Embedded within my passion for literacy is my love for developmental drama. I do love theatre as well (I as a professional actress for a couple of years), but developmental drama is fundamentally different than theatre. Theatre is about performance. Developmental drama is about developing human potential, and that is my heart song.
I was recently asked to present a Literacy Workshop for the Royal Conservstory’s new Smart Start Programme . This Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme uses a multiple arts approach to develop four specific cognitive skills: attention, memory, perception, cognitive flexibility. It was my role to model and lead a group of ECE leaders through creative drama experiences so they could experience first-hand how developmental drama can and does develop cognitive skills. We explored many drama strategies in the workshop: storytelling; role play; group drama; teacher-in-role; voice over narration; hot seat; tableaux, and; story drama. My favourite of the eight listed is story drama which uses the events and characters in a story to stimulate the drama experiences, plus, I got to use my storytelling skills. We became the characters; good and bad. We learned about a culture from the other side of the world. We asked questions. We problem solved. We also had fun. The participants left with many practical ideas and felt they were inspired to explore this world with the children they are responsible for. But, in all honesty, I think I was the one who left with the most insight.
I used to present this kind of workshop regularly, but have not done one in a few years. Due to my dissertation work in multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), I discovered I was seeing the experiences through new eyes. I was identifying modes instead of arts disciplines and using critical discernment instead of point of view. The experience was a literacy event that we constructed within a social paradigm and the participants contributed their own knowledge and expertise in an environment that supported situated practice. It wasn’t just a new set of vocabulary; it was a much more informed and theoretical perspective of the work. Vygotsky, Luke, Peabody, Vasquez, Kress, Cope and Kalantzis occupied every corner of the room. I was well supported. I recognized a noticeable difference between my role as intuitive drama leader and informed theoretical guide. It was progress and it felt good.