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Acting Out How and Why (Elementary)

Last changed: 05/14/2020 5:17pm
K , 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5
Theater Science English
Grade Level Program Integration
5 45 min

Five, 45-60 minute sessions with a final Sharing during Session 5
Sessions typically once or twice a week to best integrate with selected Science unit
Schedule determined at pre-planning meeting and based on school needs
In-School Short Term Residency
All Year In-School, Virtual
$10 0
yes In-Person

Props, handouts, prompts or reference materials based on selected unit or topic

Chart paper or white board
Agreed upon materials or copies
Copy of selected Science unit or chapter and related text for the planning meeting

Open space in classroom or multi-purpose space large enough for entire class to participate on their feet simultaneously or spread out to work in small groups
A large space or auditorium reserved for Session 4 and Session 5, if sharing with the whole grade level


I can use size and shape (realistic/abstract) to explore and demonstrate an element, structure or organism from a scientific topic such as Animals, Habitats or Space.

I can use movement qualities (rate, weight, energy) to explore and demonstrate a scientific process or procedure, such as Forces, Changing Landscapes or the Water Cycle.

I can work with partners to use shapes and movement to create a group drama/theatre work to share with peers that shows stages of a cycle, interactions in an environment, steps in a process or how a system works.



Being and Doing supports Understanding.

The residency, Acting Out How and Why, helps students overcome the challenges of abstract scientific concepts by visualizing and experiencing what is too big, too small or too far away to actually see. Improvisation and movement exercises tap into natural curiosity to effectively make the invisible, visible and the misunderstood, understandable.

Drama activities nurture self-regulation skills as students initially work simultaneously “alone together”, focusing on their own participation and allowing others to do the same. Based on guided reading of selected texts and images, students then work creatively and collaboratively with partners and in small groups to “become” the relevant structures, elements, forces, organisms, systems or processes from the selected Science unit. Combining facts and imagination, young students physically explore how and why things work, as they actively turn difficult concepts into exciting discoveries.

For example, students physically create the land formations and vegetation of a particular Habitat and explore interactions with the unique animal life it supports. Or students become water molecules and determine how they move and change to represent phases of the Water Cycle and various sources of water on the Earth.

Throughout the creative process each participant gains insights, makes connections, clarifies sequences and builds comprehension and retention. As a culmination the entire class brainstorms, improvises and problem-solves; integrating movement, sound, poetry and/or narration into a unique Sharing of scientific concepts. Presenting to others, reflecting on their own work and giving/receiving feedback solidifies the learning.

Teachers may select any Science Unit or Topic and a Related Text from the Language Arts Curriculum. Collaboration with the Teaching Artist ensures that activities appropriately align with content to fully support student learning.

*See Additional Notes for Topics, Reading Connections, and a sample Long-Term Project.


ACTive Learning residencies integrate theatre into any curricular unit and are structured to provide opportunities for students to: 1) participate comfortably in theatre in the classroom; (2) delve deeply into a specific topic through specially designed drama activities; (3) collaborate creatively on a unique demonstration of their discoveries (4) share and reflect honestly on their work; and (5) give/receive feedback to solidify learning in Theatre and the curriculum.

Choose a topic:
Properties of Matter, the Solar System, Animals (particularly Mammals and Reptiles), the Five Senses, Life Cycle of Plants, Energy and Motion, Re-cycling, Sound and Light, Geology/Land Formations, Flight, Weather and Climate, Ecosystems, Natural Resources, Inventors and Inventions

Connect to Literary or Informational Texts:
Water Cycle-One Well by Rochelle Strauss and All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
Solar System-Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London (Native American poetry)
Mammals/Reptiles-Animal poems or stories such as Mossy by Jan Brett or Native American Legends
Habitats-Over in the Meadow and companion books on desert, forest, grasslands, arctic and ocean
Natural Resources and Ecology-A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry

Consider the program supporting a Long-Term project:
Teachers selected a residency on Habitats (specifically the Jungle) for four classes of 1st-3rd year students as a precursor to participation in a school play, “The Jungle Book”.

*All ACTive Learning Through Drama programs have been developed and implemented by a professional Theatre Educator in collaboration with Classroom Teachers and Arts Specialists.

1-3 are welcome to assist in the classroom, if the teacher desires.
Parents, guardians and administrators could watch the informal Share in Session 5.

Grade K

Grade K: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: Animals, Plants, and Their Environment: K-ESS3-1. Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
Grade K: Reading Standards for informational Text: Key Ideas and Details #2: With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of the text.
Grade K: Theatre: Creating: Anchor Standard 2.1: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. a. With prompting and support, interact with peers and contribute to dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). b. With prompting and support, express original ideas in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., creative drama, process drama, story drama).
Grade K: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a. With prompting and support, understand that voice and sound are fundamental to dramatic play and guided drama experiences (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

Grade 1

Grade 1: Space Systems: Patterns and Cycles: 1-ESS1-1. Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
Grade 1: Reading Standards for Literature: Craft and Structure #5: Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.
Grade 1: Theatre: Creating: Anchor Standard 2.1: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. b. With prompting and support, participate in group decision making in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade 1: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a. With prompting and support, identify and understand that physical movement is fundamental to guided drama experiences (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

Grade 2

Grade 2: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: 2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
Grade 2: Reading Standards for Informational Text: #3: Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts or steps in technical procedures in text.
Grade 2: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a. Demonstrate the relationship between and among body, voice, and mind in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade 2: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6.1: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a.Contribute to group guided drama experiences (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama) and informally share with peers.

Grade 3

Grade 3: Forces and Interactions: 3-PS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
Grade 3: Reading Standards for Informational Text: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas #7: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
Grade 3: Theatre: Creating: Anchor Standard 2.1: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. a. Participate in methods of investigation to devise original ideas for a drama/theatre work. b. Compare ideas with peers and make selections that will enhance and deepen group drama/theatre work.
Grade 3: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a. Participate in a variety of physical, vocal, and cognitive exercises that can be used in a group setting for drama/theatre work.

Grade 4

Grade 4: Earth’s Systems: Processes that Shape the Earth: 4-ESS1-1. Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time
Grade 4: Reading Standards for Informational Text: Craft and Structure #4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
Grade 4: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a. Practice selected exercises that can be used in a group setting for drama/theatre work.
Grade 4: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6.1: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. Share small-group drama/theatre work, with peers as audience.

Grade 5

Grade 5: Earth’s Systems: 5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
Grade 5: Reading Standards for Informational Text: #3: Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas or concepts in a historical, scientific or technical text based on specific information in the text.
Grade 5: Theatre: Creating: Anchor Standard 2.1: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. a. Devise original ideas for a drama/theatre work that reflect collective inquiry about characters and their given circumstances.
Grade 5: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 5.1: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation. a.Choose acting exercises that can be applied to a drama/theatre work.
Get to Know Our Arts Provider:

ACTive Learning Through Drama with Barbara Washer