Using the arts to respond to text is a powerful pathway to understanding for our students. This week I will talk about two additional strategies I learned this summer at arts integration professional development “camp”, at the Maryland Artist Teacher Institute (MATI). The strategies are: Human Slide Show, a drama technique involving multiple tableaux and Composing a Soundtrack, an activity for interpreting the text with musical instruments.
Drama with Lenore Blank Kelner: Human Slide Show.
This activity is great for demonstrating sequencing and summarization. It comprises a series of tableaux staged to show a series of events or related ideas. If you are not familiar with tableau, you will want to be: it is a wonderful technique for students to see and feel the ideas and characters of a text. It is easy to teach, easy to perform and is very effective. A tableau is a silent group of students in frozen action: the students communicate a key moment or idea by creating a composition, if you will, through body language and facial expression just like characters frozen in a painting or on a statue. Check out these resources for help in teaching and developing tableau in your classroom if you haven’t yet tried it: http://dramaresource.com/strategies/tableaux and http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=1824
For the Human Slide Show strategy, as in tableau, the students work in small groups.
After reading a story, for example, each group would identify a series of 3-5 events to retell or summarize the story. In their groups, the students collaborate to determine which big ideas or events they want to communicate and then develop a tableau for each one. All of the tableaux presents itself in a sequence to the rest of the class in a slide show format. The instructor asks the audience to close their eyes and cues them with “blackout”. During this time the group quickly and silently forms their tableau for the scene. When they are ready, the instructor cues the audience with “lights up.” The audience opens their eyes and views the tableau as they hold it for a few seconds.
The audience cued to close their eyes again, and repeats this process for each scene. At the last “lights up”, the performers take a bow! The audience may add narration to each of the tableau during either the “blackout” or “lights up” time. You can use the Human Slide Show in every curriculum: your students could create a slide show for the events leading up to Boston Tea Party, the blood moving through the circulatory system, the steps to solving a word problem, or even interpreting themes in the stanzas of poetry. There are endless possibilities for this strategy!
Music with Diana Saez: Composing a Soundtrack.
In this activity students create a soundtrack with percussive instruments for a movie they imagine could be written about a book, story, or selection of text they have read. The teacher begins by introducing and exploring sounds from of a variety of hand held percussive instruments (teacher or student collected, produced or borrowed) such as shakers, bells, guiros, buckets, etc.
These are used to demonstrate how sound is used to create mood through the elements of dynamics and tone quality. After listening to examples, a discussion follows about how music is used in movies to create or amplify the mood and action in particular scenes and a soundtrack is composed. (The music from Jaws would be a great to introduce this idea. Have the students listen to an excerpt of the music using the Artful Thinking routine: I Hear, I Think , I Wonder!)
After reading a story, for example, small groups of students select, or are assigned, an illustration from the text. (This activity would work using a quote from the text as well.)
The students must create an imaginary movie that will be based on the moment in the text portrayed in the illustration. It prompts students to imagine walking into the illustration and engaging their senses in order to brainstorm ideas about the theme, message and/or emotions of the characters. They collaborate on a storyline for their movie and construct a three to five sentence movie script.
Plus, they select appropriate instruments whose sounds will convey the mood and action of their movie and compose a one minute musical composition with them. After rehearsing, they present to the rest of the class. Students might narrate their compositions or allow the audience to guess what the movie is about or which illustration the music is based on. In any case, it encourages the audience to react and share what they hear in the music. The performers can share their process, story line and/or thinking behind the selection of instruments. Imagine your students creating the soundtrack for these movies: The Causes of the Civil War or The Trail of Tears, The Rock Cycle, The Order of Operations, or Romeo and Juliet!
Stay tuned for more strategies that will help your students understand and respond to text. Next week I will share two new dance and visual arts strategies!
Pat is an arts integration specialist in Anne Arundel County, MD. Having been a mentor teacher and instructional coach, she passionately believes that integrating the arts is the best approach to teaching: it enriches the classroom environment with art, engages students and motivates learning. Her mission is help all teachers realize that they can teach through the arts with a little know-how. Pat appears every Monday. Email Pat.