Starting in Senior Kindergarten, students at Crofton House School are learning about drama, as part of an integrated curriculum that helps them deepen their learning through play. “Drama is a natural part of childhood,” said Karen Taylor, Teacher, Design & Drama. “So we have been showing them that we can use some of the elements of drama—exploration, character development, movement, tableau work, story telling, oral speaking skills—all helping them connect to content in a different way.”
Ms. Taylor works with teachers in the Junior School to plan ways lessons can be enriched using these dramatic elements. As an example, in one Grade 5 class, influential women were a topic of research in social studies and language arts. Ms. Taylor assigned students a “hot seat” activity; students were asked a series of questions about their influential woman persona and had to answer in character. Most questions were assigned in advance, but they knew there would be one “ad lib” question at the end, where there was no right or wrong answer. For example, if they researched a dancer, Ms. Taylor might ask, ‘how do you feel when you’re dancing?’. If their character was a shark researcher, she may ask ‘Why did you choose this ferocious creature?’. Using inferring and drama skills, students answered deeply and beautifully. “I was so proud of them,” said Ms. Taylor.
In another example, students studied immigration and Pier 21 using old photographs and thinking about what the physicality in the images could tell them about a person’s story. They empathized, inferred, and then created a poetry piece that they performed together. “It’s play, and they’re excited about it but at the same time, they’ve just been researchers of history, written a piece of poetry, spoken in front of their peers, and they have done it in a thoughtful way that honours the people in the photos,” said Ms. Taylor. “Through that play and that fun, they’ve done the things a research piece might do and with enriched connectivity.”
Throughout the Junior and Middle School years, the program grows with the students. Grade 1 students begin by performing a single line of poetry, and Grade 7s are now working on a monologue about a difficult decision, using prose (requiring character backstory, memorization and presentation) or poetry. Grade 7 students also got to put their skills to work in their production of Backstage Drama, written by Ms. Taylor and Jasmine Hare, Teacher, Ivy Compass Program.
Students use these skills in everything from presenting scenes in French class, to novel studies, and even lessons on food chains or weather patterns. They are learning how art and social justice can come together to create a conversation. “There are important lessons: public speaking for example,” said Ms. Taylor. “Can you use phrasing? Can you project with volume? These are technical skills, and that’s what we’re embedding through this program.” Drama integration also includes kinesthetic learning. For example, while exploring the water cycle, dancing or moving as falling rain, or hardening snow and ice, and swirling fog allows them to play and understand these tricky concepts in a new way.
Drama integration has been part of the CHS approach since 2018. This year, Ms. Taylor is seeing ever-more clearly how the program has been augmenting our values. Our three Cs of course—Courage, Creativity, and Citizenship—and also critical thinking, open mindedness, and empathy. “The beautiful thing about drama is that it’s a little different. It’s fun, it’s play, and you can keep that play even in Grade 7,” said Ms. Taylor. “Beautiful work happens when their guard is down and the stakes are low. They’re playing, but they’re strengthening their grasp of the material by diving into the curriculum and expressing that deeper understanding in unique ways.”