Writing Motivator

There’s nothing like seeing student’s plays come to life. Today at my school, a local professional theater group (Seven Angels) performed 11 short plays written by fourth graders at our school. What a writing motivator!


You can do it too! (Maybe not the professional theater group from Waterbury,CT part) BUT you can have your students write short plays. Then give the plays to other groups in the class. Those kids act out the plays. It’s amazing to see other people interpret your work and perform it right before your eyes.

Eyes on me!

One of the many things we want our students to do is focus. The following are suggestions on how to allow your children an opportunity to practice focusing.

First, there’s a toy called Magic Moves.

This toy forces the kids to pay close attention to the directions spoken. (Hop like a frog, glide on ice, etc.) The students do what is asked and then the music stops causing them to freeze. When they freeze, I have them look at me and I say focus. They must freeze and have their eyes on me. Then I press the play button and we do it again. Always using the word focus and having the expectation that they look at me. I like using the word focus because you can use it to have them focus on anything. (Focus on your work, focus on the book, focus on me, etc.) It’s a great replacement for “Eyes on me”.


Second, I use Shake, Shake, Focus. This game does not require the use of the above toy. I use a stuffed pig. The students are told to shake and then I yell focus. They must freeze and focus on the pig. This is harder for them because they have a natural instinct to look at me. This forces them to attend to a different object other than their teacher. You can use this in the classroom by having the students shake, shake, focus on their books. Have them read a sentence then shake, shake, focus again. 

What’s a tableau?

Tableau is short for the French term “tableau vivant” which means living picture.

Tableaux can be used many ways in your classroom. Below I featured a quick and easy way to incorporate this motivating activity.

After discussing different characters from different books the students had read, we brainstormed feelings that the characters had experienced during the stories. The students were split into small groups. They were told to make an emotion tableau. I took their pictures and we shared them with the class. Then the class had to guess the emotion, pinpoint the part of the story the feeling came from, and explain what the group did with their bodies and facial expressions that allowed them to guess correctly.

Can you guess which tableau is showing glum, aggravated, happy, surprised and bored?




Great Book

Shopping for integrating the arts resources? Here’s a great book:

A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension

by Lenore Blank Kelner & Rosalind M. Flynn

dramatic approach to reading comp

This book focuses on integrating drama and reading comprehension. This book “explains the what, how, and why of effective educational drama as well as how drama increases students’ reading comprehension skills.” In this book four drama strategies are explained with step by step directions on how to use them.

Four Drama Strategies

story dramatization, character interviews, tableau, and human slide shows



Integrating Dance & Drama

I did a presentation with a colleague called The Power of Arts in the Classroom. In that presentation we shared various lessons integrating dance and drama. Below you will find the explanation of the lesson and a video.

1.   Character Traits & Dance

Make a timeline of the character’s traits throughout the book. (If the character didn’t change much you can use this activity with sequence of events.) Using a book that has already been read, have the students get into small groups. Using their timeline, they need to develop a movement for each section. Then they put each movement together in order to form a dance. Have them perform in front of each other and compare/contrast the movements each group created. Discuss how they represented the traits (or events).

Character Traits and Dance from Marly Parker on Vimeo.



2.   Inference & Dance

After a book has been read, have students work independently or in groups to create a movement that represents a particular character or event in the story. Play a game where the student(s) perform their movement and the class has to look closely, analyze and infer what the movement represents. This could be a series of movements or just one.

DANCE MSA from Marly Parker on Vimeo.


3.   Interpretation & Drama

Get copies of an illustration from a picture book you will be reading with the class. In small groups have student “closely read” the illustration. Have them share their interpretation of the illustration. Encourage them to include character, setting, what’s happening, etc. Using their group interpretations they will create an improvisation skit to perform. They don’t write a script.

IllustrationInterpretation from Marly Parker on Vimeo.


4.   Summary & Drama

Read a book to the class. (The first time you do this activity a picture book is strongly recommended.) Write a summary of the story. Make a list of characters from the book. Use the list of characters to write a script of the summary. The list will help you to make sure you include all characters. (Narrators can be added to help tell the story.)

Summary and Drama from Marly Parker on Vimeo.


Teamwork Tableau

Want your students to practice collaboration?

Sharing ideas?


Try this quick and easy theater game. They’ll practice working together and storytelling all in one.

1. Break students into small groups.

2. Explain democracy and majority rules. Discuss listening to each other’s ideas and all having a chance to share.

3. Give them 5 – 7 minutes to come up with a setting and problem.

4. Have each group share their story as a tableau (frozen picture).

5. Have rest of class try to guess the problem.

***Tell them to use facial expressions and gestures to help explain their problem.***


Check out the video below.

Tableau from Marly Parker on Vimeo.