Thoughts About Arts Education

Less is More | Minimal Scripts As An Entry Point Into Character

Today I just spent some time planning the ADA 10 Grade 9 Dramatic Arts course with a colleague.  It was an excellent exercise in reflecting on what works best for our student learners, focusing on how the dramatic activities will bring about our key learnings in the course: communication, collaboration, confidence and critical thinking.  

As we were going through the course and outlining the units, we landed upon minimal scripts as an entry point into character and script work.  Starting small but using clues in the text to develop: 

  • character relationships 
  • character building based on the facts found in the script 
  • confidence in lines and memorization 

As an arts educator, I'm gearing my lessons everyday for my students to build confidence.  I honestly believe that we need to help students learn their parts.  By encouraging students to be "off book" from the beginning of the year, especially with short burst activities such as minimal scripts, it will help the students to gain confidence in longer sections of material.  For memorization has two main components: confidence and accuracy.  Both concept are rooted in the idea of knowing one's character, relationship, objectives and motivations inside and out.  

I have linked a handout and activity to minimal scripts to the Dramatic Arts resource page.   In terms of planning where minimal scripts could go in your curriculum, consider the following: 

  • at the beginning of a script writing unit to study character voice and what needs to be said in order to get the message across 
  • during the elements of drama units to bring out concepts of physicalization, staging, communicating character's reactions between the dialogue lines 
  • as a warm-up activity to extend characterization 
  • anywhere else where it fits.  

Remember: minimal script doesn't have to be a beginning activity.  It could be used to dive into characterization at any point in the process. 

Also remember that this is a great technique to develop student voice and confidence.  Give the students prompts and encourage them to place these lines into a context that is relevant to their lives.  When you are reflecting on the activity, how did the text allow the students to enter into situations that matter to their lives?  What is the difference between what is said on stage and what can be inferred by body language?  What context does the audience need to understand the storyline?  Be direct with your reflection questions and prompt the students to develop their literacy skills in their response to the activity (both as performers and audience members). 

A warning to all of my fellow drama teachers and directors out there in the world: be careful of timing with minimal scripts.  You need to schedule enough time so the students feel confident in their decision making and choices, but not too much time so rehearsal becomes unproductive.  In an Ontario curriculum 75 minute lesson, you could totally use this sample lesson as your action portion of the lesson plan with a characterization minds on and a performance reflection at the end.  

Less is more.  How can you use minimal dialogue and have maximum impact on stage?  Encourage your students to round out their characters using physicalization.  


Active Reflection Linked to Authentic Need, Not Dictated Activities

"It's time to reflect." 

Sometimes those words, especially when they arrive during a formal meeting, can be a curse.  Forced reflection, or "top down reflection" is reflection for the sake of doing the activity because it has been prompted by someone else or a necessary checkmark on the completion checklist. 

How many of us actually act on the reflection work?  A conversation a gets captured on an exit card and then forgotten.  

But, what if reflection was ingrained in our daily practice as educators.  Not as a staff meeting activity but as a part of daily planning.  

And you might read this and say, but Cathy, I do reflect daily. 

My follow-up question is: how do you take those reflections and then turn them into action?  How do you drive the learning forward in away that will not only uphold strong pedagogy, but be best for the learners in front of you?  And not overwhelming? 

"There isn't enough time" is a common phrase that I hear in the staff work spaces.  The "enough time" phrase has been echoed consistency for years, from teacher's college private school placement to current day leadership role in the public system.   

We know that there will never be enough time.  What if we switched it around and made time and scheduled in time for reflection.  Put it directly into your planning time with a monitoring system that works for you.  And make it a priority and not something that gets filled with other tasks.  

I don’t have any answers when it comes to monitoring.  I’m a journal writer - I have books and books of reflection.  What am I going to do with that information?  It is providing a guide for the revamp of my courses.  However, this is afterfact.  My current practice in my Principal’s Qualification Program is to set aside twenty minutes at the end of the day to put down point form notes of reflection with action items and timelines.  It’s early days, so I have no results, but it’s a start.

What would the impact be on our professional practice if you had daily reflection time linked to active implementation during the year?  How would it impact your learning, your approach to teaching and learning, and your school’s community’s experience? 


Globally Minded Education | Theory, Practice, and a Response to the 6Cs

This post is in response to Junior AQ (Administration Focus) analyzing the Fullen article with a SWOT lens.

"Students are the agents of change."  But we, as an educational community, need to work together to sow the seeds of globally minded education.  

In Michael Fullen's article, "Why Helping Humanity Should Be Core to Learning," he states that students are, "catalysts for changing teaching and learning; they are also partners in changing the school and forces for change in society itself."  

Students wanting to do "good", studying humanity to make positive changes in their environment, is nothing new.  The motivation to do good is wired in our DNA, inherent in our nature.  A perfect example is my two-year-old niece and her desire to help with any task.  

My two-year-old niece also knows how to make Facetime calls. An example of how technology and connections dictate our behaviour in 2018.  Hence the need to look at the 6Cs as a foundation for education, focusing on the following as a foundation for navigating the world:  character education, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. 

