be” by looking at images of actors, and performing one line as a group.
OVERVIEW: LESSON MAP
Lesson Part Activity description / Teacher does Students do
GOAL Introduction of learning target and pre-assessment. Self-assess on Hamlet’s Question
1A Pre-reading: Dramatic Expression in Images Students explain thoughts about images that use dramatic expression and gesture.Students complete worksheet that asks them to interpret then respond to other students’ interpretations of the gestural & emotional images supplied.
1B Informal Assessment: Presentation of scaffolded syntax sentence. Students share, respond to and invent further performed interpretations of emotions.
2A Practice: Jigsaw of Text – Interpret Meaning Students work in groups to construct meaning by combining collective knowledge of a small piece of the text.
2B Informal Assessment: Self-assessment Students share translations with the class.
3A Extended Learning: Match text to images with a performance of interpretation. Students create original performances that are matched to a section of the text by selecting voice and physical choices that correspond to the text and their interpretation.
3B Summative Assessment: Student Performances (group assessment; teacher assessment on Rubric) Students self-assess their performance on the exit ticket.

 

 

Introducing the Learning Target
GOAL Teacher Does:Write [LT] on board.
Teacher Says:FIRST: tell me now if you think you can interpret what Hamlet’s question is. Show me a fist of five.
5 – I have an excellent idea of what the question is and what it means4 – I have a good idea of what it is, but I think there is more I could know.

3 – I have a basic idea, but I’m sure there are bits I am missing

2 – I am unsure about this.

1- I’m more than unsure, I’m lost.

Students Say:

FIRST, students silently respond to both the self-evaluation “fist of five” prompt.

Pre-reading: Frontload with Images (p. 100)
INSTRUCTION (1a) 1. Teacher asks students to divide into pairs.
NOTE: Review definitions of academic language organically throughout lesson. When word comes up in discussion, pause to write the definition on the whiteboard. Interpret, Gesture, Emotion, Voice, Physicality
2. Teacher asks – what is emotion? Teacher writes 3 examples on whiteboard. Ask for one emotion example from each pair of students. Then, ask pairs to add an adjective before their emotion.
Examples: intense curiosity, overwhelming joy, life-shattering despair, mind-numbing boredom. (Anger, Fear, Confusion, Malice, Revenge, Desperation – These would fit with Hamlet really well).
3. Teacher writes examples of emotions on whiteboard.
Teacher tapes 8 images/printouts from productions of Shakespeare plays on a table in a large circle. The images should display a wide variety of emotions that occur within Shakespeare productions.
There is a worksheet attached to each image. (see attached).

  1. What emotion does the gesture in the picture convey? Give evidence to support your opinion.
  2. Do you agree with the previous comment or do you disagree? Write specifically about the gesture of the actor.
  3. If you had to perform the gesture in the printout, how would you do it? What would your body look like if you were feeling that emotion?
Students divide into pairs.Students respond with one emotion example per pair.

Students invent adjective to make their  emotion more dramatic.

Pairs choose an image and answer the first question on the worksheet.
Each pair to take a couple of minutes to write response to question number one. Pairs then move to another image and take two minutes to answer number two.The same procedure is used to answer number three.

Group Sharing
INFORMAL ASSESSMENT (1b) Teacher Says:FIRST, Secretly choose an emotion to perform from the list on the whiteboard. DON’T TELL ANY OTHER PAIRS! THIS IS A SECRET!
Now, pretend that you are an actor and are in a Shakespeare play. What kind of gesture would you use to communicate that emotion? Practice that gesture with your partner for one or two minutes. Be as dramatic as you can! Let me model this for you: Teacher models acting out a gesture.
Pairs secretly choose which emotion to perform.Pairs practice performing that gesture for the rest of the class. The class guesses which gesture that they are trying to communicate.
If the class cannot guess the emotion, a volunteer can come up, read the emotion and take a stab at performing the emotion.
Jigsaw and Sketching My Way Through the Text (p. 131)
PRACTICE ACTIVITY (2a) Teacher Does:Pass out the mini-texts (see attachment at end of lesson).
Teacher Says:Read the small segment to your group. Do two things with the segment.
FIRST, respond to the small segment by trying to translate the words from Shakespeare into words that you would use. Write out your translation under the text on your page. Pool your collective knowledge to construct an interpretation of the text.
SECOND, in three minutes or less, to brainstorm with pictures without judgement, draw an image, or series of images, that you think represents the small piece of text. This does not need to be a professional piece of art. Rather, it should express the idea of the text. Stick figures, cartoon drawings, scribbles, loose sketches, and original artistic interpretation are encouraged. Three minutes starts now!
THIRD, match the image(s) that you drew to a similar image from the first part of this lesson.Teacher Does:

Observe and work with individual groups.

Students Do:

Students collaborate to pool collective knowledge and understandings to find language that is accessible for all students.

