Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Great E-books about teaching with theater

Every wondered how to use acting or drama to teach? Or, why to use theater in your class? This blog seeks to give you three ebook suggestions you may find helpful to find more ways to use theater with your students. After all, who hasn't used a role play to cement vocabulary? I know my Korean students LOVED taking turns reading from a book, while other students acted them out in front of the class. My students now create adaptations of books we read in class. Most English Language teachers love to use acting in the class, and these three books help us with new ideas.
Mary Ann Loesh is an elementary Theater teacher who regularly had, “Fourth Grade Show Off Night” where her students would perform in front of family and friends. She strongly believes that having students move and perform helps them to understand and has so happy with the results she choose to share some plays and monologues to be used with your students.

These plays and monologues are designed to help students understand history, and enjoy acting. As an English Language teacher I also think you can use or adapt these to help your students practice using English. The book specifies grade levels 3 through 5, but I think all teachers can gain inspiration and ideas from reading it regardless of the grade.

This blog only discusses one of her ebooks Out of the Picture!: Using Theatre Arts to Teach Social Studies. In that book there are a lot of starters to get your students using theater. You can use them as plays or readers theaters. If you don't know the difference, check out her other book, The Day Our Teacher Lost Her Mind! which explains it quite well, or check out this Scholastic explanation.
So, why use drama? As she says, “The plays and monologues within this book are designed to help students improve their speech and diction skills, boost their stage presence, and help them understand the basics of putting on a play. However, they are also meant to help students learn about famous historical figured from all walks of life by blending fact and humor together.”
Out of the picture starts with a brief listing of terms that a teacher / director should know. I never acted, but I was familiar most of them. For example, some of the words are: stage left, stage right, center stage, etc. Nonetheless, there may be some terms that are useful for a teacher to appear knowledgeable to her students. If you want to use more terms with your class you can use an online glossary like this one from
Next she includes several games students can use to practice dictation, emphasis, connotation, and several games to practice the new terms.
Speaking of games, there's another great book about drama for teaching by Julie Meighan: Drama Start Two Drama Activities and Plays for Children.
This has over seventy games! Some of them you probably know ("Two Truths and a Lie" for example) but I am sure there are some that are new to you. For each game Julie explains the difficulty, the directions AND (most importantly) the importance from a theater perspective. It also includes two scripts for plays about animals the students can perform. The title says ages 9-12, but I know teachers who teach below or above this group could still find many of the games useful!
A drawing of The Alamo from the 1600s
Back to Mary Ann's book, the plays and monologues start with monologues from the Alamo. She gives a brief history of the Alamo and introduces a few basic tips for a monologue: speak loudly, speak clearly, and speak slowly. She goes through the differences between a speech and a monologue, and advises students make brief introductions BEFORE their monologues.
Then come the monologues: Jim Bowie, Moses Rose, Santa Ana, Davy Crocket, William B Travis, The Wife, The servant girl, James Bonham, Susanna’s Tale, Travis’ Letter. All minus Travis’ letter are fictional accounts which Mary Ann feels best show the emotions of the time.

Sample Costume!
As the book winds down, she introduces her concept of a living museum. A living museum is essentially when students select a historical figure to research and present a speech about. Sometimes the students even dress up a bit! The short plays she has written take it to another level.
"Night at the Wax Museum" and "I Dream of History" both are plays in which different historical characters come to life. Rather than being complete, these plays allow for the students to insert their own speeches on behalf of the characters. I LOVE this idea It is less work than creating a whole play by themselves, but it makes the play more their own.
The last play is complete without any need of additions from your students. However, I think you could still easily add more paintings to make the play personalized from the students. I would use the play as a model and have students create their own. You could divide the class into small groups and have them each select one painting from a different era. Then put it together and make a unique version of, “Out of the Picture.”

Finally, the last ebook I'll discuss is by Maggie E. Morgan, How To Teach English Culture To Foreigners Through Drama. This is definitely more research based. It goes through the importance of teaching culture, the role of drama in contrasting two cultures, and looks at a specific research study (analyzing the results as well). It includes lesson plans and exercises. This is a very thorough read; however, I found it much less interesting and harder to get through than the other books. Nonetheless, if you are interested in the research this is a much different book than the previous two and gives a very complete look at the why and how of drama in the class (it also includes a comprehensive bibliography for more research).
In summary, if you are looking for a way to use theater in the classroom, any of these books would be a great start. If you do get a chance to read them, let me know what you think! Alternatively, if you have a different suggestion I'd love to hear about it. Just leave it in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this interesting and useful information,Carissa!


Thanks so much for commenting. Due to spam, your comment may not show up right away, but as soon as I get a chance to approve it I will. I promise to be as fast as possible!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...