This semester, I took a creative arts elective as I wanted to increase my confidence in teaching through the Arts. Having teachers that are confident in their own creative abilities enables them to design meaningful creative arts experiences (Gibson & Ewing, 2011). I want to grow into the role of being a confident Arts-focused educator, making the Creative Arts a central part of my pedagogy. Over the course of four workshop, I very briefly recorded and reflected on each week of learning:
Drama with John Saunders (School Drama Program, Sydney Theatre Company)
Using The Rabbits by Shaun Tan and John Marsden, we explored issues of dispossession and intervention through the following activities:
- Warm up:
- Game of trust, maneuvering through the classroom holding a balloon with eyes closed.
- Students draw a picture of their family. John rips them up.
- Responding to testimony from the Stolen Generations:
- Students write on a post-it note one thing they would say after being reunited with their mother. In small groups, students sequence post-it notes and build a series of narrated freeze frames.
- Dream sequence – half the class thinks of something the child would say to the mother and whispers it in the ear of classmates. Class swaps and the other half does the same from the perspective of the mother.
- Students write a letter from the perspective of the child to the mother. They then walk around the room reading other letters and pick one to underline a poignant line within it. Class constructs a poem jointly by ordering each line into a coherent narrative.
This workshop was so rich in exploring the ways you could use drama to engage and motivate learners around the themes of a text. Despite the difficult content, John’s workshop highlighted to me that “any issue can be explored with the aim of drama strategies” (Ewing & Simons, 2004, p. 49). I found the ‘dream sequence’ particularly profound, as it was experiential and was not a technique I had come across before.
Writing with Libby Gleeson
What an honour to have Libby Gleeson join us! This workshop was run like an adult writing workshop, but I can see how the activities could be adapted at the primary-level. We used the following starters as stimulus:
- In Primary School…
- What I care about is…
- Write down everything you can hear
- Write something but do not use the letter ‘e’
- Write using a sentence starter:
- Peri looked at her and shook his head slowly
- Mick hesitated
- Visual stimulus – select your own image
I found writing without using the letter ‘e’ to be a very focused activity, and I ended up producing something quite poetic. This activity could be tied into a literacy lesson looking at language structure, synonyms, or perhaps as a warm up activity for poetry. During this workshop, I began to see that creative writing requires practice and providing opportunities for students to do so is important.
Art with Robyn Gibson
In this workshop we looked at art activities that could be used to investigate shapes and dots. We:
- Looked at John Coburn’s Aubusson Green and conducted a piece of music using sounds to represent each shape.
- Read Anthony’s Browne’s ‘The Shape Game’ and developed a shape to represent each of us, focusing on colour and form. We then represented our shapes in artworks, and then physically and aurally as a group.
- Drew a squiggle, passed it to the right, turned squiggles into drawings and then, passing to the right again, added a caption or headline. We worked in small groups of four, to use four images to create a short storyboard.
- Read Peter Reynold’s ‘The Dot’ and discussed all the different ways you could make and use dots, creating a dot picture as a small group.
Using picture books as ‘unique arts objects’, as we have throughout this course, strikes at the heart of my thinking about the relationship between Arts and literacy. Picture books are resources that are often overlooked in later Stages, especially in relation to visual literacy and the function that illustrations serve in narrative (Ewing, Miller & Saxton, 2008, p. 123). Building arts activities out of picture books provides opportunities for deeper exploration of themes and meaning.
Digital storytelling with Kirsty McGeogh
I think digital storytelling is an accessible medium for teachers to use and provides an additional channel to engage students in content, which is an important component of inclusive education (National Centre on Universal Design for Learning, 2013). In today’s workshop, Kirsty stepped us through ways to scaffold learning so that students are equipped to produce their own digital stories. What was clear is that students need to be supported to develop a range of skills to undertake these projects, such as: narrative development, visual literacy, developing a storyboard, using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, building mood through music, working in small groups…the list goes on.
This is the advantage of digital storytelling, as it crosses so many syllabus outcomes, such as ‘composing, editing and presenting texts’, ‘using an integrated range of skills to read, view and comprehend texts’, ‘thinking imaginatively, creatively and interpretively’, and ‘making artworks for different audiences, assembling materials in a variety of ways’ to name a few (NSW Board of Studies, 2012, NSW Board of Studies, 2006). These projects also clearly meet Digital Technologies outcomes and content could be focused to cover subject areas such as history and science.
There were a few resources Kirsty mentioned that I wanted to include for future reference:
- Jason Ohler’s work on digital storytelling in the classroom http://www.jasonohler.com/storytelling/storyeducationWIX.cfm
- The Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=31
- Capture Wales, an example of digital storytelling in the mainstream http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/audiovideo/sites/galleries/pages/capturewales.shtml
The past four workshops have demonstrated to me that there is no excuse for creating literacy experiences that do not utilise drama, art, storytelling and/or digital media to explore texts more deeply. While the process is ongoing, I am developing my ability as a teacher to “provide authentic experiences in a variety of challenging artforms that promote individual invention, aesthetic exploration, problem solving and skill development“ (Gibson & Ewing, 2011, p. 132).
- Ewing, R., Miller, C., & Saxton, J. (2008). Spaces and places to play: Using drama with picture books in the middle years. M. Anderson, J. Hughes & J. Manuel (Eds.). Drama Teaching in English: Action, engagement and imagination. London: Oxford University Press.
- Ewing, R. & Simons, J. (2004). Beyond the Script Take 2: Drama in the Classroom. Newtown: Primary English Teachers Association Australia (PETAA).
- Gibson, R. & Ewing, R. (2011). Leading with the visual arts. Transforming the Curriculum through the Arts. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan, 129-150.
- National Centre on Universal Design for Learning. (2013). The Concept of UDL. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/conceptofudl
- NSW Board of Studies. (2006). Creative Arts K-6 syllabus. Sydney: NSW Board of Studies.
- NSW Board of Studies. (2012). English K-10 syllabus. Sydney: NSW Board of Studies.