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Social and Emotional Learning & Theatre - Making the Connection

VIEW a Comprehensive Guide to SEL in the Theatre Classroom created by the PA Department of Education and the PA Thespian Chapter. 

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a construct intended to provide students with the skills to confront challenges, build resilience and demonstrate empathy for others.   Social Emotional Learning encompasses skills in self awareness, social awareness, self management, responsible decision making and relationship skills.   Broad SEL instruction often takes the form of reflection, discussion, and lecture; however when not planned as carefully as we plan other lesson outcomes, students can view this as formulaic and scripted, and it will have very little impact.  For SEL to be most effective, it must be intentionally embedded within the curriculum.   This page features some sample lesson plans and articulates the social and emotional learning embedded within each; aligning Social Emotional Learning competencies with theatre standards through the lens of the artistic processes and pointing the way to intentionality.  

Need a great resource for ideas for SEL inclusion in Theatre Education K-12?  Check out North Carolina's SEL Theatre Arts K-12 document.   This comprehensive guide suggests theatre activities for all ages directly connecting to SEL. 

Looking for funding to intentionally add SEL to your Theatre Program?  Check out the Arts and Social Emotional Learning Funding Guide prepared by the Arizona Department of Education.

Illustrative Lesson Plans and Student Work

What does it look like to intentionally teach Social and Emotional Learning skills?  View illustrative lesson plans pulled from expert educators within and outside of EdTA, aligned with social and emotional learning constructs and the National Theatre Standards, and illustrated with student work.


A Teaspoon of Light - Elementary

See SEL in action!  In this elementary lesson from New Zealand, drama teachers help children verbalize and process trauma through drama and creative play.  The metaphor for the trauma is a torn cloak of dreams, which must be repaired by the children using role play and other creative dramatics techniques. 

A Teaspoon of Light - Elementary Grades K-2

Lesson Plan Title: A Teaspoon of Light Written by: Professor Peter O'Connor, Auckland University 
Description:  In this story theatre lesson children immerse themselves in the story of Sarah, a young girl whose dream cloth has been torn.  They must work together to find a way to repair the dream cloth and restore Sarah's dreams. 
Source:  University of Auckland site: www.teritotoi.org  Access the full lesson:  A Teaspoon of Light 

SEL Competencies: 
Self Awareness (identifying emotions)  - Self Management (stress management)  - Social Awareness (empathy) - Relationship Skills (communication, teamwork) Responsible Decision Making (evaluating, reflecting, solving problems) - Responsible Decision Making (solving problems, evaluating, reflecting)

Theatre Standards: 
Creating: TH:Cr2.1.K.b. With prompting and support, express original ideas in dramatic play or a guided drama experience.  TH:Cr2.1.1.b. With prompting and support, participate in group decision making in a guided drama experience.  TH:Cr2.1.1.b. With prompting and support, participate in group decision making in a guided drama experience   TH:Cr2.1.2.b. Contribute ideas and make decisions as a group to advance a story in a guided drama experience.
Performing:  TH:Pr6.1.K.a. With prompting and support, use voice and sound in dramatic play or a guided drama experience.  TH:Pr6.1.1.a. With prompting and support, use movement and gestures to communicate emotions in a guided drama experience. TH:Pr6.1.2.a. Contribute to group guided drama experiences. |
Responding:  TH:Re7.1.K.a. With prompting and support express an emotional response to characters in dramatic play or a guided drama experience. TH:Re7.1.1.a. Recall choices made in a guided drama experience.  TH:Re7.1.2.a. Recognize when artistic choices are made in a guided drama experience. TH:Re9.1.K.c. Compare and contrast the experiences of characters in a guided drama experience. TH:Re9.1.1.c. Describe how characters respond to challenges in a guided drama experience. TH:Re9.1.2.c. Evaluate and analyze problems and situations in a guided drama experience.
Connecting: TH:Cn10.1.K.a. With prompting and support, identify similarities between characters and oneself in dramatic play or a guided drama experience. TH:Cn10.1.1.a. Identify character emotions in a guided drama experience. TH:Cn10.1.2.a. Relate character experiences to personal experiences in a guided drama experience.


