Drama? How do you teach that in grade school?

A parent recently asked for clarification of the specifics of our drama program. I hope this brief overview is informative to parents and other teachers. Our program is highly unusual. I am very proud of the rigor and thoroughness of our drama curriculum at Baker.

Drama at Baker starts in Kindergarten and moves up through grade 5 and on into middle school. We do extensive work in middle school on developing the skills we learn in grades K-5.

Here is a brief summary of K-5 Drama curriculum at Baker.

K- Introduction to drama terms and kinesthetic awareness. Simple weekly yoga classes all year long.

Grade 1–Pieces and parts of a story. Story construction. How to create stories using the building blocks of mind, voice, body and imagination. Discipline and focus when working in the drama studio and in the arts.

Grade 2–Basic stage knowledge. Introduction to acting. Creating a story and a project in small and large groups. Stage directions. Stage etiquette. Fourth wall. Tableau. Beginning composition of stage pictures. Listening skills. Kind and non-violent discourse in critique and class discussions.

Grade 3—Expanding knowledge of character development. Introduction to vocal production (building upon music curriculum). Stage speech (rudimentary knowledge of diction and clarity in vocal production.) Working in an ensemble. Rehearsal protocol and practice.

Grade 4 and 5–Rotating two year loop.
Year A–Encounters in American History. Character development. Building relationships between characters. Understanding and developing sense of place in a theatre piece. Experiential or “process drama” with the goal of developing a significant understanding of a culture. Introduction of the actor’s questions: Who am I? Where am I? What do I want? What gets in my way? Psychological gesture, centers of energy in character development. The responsibilities of leadership.

Year B–Neutral mask technique workshop. Understanding on a physical level how our bodies communicate ideas and emotions. Freeing the mind from creative constraints while exploring the senses. Taking physical exploration out of our personal comfort zones. Deeper focus on non-violent communication and collaborative art making. Compassionate and empowering leadership techniques. Applying these new techniques to development of a theatre piece  based in the ensemble’s informed political perspective. Study of leadership in rehearsal and in the theatre as an institution.Making connections from our work in the classroom to our world outside of school. Deepening our willingness to take risks as artists. Studying status and privilege in society and applying our understandings to our work on character development. Making our voices and perspectives heard as artists. Understanding the political ramifications of our work in the classroom.

I challenge our children, as we all seek to do at Baker, to become the best possible students, artists and citizens . My expectations and my drama curriculum consistently meet and exceed the national and state standards in drama. The  Illinois Theatre Association recognized me for Outstanding Achievement in Drama for Children. I have written extensively on the subject and our program is exceedingly unusual in its collaborative and integrated vision for arts education.

Through the years, I have learned that art taught as an integral part of a child’s life and school curriculum promotes a deeper understanding the  art form while helping to shape a well-rounded human being. Whether your child chooses a life as a professional actress or is simply a passionate patron of the arts, a Baker arts education will serve as a life-long foundation for her understanding and appreciation of herself as an artist.

4 thoughts on “Drama? How do you teach that in grade school?

  1. Hi! My name’s Courtney. Though I was trained in Drama in Education and have a strong performing arts background, I have been teaching as a second grade core teacher for the last few years. However, I am now transitioning into teaching Dance and Drama for K-5 at a school in Switzerland that doesn’t have a hard and fast program in place. I came across this post and it sounds like you have a really interesting program at your school. I would love to hear more about it. If you would be interested in sharing any details with me about the units of study you do etc. please find me on Facebook under “Courtney Marie” (in Poland). Thanks so much!!

  2. Hi…I’m doing some new stuff and I’ve been thinking of you and creating all that new curriculum…hope it’s going well. I’d love to hear about it.
    Happy New Year.

  3. Hi. Nice to hear from you. And I agree, it’s really hard. The curriculum is slowly coming into place but it’s kind of being written as I do, so hopefully next year will be better. A little less stressful (maybe) and the students will (hopefully) be a little more used to drama on a regular basis.

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