Improvisation with Favorite Tales | Preface and Introduction
* Heinig, R.B. (1992). Improvisation with favorite tales. NH: Heinemann Drama. [Preface, Introduction, and Summaries]
-Fine literature mirrors life and provides material for a variety of language and learning experiences. It introduces readers to the emotions, conflicts, questions, and ambiguities of everyday life. Readers create meaning from literature on the basis of their own life experiences and understandings. Whe[.l. reader and text meet, a new experience is forged that becomes part of a reader's total being, to be reflected on again and again.
-Dramatizing literature in the classroom provides students with an effective and pleasurable way of exploring both the world and themselves. Through drama, children are required to examine a story more closely, improving their comprehension and understanding. They are encouraged to think creatively and pretend to be their favorite characters, examining life from various viewpoints.
-Many young children arc ve1y literal about their favorite stories and are puzzled or disconcerted with variations or deviations from traditional plot lines. On the other hand, many equally young children have a rich literary background and are able to appreciate story variations, even contributing some of their own ideas.
-For middle and older elementary children the activities can serve as warm-ups to the more challenging activities. These children will enjoy the activities that go beyond the original story line, taking new twists and turns, even if the stories are generally associated with younger children.
-Pantomime is the performance of dramatic action without using words.
Much of the plot line of any given piece of literature is expressed in action.
Specific characters' actions also move the story forward. These actions provide the basis for many pantomime activities.
Pantomimes are fun for all children. Young children in their pretend playing do an incredible amount of mimed action; they usually feel very comfortable with pantomimed pretending and engage in it easily. Although older elementary children can perform pantomime fairly easily, some may initially need a little encouragement.
At least one reason for this is that school structure tends to confine older children to their desks so much of the time that they are surprised when pantomime is suggested as a viable activity. They may also sense a little embarrassment, because pantomime movement draws attention to bodies that, in many cases, are going through rapid and uncomfortable changes. But the fun of the activities soon helps them forget these concerns, and they play as easily as when they were younger.
Younger elementary children particularly enjoy solo pantomime work because they all get to play a character immediately, eliminating competition for roles and waiting their turn. For older children the activities can serve as warm-ups to the q1ore challenging ones.
Playing for Observers means that an informal audience of peers is present. The goals here are more challenging since they involve sharing ideas with others, communicating interpretations, and garnering feedback for one's messages and thoughts.
There are a variety of ways to structure an audience. At the most basic level, children may simply enjoy watching their classmates while waiting for their own turn to play. At a more involved level (pantomime guessing games, for example), the audience is required to interpret the performers' actions, decoding their nonverbal messages. Finally, an audience may also be asked to evaluate classmates' ideas and interpretations.
Shy children often need to move gradually into playing for observers, requiring quite a bit of encouragement along the way before they feel comfortable.
Directed Playing means that you :ts the leader tell or coach the children in fairly specific terms "that they arc to do. 'This is considered easier for children since they arc required to do very little creative thinking.
Both directed and creative activities serve important purposes and neither is necessarily superior. The directed activities are usually simpler for children to do; in fact, some children need the guidance and structure that directed activities present. Creative activities call for inventiveness and give more responsibility to the children. Children will probably be more successful with creative activities when their imaginations have been nurtured over time. They will also need the feeling of emotional security triggered by your accepting responses in order to be at their creative best.
- In addition to describing action, narrative can relate sensory experiences (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) or reveal feelings and emotions.
-Whatever method of debating you use, it's a good idea to let children switch roles whenever possible. This gives them the chance to become familiar with both sides of an issue. It is interesting to see how often new ideas come forth when children are suddenly "on the other side of the fence."
An adage in the theatre states, "Always leave them wanting more."
This is a useful rule to remember when conducting any dran1a activity. It is not necessary to exhaust everyone's ideas before ending. Instead, move to another activity shortly after children peak in their creative flow and excitement. Topics can always be returned to at another time.
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Myungja Anna Koh