Dear Teachers and Homeschooling parents, We understand that emergency remote teaching and learning is a challenge. We want to help. My student, Sarah Freeman, and I have prepared a remote unit for you based on the Ontario curriculum expectations for Language and Drama. It features personal and traditional storytelling as a means of building community, self confidence and self expression. This 10 module unit includes 16 original videos, many hyperlinks to sites and traditional stories from around the world, and 3-4 activities for each module. You can assign the entire unit or pick and choose whichever modules you think are more suitable for your students and children. All modules are student friendly and can be read by them independently. The unit was designed for students in grades 4-6 but the unit is very family friendly so siblings and parents can also be involved.
We know how much you care for your students and how hard you are working. Parents, we know how hard this is for you, especially if you are also working from home while trying to cope with disengaged children. We hope this unit relieves you of some of this enormous burden. We also sincerely hope your students and children love doing this.
Click on the Junior Storytelling Unit page at the top right to get started! (Menu top right on a smart phone). Primary unit is yet to come.
Please, stay safe. Be positive. And smile. We are getting though this together.
Dr. Cathy Miyata and Sarah Freeman
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.
Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.) (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. New York: Routlage
Last month, I (Cathy) was invited to present a workshop on literacy and the arts in Gotha, Germany, for a group of educators. At the beginning of the workshop, one of the teachers admitted, “I really don’t know what literacy means.” I wasn’t really surprised as interpretations of literacy are so varied. When a few others also admitted they were not sure, I invited them to find a matching-shoe partner and share with them what they thought literacy meant.
Once the discussion was opened up to the whole group, it was interesting to hear what they came up with. They started off with the traditional reading and writing interpretation and we decided together these were forms of communication. From there, the definition really expanded. One participant suggested literacy included reality, while another suggested emotion. As we probed deeper the idea literacy was a view of the world was introduced. Eventually I asked them to look around the room at the fabulous paintings hanging on the walls. They were painted by local school children and they were emoting wonderful narratives. Yes, they decided, the paintings were also literacy. Throughout the rest of the workshop we explored ways to use storytelling and drama as literacy.
It was exciting to witness the development of a deeper understanding of an enormous concept like literacy. I like to think this encounter helped these teachers to see meaning-making in a new way. I wonder how it will affect their use of literacy in their classrooms. On the chart we created together, it was also suggested literacy was fun. It was. Hope it is for their students too.
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.