We all hate it. I realize a lot of work goes into most professional development (here on out referred to as PD) days for teachers, but most of us (well at least me) are used to being in the classroom. We love to be active, moving around, engaged in something, anything. Most PD days have us sitting in rooms, small or large, and just listening to information. Sure, we might ask a question here or there. We might be asked to turn to the person next to us and discuss, but for the most part, that’s the extent of our engagement.
Well yesterday I was honored to be a part of one of the most amazing PD experiences. My district has partnered with The Telling Room, a local Arts and Literacy non-for-profit, to bring some of their brilliant work into our classrooms. Let me be clear, it was a small group of us. I was the only kindergaten teacher in the group and after the day I couldn’t help but wonder how I got so lucky to be included.
Without giving away too much of their process, let’s just say they use ‘the arts’ (theatre, visual, music, and really all types of expressive art) to help with the comprehension of texts and to inspire writing. Instead of just presenting information as so often happens during PD days, our leaders (four artists) had us go through the entire ‘Performance Cycle’ – from building community, right through a performance.
We used the Inaugural Poem by Richard Blanco – One Today. Naturally, I wouldn’t probably use this poem in my kindergarten classroom, but the process we used was so awe inspiring, I couldn’t keep thinking how I could use it as part of my current fairy tale unit.
Again, I don’t want to give away all their ‘secrets’, but here is one example. Before even telling us what text we’d be exploring, we did an activity where we each got a slip of paper with a short (three to four words) phrase. We were asked to think about what that phrase meant and then had to think of a way to physically show it to a partner without speaking. After doing this with a few partners, and exchanging phrases, we eventually were partnered up and had to combine our two phrases into a mini performance for the group.
Of course, these phrases came right from the text of the poem. So when we eventually sat down to listen to it read aloud, all of these phrases popped out with meaning. In my classroom, I’m going to put my sprouts into small groups (rather than partners) and have them do this activity with some of the phrases from our fairy tales – before I read them. What does ‘too hot’, ‘too cold, or ‘just right’ look like? Feel like?
We also then did a visual art project (it had many steps, but I’ll keep my explanation brief) around the poem. What would the words of the poem ‘feel’ like if presented visually? We were explicitly told not to ‘draw what we heard’, but rather, let our hands express the feelings we heard. This would take some practice with my kindergarteners, but I also think they would a) love it and b) be very successful with it. Here are some examples of the visual work we produced out of the poem.
The second half of the day was spent planning how we could utilize some of the tools in our classroom. As I worked with my ‘team’ (my ELL teacher and my ed tech, who just so happens to also be a professional actress), members of the artistic team came around to sit in, discuss, and help facilitate our implementation of the ideas. Oh and the kicker? In a few weeks, one of them will be coming to spend an entire day with my class to work!
I have some really amazing ideas from yesterday and feel, above all else, inspired by the work we did. I can’t wait to explore some of the methods with my sprouts and then share them with all of you.