South Orangetown elementary school students are cultivating a variety of skills through a theatre enrichment program designed for students in grades two and four. Centered on social-emotional learning and writing-focused activities, the program provides seamless and engaging connections to grade-level curriculum.
William O. Schaefer Elementary School second-graders in Pamela Bartell’s class recently identified character feelings and demonstrated higher-level vocabulary through movement, gestures, pantomimes and facial expressions. During a “tableau” exercise, small groups took turns assuming character roles in a baseball game scenario. Role-players in this freeze-frame activity were challenged to use expressions and postures to provide the audience with clues about their character. They assigned strong feelings to the characters they played and developed an understanding of complicated concepts, choices, consequences and problem-solving, based on their knowledge of social-emotional learning concepts.
“Students develop artistic skills, build self-confidence and self-expression, practice critical thinking, problem-solve and work both individually and cooperatively through this program,” said Bartell. “We will use books and stories to further introduce the basic concepts of story (character, setting and plot) and theatre (voice, movement, feelings and audience skills) through theatrical exercises and experiences.”
At Cottage Lane Elementary School, fourth-graders in Jamie Sainz’s class worked on the initial stages of scriptwriting–setting, character development and dialogue–to create anti-bullying scenes that they will eventually perform. As students explore realistic fiction in their Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshops, theatre enrichment provides an opportunity to bring their own writing to life onstage.
“Our theatre enrichment program directly correlates with ongoing literacy programming and provides a connection between literature and the stage that deepens students’ comprehension,” said K-5 Instructional Coach Kristy Nadler. “We are so lucky to have amazing teaching artists to work with and inspire our students!”
The 20-week theatre enrichment program in SOCSD is offered in partnership with Stage Left Children’s Theater and funded through a New York State Council on the Arts’ Arts in Education Grant.