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Community-Word Teaching Artist Discusses Use of Theater in the Classroom

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Mar 31, 2016

In Teachers & Writers Magazine, Erin Anderson, a participant in Community-Word Project’s eight-month Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program (TATIP), shared her thoughts on using theater in the classroom, the value of arts education, and her tips for crafting lesson plans. TATIP aims to combine efforts to better prepare artists to bring arts to city classrooms. With professional development seminars that deconstruct the dynamics of teaching artistry in a variety of settings and focus areas, the sessions are geared towards developing new ways of stimulating creativity and understanding in students.

Speaking about the intersection of theater and education, Anderson notes that “when kids are getting up to fourth and fifth grade, they’re starting to really try and figure out who they are as individuals, establish their identity. A lot of kids are starting to perform in their daily lives—in social situations, or to teachers, or at home. So we talk about wearing masks in my classes. What are the masks we put on to get through our day, and how can we apply the idea of mask work, wearing an emotional mask, in peer games we play to understand it a little more?”

Anderson suggests that classroom teaching is enriched by the arts partly because it gives students a new lens for understanding concepts. In particular, when using theater, the lessons combine “an intellectual approach with body learning.” This forces students to physically embody another person’s situation, a process that reinforces empathy while also delivering the educational message.

Discussing the tools she uses for lesson planning, Anderson points out the potential role of commedia dell’arte in helping students develop characters. This platform delivers a “specificity of how you build an image of a character and what we can learn about someone just by looking at them. Once students learn that you can get so many great comic improv situations out of throwing these stock characters together, they can come up with anything.”

Read the full article here.

About Community-Word Project

Community-Word Project is a New York City based 501(c)(3) arts-in-education organization that inspires children in underserved communities to read, interpret, and respond to their world and to become active citizens through collaborative arts residencies and teacher training programs.

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.