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ACT I: Arts Continuum Training


In Living Arts’ Act I drama program for pre-K through third grade students in Detroit, professional teaching artists provide weekly classroom experiences based on teachers’ language arts objectives. In dramatizing and using techniques such as tableau and interviewing, students build their language comprehension. Each session also asks students to comment and reflect on the stories from a “text to self” perspective to promote character and citizenship development.
Michigan Nightlight: What really differentiates this program?
Living Arts’ El Arte Early Learning Director and Training Specialist Roberta Lucas: What differentiates this program is the targeting of Pre-K through third grade, directly connecting programming to the time of development when children are “learning to read.” To introduce drama in school and at home builds the comprehension skills needed as students move toward “reading to learn.”  

What are the keys to success for your program?
In this pilot year members of the school community and the collaborating teachers met as focus groups three different times.
To introduce drama in school and at home builds the comprehension skills needed as students move toward “reading to learn.”
The objective was to reflect on drama in the classroom and engage in a vertical dialogue around “how do we sustain literacy and language development as students move from pre-K through third grade?” These conversations created many ideas for developing connections and conversations with parents and families and how best share the work as a learning process rather than just a performance goal.

What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
Developing more opportunities to have parents and families enter the conversations with educators and teaching artists. Teachers came up with ideas to invite individual parents to the classroom sessions with the drama specialists as a way to observe the interaction and what learning through drama looks like.  

How do race or diversity affect the work of your program?
Currently half the students are English language learners coming from primarily Spanish- speaking homes. This makes it imperative that we have bilingual teaching artists who are also trained professionals in the theater arts. It is most exciting to
...when you take away the fear of not being understood and engage students in demonstrating their understanding through acting and imagination, students take risks in the “world of the story” that they might not otherwise.
see students developing body literacy, using expressive language, and responding to their peers’ performances in any language. Then when you take away the fear of not being understood and engage students in demonstrating their understanding through acting and imagination, students take risks in the “world of the story” that they might not otherwise.

How does your program take a collective, collaborative approach to creating systemic change for children?  
Sharing in small pieces! Understanding that the ongoing goal is to infuse the use of drama strategies in the classroom and to identify and highlight how oral language and storytelling promote and develop literacy. It was so exciting to hear kindergarten teachers and third grade teachers sharing how the same drama strategy worked with different ages of students. Teaching artists were able to hear from teachers how their work was impacting the social-emotional development of students and where it lingered in the classroom after they made their exit.  

What are the students in ACT 1 most inspired by? 
The students love working with the teaching artists and what the artists have taught them about using their voices and bodies to create characters and make stories three-dimensional. They have also become very invested in supporting their peers and are excited to see what fellow classmates will create and respond to as audience members.

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  • Living Arts
    Living Arts exists to strengthen the urban neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit by cultivating an environment that sparks the imagination and fosters ingenuity through the arts and community development initiatives.

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