Students quickly sketch a pictorial representation of their translation.

Students match the images

INFORMAL ASSESSMENT (2b) Teacher Does:Pass out full text to class with indicated jigsaw pieces and space to write out the translation from each group.
Teacher Says:FIRST, we will now share out our text, I am passing out the full text that the class has examined in pieces. Next to the original text, there is space for you to write down the translation.
SECOND, each group will share their translation with the class. We will go in sequence so that we can hear the text in full. I will read the original and a representative from your group will read your translation. You should write down the interpretation of each group as we go. Be sure to speak slowly so that everyone can catch every word you say.
THIRD, after the readings, we will have a quick period of time for group comments and questions about the text or translations.
FOUR, Now that we have practiced interpreting, tell me now if you think you understand what Hamlet’s question is. Show me a fist of five.
5 – I have an excellent idea of what the question is and what it means4 – I have a good idea of what it is, but I think there is more I could know.

3 – I have a basic idea, but I’m sure there are bits I am missing

2 – I am unsure about this.

1- I’m more than unsure, I’m lost.

Students do:Students share their work with the class as directed.

Students discuss.

Students self assess with a fist of five.

TEXT TO IMAGES and DRAMATIC ROLE-PLAY (110).
EXTENDED LEARNING (3a) Teacher Says:FIRST, Now that we have created a translation, you have the opportunity to perform your translations for the class. Please work as a group to speak your section of the original text. As you speak select one or more vocal choices to perform (pitch, quality, tone, prosody)
SECOND, Students will identify one or more gestures and or movements by looking at both their drawings and the images from the first part of the lesson.
THIRD, Practice presenting the text as a group. You should speak and move in unison.
Students Do:Students prepare as directed.
STUDENT PERFORMANCES
SUMMATIVE AND FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT (1b, 2b, and 3b) Teacher Says:FIRST, We will now observe group performances. After each performance, please give a clap of respect, on my cue, to each group.
SECOND, Following the performance you will complete a group-assessment, on your exit ticket, of your performance; you will also receive teacher based summative assessment. Each assessment will utilize the same rubric.
Students Do:Students observe and perform as directed.

 

4. Supporting Development through Language
a. Language Function: What verb appears in your learning target that represents the language function?
Language Function: To InterpretStudents will interpret the text in multiple ways. Interpretation includes a background understanding (identifying what students know), an applied understanding (accessing learning through what the students want to know), and personalizing the interpretation for individual meaning. To break the task down further, there are several sub tasks to interpreting:

  • Gather and observe associated information:

Students must closely and mindfully look at a gesture and identify the emotion associated with it; they will use images that represent what an actor may do while performing the text to understand how actor expression influences the meaning of any text.
2) Translate the text into modern language and construct meaning through group definitions:

Students must pool collective knowledge and understandings to find language that is accessible for all students. They must build a mutual understanding by defining words, discussing meanings, and brainstorming associated ideas. Doing this will enrich the experience of both watching and performing the original text.
3) Personalize the text through creating images and performances

Through performances, students can express their interpretation by using vocal (quality, tone, pitch, and prosody) and physical choices (gesture, movement, body position) that convey deeper meaning.