Regulating Robot - Grades 3-6

Lesson Plan Title: Regulating Robot Written by: Professor Julie Dunn, Giffith University and Professor John O'Toole, University of Melbourne  Source:  University of Auckland site: www.teritotoi.org  Access the full lesson:  Regulating Robot
Description:  In this drama unit, students role play as creators of artificial intelligence to explore the necessity for social regulation and the relationship between rules and creativity and freedom. 

SEL Competencies:   Self Awareness (identifying emotions, recognizing strengths) - Self Management (impulse control, self discipline, organizational skills)  - Social Awareness (perspective taking, empathy, respect for others)  - Relationship Skills (communication, relationship building, teamwork) - Responsible Decision Making (identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems, evaluating, reflecting, ethical responsibility)

Theatre Standards:   
Creating: TH:Cr1.1.3.a. Create roles, imagined worlds and improvised stories in a drama/theatre work. TH:Cr1.1.4.a. Articulate the visual details of imagined worlds and improvised stories that support the given circumstances in a drama/theatre work. TH:Cr1.1.5.a. Identify physical qualities that might reveal a character’s inner traits in the imagined world of a drama/theatre work. TH:Cr1.1.6.c. Imagine how a character’s inner thoughts impact the story and given circumstances in a drama/theatre work. TH:Cr2.1.3 a. Participate in methods of investigation to devise original ideas for a drama/theatre work. TH:Cr2.1.3.b. Compare ideas with peers and make selections that will enhance and deepen group drama/theatre work.  TH:Cr2.1.4.a. Collaborate to devise original ideas for a drama/theatre work by asking questions about characters and plots. TH:Cr2.1.4.b. Make and discuss group decisions and identify responsibilities required to present a drama/theatre work to peers. TH:Cr2.1.5.a. Devise original ideas for a drama/theatre work that reflect collective inquiry about character and their given circumstances. b. Participate in defined responsibilities required to present a drama/theatre work informally to an audience. TH:Cr2.1.6. a. Use critical analysis to improve, refine and evolve original ideas and artistic choices in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work. TH:Cr2.1.6.b. Contribute ideas and accept and incorporate the ideas of others in preparing or devising drama/theatre work. 
Performing: TH:Pr4.1.3.b. Investigate how movement and voice are incorporated into drama/theatre work. TH:Pr4.1.4.b. Make physical choices to develop a character in a drama/theatre work. TH:Pr4.1.5.b. Use physical choices to create meaning in a drama/theatre work. TH:Pr4.1.6.b. Experiment with various physical choices to communicate character in a drama/theatre work.
Responding:  TH:Re8.1.3.a. Consider multiple personal experiences when participating in or observing a drama/theatre work. TH:Re8.1.4.a. Compare and contrast multiple personal experiences when participating in or observing a drama/theatre work. TH:Re8.1.5.a. Justify responses based on personal experiences when participating in or observing a drama/theatre work. TH:Re8.1.6.a. Explain how artists make choices based on personal experience in a drama/theatre work. 
Connecting: TH:Cn11.1.3.a. Identify connections to community social issues and other content areas in a drama/theatre work. TH:Cn11.4.a. Respond to community and social issues and incorporate other content areas in a drama/theatre work.TH:Cn11.5.a. Investigate historical, global and social issues expressed in a drama/theatre work. TH:Cn11.6.a. Identify universal themes or common social issues and express them through a drama/theatre work.

Pantomime

Middle grades devised pantomime illustrates a community issue important to the students- look for the parallels to SEL.  

Pantomime - A Middle Grades Unit

Lesson Plan Title: Pantomime  Written by: National Theatre Standards Writing Team 
Description:   Students will work together to  create, rehearse, revise, and present a short pantomime in the form of a story with a beginning, conflict, and ending resolution that expresses meaning, emotion, and character. This pantomime will be done in small groups around a theme that involves solving a community issue (e.g. need for a new park, clean ground water, healthier cafeteria food). Proficiency will be demonstrated through the use of facial expression, gesture, full body movement (stage picture), movement in space (blocking), and cessation of movement (tableau).
Source:  Educational Theatre Association - Model Cornerstone Assessments  Access the full lesson: Pantomime Model Cornerstone Assessment


SEL Competencies:  Self Awareness (identifying emotions) - Self Management (self discipline, organizational skills) - Social Awareness (respect for others, perspective taking) - Relationship Skills (teamwork)
Responsible Decision Making (identifying problems, analyzing situations, evaluating, reflecting)

Theatre Standards:  
Creating: TH:Cr2.1.7.a. Demonstrate focus and concentration in the rehearsal process to analyze and refine choices in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr3.1.8.b. Refine effective physical, vocal, and physiological traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/ theatre work. TH:Pr5.1.8.a. Use a variety of acting techniques to expand skills in a rehearsal or drama/theatre performance.
Responding: TH:Re7.1.8.a. Apply criteria to the evaluation of artistic choices in a drama/theatre work.
Connecting: TH:Cn10.1.8.a. Examine a community issue through multiple perspectives in a drama/theatre work.


