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Changing Directions: Drama, Reading, and Social Imagination

Changing Directions: Drama, Reading, and Social Imagination

Written by Patricia Enciso
October 10, 2015

 Our project, Changing Directions, is a new approach to reading complex texts that began for all of us more than six years ago when we participated in a teacher professional development program using dramatic approaches to ‘stand up’ and interpret Shakespeare’s plays ( ).  We worked with teaching artists from the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England as well as faculty from Ohio State University to learn how to blend drama practices with a focused inquiry while reading and interpreting challenging texts ( and  and ). 

Changing Directions: Returning to Words through Drama 

 The drama practices we learned included guiding students through warm-up games and ‘ice-breakers,’ teaching students to ‘walk the space’ and then create images of an idea or scene, setting up tableaus, working ‘in role’ as a character, and moving with words to feel their intensity and direction. This work is active and carefully planned to support multiple representations of themes, character relations, vocabulary, and motivations.  Our students (grades 2-12) love to be ‘on their feet’ for learning as often as possible.  We are committed to making learning active and engaging for all students, but we also want to be sure that in the midst of all of the movement and image-making, we help our students move back to the text as they consider the meaning and impact of specific words and phrases that can inform a deeper understanding of the text as a whole.  By returning to the words after an initial active exploration of the world, we can also sharpen and expand the ways we represent our interpretations of the text.   

Digital tools make it possible to blend dramatic representations and storytelling (Alrutz 2014; Edmiston 2014; Lambert 2010).  Using digital images, video, and audio, we could  document –and reflect on–the ways we entered into, interpreted, and claimed an understanding of our  story alongside the original text. 

The next sections describe our plans and inter-actions: 

1. Walking with Images: The Steward Family Comes to Life

2. Writing Family Memories: Three Generations in One Home

3. Hurricane Katrina and the Power of Words

4. Confronting Chaos with Dignity

5. Planning Future Inquiries