According to Fullen, teachers play an essential role, "helping students focus, giving them scope to engage with each other, examining learning designs, assessing results and deriving lessons for improving learning."   By focusing on learning, and looking at the process of how students learn and make meaning of their learning, the lessons can speak to these skills, and not only the memorization of concepts.  

The strength of looking at education through the lens of helping humanity as a core learning concept is that we are developing students with self, group, and global reflection skills.  In our connected world, students need to be able to analyze what is being presented.  High-quality resources, such as the World's Largest Lesson, will provide educators with adaptable lesson plans around globe key issues, such as hunger, poverty, and access to clean water.  An example of a lesson, Hunger is Not a Game, is available by clicking here.  

A potential weakness and/or threat to the notion of educating the whole child is "theory vs. practice."  In theory, all educators believe that they are teaching transferable skills that will allow students to develop the 6Cs competencies and their notion of what it is like to be a human in our ever-connected world.  Yet, putting the theory into practice can be difficult or inconsistent.   To teach the 6Cs means that educators need to adapt lessons to explicitly meet the 6Cs.   The barrier to this is a fixed mindset around "transferable skills" and "curriculum."   All too often, we hear educators say "must get through the curriculum and get through the material so we can have an assessment."  I have had first-hand experience with a resiliency project geared towards student health and well-being where educators were asked to adapt the resources to their subject matter.  In theory, we created a series of tools that would make learning resiliency skills explicit within any subject - just needed adaptation from the classroom teacher.  Yet, not all of my colleagues saw the importance of teaching resiliency skills as the lessons took away from their curriculum and the planning took away from marking time.   In theory, we are aware that in order to have real progress, educators need to spend time carefully examining if their lessons are speaking to the core of who students are as people, allowing them to develop these important human skills through the lens of the individual subject.  Educational districts can support this work by granting release time, resources and access to successful 6C lessons and/or unit plans across all disciplines.  

The opportunity for enriched learning is huge.  The world is moving quickly, and the demand for digital literacy, understanding, and comprehension is high.  Using collaboration, visual thinking techniques, global resources and reflection, the community can work together to help students build their knowledge of the 6Cs, which will, in turn, help them reach out and help the world in whatever way they see fit. 

So, let's nourish the seed of humanity and use explicit strategies to grow the community's approach to 6C competencies, so everyone can benefit from the garden of the world.  


Declaring A Topic for A Screenplay....

So, I'm Taking a Screenwriting Course and I Need to Declare A Topic. 

I found this task SO hard. 

What am I going to write about? Sometimes I struggle.  

Cliche.  Yes.  

True.  Yes.  

In fact, I have always struggled with this concept of sitting down and writing.  Unless there has been some very specific project with very specific deadlines, it's not the starting that I find hard, but the follow-through to complete the project.  Or even to move past the inciting incident.  Although, I must say that journalling helps.  One day I might just rent a theatre and we will put random scenes out of a hat from a multitude of plays and we will see where it goes. 

Anyway, part of the reason why I signed up for this course is because it has a deadline and I have no formal training in screenwriting.  Multipurpose.  Check. 

So, I need to declare a topic.  I'm going to use this blog and my Facebook page as a place to keep myself accountable.  

This is what I sent off for discussion tomorrow in class. 


My problem is that they are all so serious and does the world need another drawn out, serious drama about "problems." Not really. So, here are some thoughts. I'm also thinking of adding: 

- ghosts
- a robbery
- old vs. young relationships (mentor vs. inexperience)
- everyone betrays everyone 

And yes, number one is inspired by my own experience of getting a QTip lodged in my ear a week and a half ago. 

1. I’m toying with the concept of a protagonist losing a sense, and gaining some insight along the way. The protagonist is the type of person who does the opposite of the advice that everyone gives him/her - in family, work, relationships, money, pet choices, vacation, people who she used to carpool with, food, sleep, etc., etc. Then, one day, she gets a QTip lodged in her ear (I know - it’s a random inciting incident) and has to spend time at the doctors. At this time, she realizes , or finally sees, what people have been trying to tell her a long. And she comes to the conclusion that she has been “replaced” in all3. aspects of her life, and as she is desperately trying to hold onto the past, she is missing out on her new reality. So, she goes out to seek answers and to determine why her relationships changed as a bridge to the future (which is probably exactly the wrong thing to do....don't know....she needs closure but won't get it). No conflict as of yet….I’m thinking that I place this whole emotional drama in some kinda high stakes environment or 24 hour deadline. I don’t want it to be some kind of medical drama (aka - QTip lodged in ear, goes to doctor, finds out she has six months to live). I am kinda thinking it is what she choses to do this insight moving forward in dealing with her relationships and decisions. 

2. That or a teacher walks into a room to find a bucket and pop poured over popcorn and books. And…crisis ensues. 

3. That or a schemer who works the system to get what he/she wants, and then gets schemed him/herself. 

4. That or some kinda of “documentary" on teacherexia - the eating disorder and unhealthy behaviours of teachers in the public system.


Next steps before launching these ideas before a bunch of strangers: 

1. Plot out line of all 

2. Figure out what the end game is for the story. 

3. Figure out what the end game is for me. 


Until next time....