Trina Fischer is an actor, storyteller, playwright, teacher and teaching artist with over 20 years of experience. After graduating from Y.P.A.S. in Louisville, KY, and Northwestern University (B.S. in Performance Studies, minor in Latin American Studies), she spent a year in Santiago, Chile studying and teaching acting on a Fulbright grant, a season apprenticing at Actors Theatre of Louisville and later toured schools with conflict resolution-based Bridgework Theatre. After 6.5 years acting in New York City and working as a teaching artist exploring social issues through drama with the Creative Arts Team, she returned to Louisville. She is the PR and Marketing Director and CFO of Looking for Lilith (LFL), which she co-founded in 2001 in NYC, a theatre company dedicated to re-examining history from women's perspectives and creating original plays based on that examination. With LFL, which includes fellow roster artists Shannon Woolley and Kelly McNerney, she does research, creative collaboration, playwriting, teaching, outreach work, administration, producing and performing. She is a proud member of Alternate ROOTS. Favorite performances include Fefu and her Friends, Miss Julie, Marisol, Looking for Normal, The Laramie Project and LFL's Crossing Mountains, What My Hands Have Touched and Class of '70.
"ACT IT OUT! Practice for life," Headstart
NOTE: A version of this model could also be done with pre-K - 3rd grade classrooms and it can be adapted to a 5, 10 or 15 day residency. In addition, Trina is highly trained and experienced in working with 4th-12th grades and adults. See her company's website for more details about the educational and community outreach work they offer.
Project Goals: My project goals include developing pre-literacy skills, critical thinking skills and social skills in the students, as well as training the teachers in how to use drama in their classroom. Pre-literacy skills include such things as meaningful talk, vocabulary building and letter-sound recognition. Critical thinking skills include creative problem-solving, projection and exploration of cause and effect. Social skills include communication skills, recognition and expression of emotions, teamwork and conflict resolution.
Residency Format: In a 20 day residency with HeadStart and classrooms, I would ideally work with a partner teaching artist (10 days each), as it is easier to set up conflict resolution with two actors, I but could do the residency on my own, if necessary. The sessions would be 30-45 minutes long 2-5 times a week with the students, and 1-3 hours with the teachers, as necessary. We would explore a social issue and/or curricular themes using interactive storytelling and student-centered process drama.
Day 1: An introduction to the teaching artist(s), drama, and drama terminology through songs, games and activities, and an Orientation meeting with the teachers.
Day 2: The teaching artist(s) performing Interactive Storytelling with the students.
Day 3: The teaching artist(s) lead an Interactive Process Drama based on the Story from the previous day. (During this lesson, as later in their residency, students would have an opportunity to use creative thinking skills to solve one or more problems such as, “How will we get across this river?” or “How should we decorate for the party?”)
Day 4: First Training Day for the teachers, to explore either Interactive Storybook Reading or Interactive Storytelling, depending on what they felt prepared for, based on a choice of storybooks I would provide for them. They would create a lesson plan on this day in one-on-one sessions with the artist.
Day 5: A session to practice their storytelling or storybook reading with the other teachers, incorporating as many open-ended questions and student centered approaches as they could.
Day 6: The teachers would read or perform their Interactive Story for their students, with support from the teaching artist(s)
Day 7: We would have self-evaluation, and orientation for the next section of the residency.
Days 8-12: The teaching artist(s) would lead the students in the first 2 of 4 sessions of student-centered process drama in which they, their teachers and I are all characters in a particular setting (such as rabbits in the forest) with a particular problem (such as a particular rabbit that has been bullying other rabbits by eating all the carrots.)
Day 10: The teachers would have a Training Day to be trained in how to lead the "Real to Pretend" sequence to lead the children into the story each day. On Day 11 and 12, they would lead this part of the session with the children.
Days 11: The students (as rabbits) will have the opportunity to experience the behavior of the antagonistic character (played by one of the teaching artists), and discuss and decide what to do about it. During this critical thinking, the students engage in meaningful talk and often come up with creative solutions for how to deal with the antagonistic character, as well as exploring how they might talk to this character about their behavior.
Day 12: On this, the 5th day of the process drama, they do confront the antagonist, applying the solutions they came up with as a group and gaining experience in communication skills, expression and explanation of emotions, and conflict resolution.
Days 13-17: The students would be lead through another 4 sessions of Interactive Process Drama, exploring a different social issue and perhaps a curricular issue such as “Stages of Development of the Butterfly.” Again, in the middle (Day 15), the teachers would have a Training Day, during with they would start to plan their own Interactive Drama Lesson Plan, which they could base on the storybook used earlier in the residency, or on a different book or curricular theme. (For some teachers, it may be more appropriate to go back to Interactive Storytelling, especially those who only did Interactive Storybook Reading or those who were challenged by the Interactive Storytelling the first time around.)
Day 18: Teachers would have another Training Day to rehearse this one session lesson with the other teachers.
Day 19: The teachers would implement that lesson with their students, with the support of the teaching artist(s).
Day 20: The teaching artist(s) would lead a closure day with the students and have a final closure/evaluation meeting with the teachers.
Creativity/Creative Thinking Skills: I would draw out the creativity of the children by setting up an enjoyable pretend setting and characters for them to play. This age group is more than willing to invest in this pretend world, and is excited about creatively developing their characters, especially when they are animals. Once in that pretend world, a problem presents itself that they must solve. I am sure to raise the stakes and make the consequences very clear so that the students are invested in creatively solving this problem, such as “If Stan Rabbit eats all the carrots, what will happen?" The students quickly see the consequences and feel invested in fixing this problem. Also, it is important that they get to know and LIKE Stan Rabbit before he starts misbehaving too obviously, so they want to resolve the problem with him, and not just kick him out of the forest.
Parental Involvement: I would encourage parental involvement by inviting the parents to come observe the sessions anytime. I could also offer a one session Parent Workshop exploring Open-Ended Questioning techniques to use with your children when reading them storybooks and/or playing pretend.
Relevance to Teachers/Education: This project might fit into a larger school educational program by providing the teachers skills they could use for exploring ANY curricular themes or issues. Drama has been shown to help children effectively learn and retain information and skills, so I would hope this work would continue on after I left, as it did in many HeadStarts where I worked in NYC. Prior to beginning the residency I would meet with the classroom teacher, to address the Kentucky Core Content standards.
My approach is particularly relevant to teachers and education because, though student-centered teaching and the use of open-ended questioning has gained much currency in the field in the last 15 years or so, there remains little consistent effective training for teachers in how to actually do this. These approaches are especially important and appropriate for early learners, as they are new to school and just beginning to develop their sense of themselves as students and social beings. These early years can have a powerful effect on their future self-esteem and sociability. Interactive Process Drama is a very effective way to both learn and apply student-centered learning approaches and can help give young learners a great start in their early education.