Forum Theatre - Initial Performance

Student actors decide on a social issue distilled from their own personal experiences, in this case, catcalling, and then prepare a scene illustrating the issue with with a clear protagonist and antagonist.  This is presented for an audience to inspire a discussion facilitated by the "Joker", who remains apart.

Forum Theatre - Variations

The audience is encouraged by the Joker to wrestle with the problem portrayed, suggest alternate tactics and even joining in the scene as "spectactor" to try out their ideas for empowering the protagonist. In this way the scene becomes a "rehearsal for reality" and a catalyst for change.

Forum Theatre - High School Devised Theatre Unit

Lesson Plan Title:  Theatre of the Oppressed - Forum Theatre  Authors:  Brian Jennings, Theatre Educator, with Kate Lee, NYC Theatre of the Oppressed Specialist 
Description:  Students will devise a series of two to three short scenes that depict different aspects of a chosen social issue. Students will present the scenes for an invited audience using forum theater techniques to encourage audience interaction with the social issue.  Source:  Educational Theatre Association - Model Cornerstone Assessment Project
Access the full lesson:  Theatre of the Oppressed Model Cornerstone Assessment

SEL Competencies:  
Self Awareness (identifying emotions, accurate self perception, recognizing strengths)  - Self Management (self discipline, organizational skills) - Social Awareness (perspective taking, empathy, respect for others)  - Relationship Skills(communicating, social engagement, teamwork)  - Responsible Decision Making (identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems, evaluating, reflecting, ethical responsibility)

Theatre Standards:
Creating:  
TH:Cr1.1.III.c: Integrate cultural and historical contexts with personal experiences to create a character that is believable and authentic, in a drama/theatre work.  TH:Cr2-III.a: Develop and synthesize original ideas in a drama/theatre work utilizing critical analysis, historical and cultural context, research, and western or nonwestern theatre traditions. 
Performing: TH:Pr6.1.II.a: Present a drama/theatre work using creative processes that shape the production for a specific audience.
Responding: TH:Re9.1.III.c: Compare and debate the connection between a drama/theatre work and contemporary issues that may impact audiences.
Connecting:  TH:Cn10.1.III.a: Collaborate on a drama/theatre work that examines a critical global issue using multiple personal, community, and cultural perspectives.   TH:Cn11.1.III.a: Develop a drama/theatre work that identifies and questions cultural, global, and historic belief systems.

Walk a Mile - High School Tech Theatre Unit

Lesson Plan Title:  Walk a Mile in My Shoes  Author:  Brandon K. Goodman, Texas Theatre Educator  
Description:  After watching a Ted Talk on empathy, students will reflect on their own lives and design both a shoe and a sound scape for that shoe, illustrating a day in their lives through sound design.
Source:  Educational Theatre Association Click to Teach interactive online units.  Access the full lesson:  Walk a Mile in My Shoes

SEL Competencies:   Self Awareness (accurate self perception) -  Social Awareness (empathy, respect for others) - Relationship Skills (communication) - Responsible Decision Making (reflecting)

Theatre Standards:

HS Proficient:
Creating: TH:Cr1.1.I.b.  Explore the impact of technology on design choices in a drama/theatre work.
Performing: TH:Pr5.1.I.b.  Use researched technical elements to increase the impact of design for a drama/theatre production.
Connecting: TH:Cn10.1.I.b.   Investigate how cultural perspectives, community ideas and personal beliefs impact a drama/theatre work.

HS Accomplished: 
Creating:  TH:Cr1.1.II.b.  Understand and apply technology to design solutions for a drama/theatre work.
Performing: TH:Pr5.1.II.b.  Apply technical elements and research to create a design that communicates the concept of a drama/theatre production.
Connecting: TH:Cn10.1.II.a.  Choose and interpret a drama/theatre work to reflect or question personal beliefs.