b. Language Demand: What learning activities or products will students write, speak, or do to represent the language demand and an opportunity to practice the language function?
This lesson uses multiple strategies for students to practice interpretation. First students will frontload with images (1a). This tactic will allow the vibrant and powerful images of actors in performance to inform what the reader might imagine or look for when interpreting the text of “To be or not to be.” This visual hook will serve as an anchor for students to use as they tackle this difficult text.
Second, students sketch their way through a portion of the text (2a). This allows them to access both multiple intelligences and avoid being caught up on the large portion of new words and, essentially, a new language for them to translate. Using the jigsaw approach, students can interact with the text in a way that remains accessible.
Lastly, students perform their understanding (3a and 3b). This dramatic role play allows students to express their understanding of the content in the way that actors would also present their understanding of the content. This is a simple performance that the students can create of a master-text. By engaging the entire class in this exercise the students are both connecting with the entire text and they are making the text personalized to their own experience.
c. Additional language demand: How will students practice content vocabulary words shown in the learning targets?
In addition to the strategies described in the previous response, throughout the lesson, students turn and talk (1a, 2a, 3a). This strategy gives students the opportunity to practice and check their understanding of the lesson content and language demand of interpreting the text. By using this strategy, students can review key elements of the lesson, identify points of personal connection, and allow multiple students to work with multiple partnerships.
d. What learning activities enable students to practice using symbols or abstract representations of information (syntax), if these are part of the lesson?
I am choosing to respond to this question by focusing on how the teacher will clearly explain the discourse rules. During (1b), the teacher will explain that the students are to stay with their pairs and secretly choose an emotion to perform. The teacher explains that the emotion does not have to be the one that they originally invented. The students are told to keep this emotion secret and to practice it for a minute or two. After the teacher models a performance, the students are then asked to perform their emotion. The class votes to choose which emotion is being performed. If the class does not correctly guess the emotion, the teacher will ask for volunteers to take a stab at acting out the emotion. This will continue until the class is able to guess correctly. The steps/rules to this discourse game will be posted on the white board as a semantic map.
e. How is discussion (discourse) structured in activities?
Discourse is structured in a variety of ways in the activities. This entire lesson can be thought of as almost all discourse between students as a large group and through working/responding/interpreting/creating in pairs. Some examples are: (1a) invention and descriptive dramatization of emotions; and completion of discourse worksheets, (1b) Creation and performance of emotional gesture; whole group (1b) – acting out gestures in front of class and class responding to whether they understand emotion being performed. Further discourse is created by the whole class guessing the emotion as well as fine tuning performances when gesture does not communicate clear emotion, written response and reflection (1a) completion of worksheet where students interpret images and respond to each other’s opinions. (2a) Students collaborate to pool collective knowledge and understandings. Discourse is also structured in a less conventional way by having the students communicate with the class through the performing of gestures to express understanding of the academic language function (interpret) and response by the rest of the class of whether that language function was achieved. Students can further the discourse by performing the emotion for the original performers (in front of the class) as a communication/model of a deeper understanding of the language function. This further builds their skills necessary to interpret Shakespeare passages.
f. What other writing or speaking activities enable students to practice vocabulary and the verb shown in the learning target?
Students are asked to invent emotions and interpret them gesturally as a way to show evidence of understanding of the academic language. Students are also asked to complete worksheet that prompts them to explain their understandings of the academic language. Students work in groups to construct meaning by combining collective knowledge of a small piece of the text. Students verbally share translations of the text with the class. Students create original performances that are matched to a section of the text by selecting voice and physical choices that correspond to the text and their interpretation. Students self-assess their performance on the exit ticket.

 

 

Personal Performances that are Developmentally Logical and Abstract, Reflection

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.”

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Course Research into Student Development: Piaget (https://davidoracekelly.com/2014/07/16/learning-drama-in-the-face-of-the-learner-paradox/#more-87)

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.

Picture of Neutral Scene

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.

Meta-Reflection: Teaching With Technology

Technology is becoming ubiquitous with everyday life. Students and teachers should use technology in a way that is effectively integrated into the classroom so that learners and teachers are technologically proficient.

Through an investigation of the ISTE standards I have brought multiple avenues of potential development to my classroom. Integrating the arts and technology together in education is a difficult thing to do. Many other subjects have pre-loaded content, websites, and platforms that are dedicated to the education of students through technology. However, the arts do not have parody with these resources.

My existing work with technology in teaching supersedes the work that many of my colleagues are doing. One example of this is my development of a flipped classroom. This approach allows me to deliver lecture, collect survey/test data, and support class content through a use of my website, screen casts, and the Google Platform (including Google Docs, Google Forms, and other associated Google Apps).

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Linked to ISTE1 Blog Post

Given that I already deliver tests and assessments online, I wanted to verify the validity of self-administered testing and self-assessments through technology. I found that testing through technology provided valid and reliable data; surprisingly I also found that self-assessment through technology provided increased learning. I intend to engaged this approach in my future teaching be integrating more self-assessments through my web site.

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Linked to ISTE 2 Blog Post

For ISTE 3 I was able to find an app, ScenePartnerApp, that would assist me in modeling digital age learning in my classroom and content area. Students using this app will be able to upload their script and use the text reader as a scene partner when memorizing their lines. This technology provided the discipline specific resource I needed to teach with technology.

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Linked to Blog Post on ISTE 3

Given the lack of resources that I found that are discipline specific I leave my research with two action points that I intend to pursue. First, I will continue to integrate screen casts and self-produced material in my classroom. It has proven to be, and I believe will continue to be, an effective pedagogical tool. One new aspect of this will be teaching students about digital citizenship.

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Linked to Digital Citizen Post

Second, I will use online communities (such as LinkedIn) to connect with teachers from across the globe. I have already started to do this through LinkedIn; the results of this outreach have been effective. Not only have I been able to ask questions of teachers in multiple disciplines, including theatre, but I have been able to present my research to these groups and offer my expertise to other teachers.

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Linked to ISTE5 Post

By using technology in my classroom I am providing the needed tools to my students so that they can participate in a digital future. Teaching digital literacy and citizenship is the civics class of today and a needed part of every classroom.

Lastly, I plan to create a theatre curriculum that is entirely supported online. I would like to pilot a remote learning theatre program that will allow students from across the globe to connect through theatre performance. This would go a long way towards providing the resources – to other educators – that I struggled to find for myself.