First, the coordinating teacher must
determine the players
. In this unit the following key people are assumed to be included: the coordinator (in this case, played by myself—as Itinerant Arts teacher in Drama), the Music teacher, the Physical Education teacher, seven classroom teachers and their students. The idea should be presented at a staff meeting to consult with every teacher and the principal. Each player should make a verbal and written commitment to the project.
define the roles of each player
. Some of the definitions will be based upon individual teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. In my model I am assuming, for example, that the Physical Education teacher has experience in dance. I am also assuming that each classroom teacher is willing and able to carry out Visual Arts activities with her students. Visual Arts consultants from the Comprehensive Arts Program would probably be available for assistance in designing lessons, if help is needed.
Each teacher will choose one of the three cultures (Puerto Rico, Ghana, or Russia). The fourth grade class will become specialists from an “alien” culture who study other cultures; Anthropologists, Scientists, Psychologists, Historians, Language Specialists, Economists, etc. This improvisational Drama in Education technique, called “Mantle of the Expert”, was developed by Dorothy Heathcote. It allows students to assume an expert role within which to work in a drama.6 They will eventually interact with the six other classes and help to create the necessary TENSION in the final production.
For eight weeks each class will be immersed in the study of the chosen culture or dramatic mode. The Music teacher will teach songs of each culture; the Physical Education teacher will teach a dance from each culture; the classroom teachers will determine content and prepare whole group, small group and individual instruction for their students; the classroom teacher will be responsible for all costumes and scenery for their class’ dramatized section; the Drama teacher will work with each group on creating a play which fits into a “story” that all seven classes will produce, will consult with teachers and assist with costume and scenery ideas, and will bring in several specialists to work with the teachers and their students.
determine the content to be taught
. Using the resources presented in this unit, as well as other resources with which the teachers are familiar, each teacher must determine the song, the folk tale, the natural resources, etc. of the culture being taught. The chart,
Areas of Culture and Content
, included with this unit should be helpful.
determine the specific activities
to be performed in each group. A master-schedule should be created by all participating teachers charting the activities and dates for the project. (See the
in this unit.) Activities should be identified as whole group, small group or individual instruction. Existing filmstrips, video tapes, recordings, 16mm films and other audiovisual aids will be identified that are presently in the New Haven Public Schools. (See Bibliography) The project participants will determine to which of three instructional categories these resources best lend themselves. When group decisions become difficult, the coordinator should come to a decision and consult the entire group for feedback, changes or agreement.
Whole group instruction will be used for background information on each culture—teaching the students to count from 1-10 in the language of the culture they are studying, teaching songs, telling folk tales, and teaching a dance. Each group will watch a video and/or filmstrip on the culture they are studying. Drama activities will be conducted with every class. Each group will begin this curriculum unit by creating a culture of its own. Students will use a dramatic mode to set up a “typical” shop or marketplace for each culture. They will make their own “play” money in the correct currency of the culture, and use it to purchase goods.
Rehearsals for the play will take place in each classroom, but will move to a large space, where each group will have a part to play in the final production. The Coordinator/Drama teacher will focus on the kind of drama done by Dorothy Heathcote in which teachers are guided to find material, select symbols, achieve dramatic focus, heighten tension, and slow pace to lead children to significant moments of insight.
The group which creates the “alien” roles will serve as the storytellers in the final performance. (See the Sample Lesson Plans, Sample Script and Bibliography for assistance on these projects.)
The final performance will be done for other students, teachers and their parents. This will help solidify the information learned and provide students with the experience of teaching through performance. It will also serve to bring the school and community together and create a greater sense of individual pride and a larger sense of school pride.
Small group instruction will take place with projects such as flag making, papier m‰ché map making, and scenery building. Small groups will work on recipes to create foods from the cultures being studied. Parents will be requested to assist with this part of the project.
Individual instruction will occur for remediation and enrichment, and for help on individual projects that students will create. Cassettes or records with music from the culture(s) being studied will be made available for individual listening. Although students will learn to count in large groups, they will be able to practice by themselves with cassette tapes and headphones. Students can listen to their classroom teacher counting from 1-10 in the language of the culture they are studying. A small library of books, maps, and pamphlets will be collected for individual student perusal.
meet regularly to evaluate
. The Coordinator/Drama teacher and the participating teachers need to meet at least one time every two weeks, to check progress, share notes on the direction of the production and change direction if necessary. These meetings should be included on the master schedule.