Growing Through Research

Embedded within my passion for literacy is my love for developmental drama.  I do love theatre as well (I as a professional actress for a couple of years), but developmental drama is fundamentally different than theatre.  Theatre is about performance.  Developmental drama is about developing human potential, and that is my heart song.

I was recently asked to present a Literacy Workshop for the Royal Conservstory’s new Smart Start Programme .  This Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme uses a multiple arts approach to develop four specific cognitive skills: attention, memory, perception, cognitive flexibility.  It was my role to model and lead a group of ECE leaders through creative drama experiences so they could experience first-hand how developmental drama can and does develop cognitive skills. We explored many drama strategies in the workshop: storytelling; role play; group drama; teacher-in-role; voice over narration; hot seat; tableaux, and; story drama.  My favourite of the eight listed is story drama which uses the events and characters in a story to stimulate the drama experiences, plus, I got to use my storytelling skills.   We became the characters; good and bad.  We learned about a culture from the other side of the world.  We asked questions.  We problem solved.  We also had fun.  The participants left with many practical ideas and felt they were inspired to explore this world with the children they are responsible for.  But, in all honesty, I think I was the one who left with the most insight.

I used to present this kind of workshop regularly, but have not done one in a few years. Due to my dissertation work in multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), I discovered I was seeing the experiences through new eyes.  I was identifying modes instead of arts disciplines and using critical discernment instead of point of view.  The experience was a literacy event that we constructed within a social paradigm and the participants contributed their own knowledge and expertise in an environment that supported situated practice.  It wasn’t just a new set of vocabulary; it was a much more informed and theoretical perspective of the work.  Vygotsky, Luke, Peabody, Vasquez, Kress, Cope and Kalantzis occupied every corner of the room.  I was well supported.  I recognized a noticeable difference between my role as  intuitive drama leader and informed theoretical guide.  It was progress and it felt good.

drama

Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.) (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of             Social Futures. New York: Routlage

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International Literature and Storytelling

I was asked to present to the students in Brock University’s International Course last week.  These students are taking this optional course because they intend to teach abroad:  China, England, South Africa etc.  I endeavored to introduce them to the international literature through the folklore from around the world.  We traced back the illustrated fables of Eric Carle, to Marie de France, to Aesop to the Jataka Tales of India.  They had no idea this tiny little collection of moral stories went back so far or were shared by so many cultures.  It was fun to watch them make connections. We explored a Bengali folktale (one of my personal favourites) that depicts talking poop (Eastern humour- we North Americans are a bit too uptight to put this kind of hilarity in our picture books) and looked for characteristics in other cultural stories that would make that story worth sharing.  There was a lot of laughter and they asked a lot of questions- always a good sign.  Most had not heard storytelling before.  And there lie the magic.  They all want to tell now.  I hope the students in the countries they travel to, are delighted with their selections and efforts.  I wish them much happiness in their journeys.

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