Speaking and Writing: The FST Perspective

Florida Studio TheatreImagine a classroom with 18 students who spontaneously cheer when they find out they are about to begin a writing lesson.  I am fortunate.  I don’t have to imagine it, because it happens regularly when we, Florida Studio Theatre teaching artists, enter a classroom.  This morning, I was struck by the enthusiasm and pure joy expressed by Freda Williams’ first graders as Matt and I entered the room.  Had they been coached to give that response?  No.  Do Matt and I have special powers?  No.  What causes their response?  I believe they are cheering the joy of creation and the fact that although they are learning a great deal in every lesson, they are completely unaware of the learning.  They think they are just having fun.

Ms. Williams obtained a grant from The Education Foundation of Sarasota County to bring FST Teaching Artists into her classroom six times.  She perused the offerings on EdExploreSRQ.com, and selected FST’s Reader’s Theatre workshops.  We have been using theatre games to help the students identify and express emotions, we’ve been acting out well known children’s poems by the likes of Shel Silverstein and Judith Viorst, and we’ve been writing plays.

Florida Studio TheatreAs educators, we know the students are acquiring knowledge and practicing and mastering skills as outlined in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and ELA strands.  We know the students are acquiring and using new vocabulary, understanding the conventions of Standard English, identifying Key Ideas and details, and learning important information about crafting and structuring their written and spoken words.  They are being questioned, and are being encouraged to ask questions so we can monitor their progress, and be certain they are acquiring the knowledge they need.  What do the students know?  They know they are having fun.

We listen to their laughter as they create an interesting plot twist, we hear them grapple with adding meaningful details to their settings and character descriptions, and we see the smiles of real achievement as their imaginations take flight and they use their words to move and entertain us.

The Arts Integration practices we use result in increased academic skills, improved attitudes about learning, a sense of pride and self-confidence in writing achievements, and increased cooperative learning skills.  But what makes the students cheer, and what makes we educators look forward to every moment in the classroom is the simple fact that we are all having fun.

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Blog contributed by:  Beth Duda, Director of Education, Florida Studio Theatre.  For more information contact Beth at 941-366-9017 or by email