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Putting a Tale on its Feet

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

Five, 45-60 minute sessions with a final Sharing day during Session 5
Sessions typically held once or twice a week to best integrate with selected Language Arts unit
Schedule determined during the pre-planning meeting and based on needs of the school
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
Original of script created by the class for student and/or teacher use

Chart paper or white board
Agreed upon materials or copies
Non-lined paper for each student (Grades 3-5)
Copy of selected Language Arts 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 identify the literary elements of character, setting, events and theme and describe them in a grade-level story.

I can use body, gesture and/or voice to create the setting, communicate characters and demonstrate plot from a grade-level story.

I can collaborate with peers to apply elements of dramatic structure to a grade-level story and create a drama/theatre work to share informally with an audience.



Reading Success = Students’ Superpower!

In Putting a Tale on its Feet, all children discover and communicate meaning from even the most challenging text, through dramatic games. Imagination and creativity extend the journey beyond basics of Showing and Telling, into the excitement and accomplishment of Being and Doing.

Based on guided readings of a story or book selected from the grade-level curriculum, children explore physical transformations into a wide array of characters, animals, objects and components of setting. Simple movement and improvisation activities focus on personal exploration assuring equal participation, as each child builds comprehension and retention.

Rather than “casting parts”, the program emphasizes an ensemble approach, providing opportunity for each child to portray all elements of the text. Students begin by working simultaneously “alone together”, naturally nurturing self-regulation skills. Throughout the creative process, they brainstorm, problem-solve, improvise, reflect and revise with partners and in small groups to create tableaus, movement, dialogue and narration.

The program culminates with each class collaborating to demonstrate their original version of the story in an informal Share. By presenting/observing the work and giving/receiving feedback, students solidify their learning in Language Arts and Drama.

Putting a Tale on its Feet has been successfully adapted to all ages, grades and reading levels.For example, younger children mainly explore character, plot and setting as they act out the story while a teacher or their peers read it aloud. Older students expand on Who, What and Where, delving more deeply into situation, motivation and theme as they improvise scenes and create their own dialogue for the story.



Teachers may select a literary or informational text from the Language Arts, Social Studies or Science curriculum as the foundation for the program. *See Additional Notes for Sample Texts and Related Themes


Sample Texts and Related Themes

Patience Wright, America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deitz Shea (Colonial America)
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Mossy by Jan Brett (Habitats/Home)
Skippy Jon Jones by Judy Schachner, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (Multicultural)
George and Martha by James Marshall, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Friendship)
Poetry by Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Douglas Florian
A River Ran Wild by Lynn Cherry, Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London (Nature/Environment)
Aesop’s Fables



*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: Reading Standards for Literature: Key Ideas and Detail #3: With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
Grade K: History: Change, Continuity, and Context: K.1: Compare life in the past to life today.
Grade K: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a. With prompting and support, identify characters and setting in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade K: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6; Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. With prompting and support, use voice and sound in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

Grade 1

Grade 1: Reading Standards for Literature: Key Ideas and Details #3: Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using details. a. With prompting and support, identify similarities between characters and oneself in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade 1: History: Perspectives: 1.3: Compare perspectives of people in the past to those in the present.
Grade 1: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a. Describe a story’s character actions and dialogue in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). b. Use body, face, gestures, and voice to communicate character traits and emotions in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade 1: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. With prompting and support, use movement and gestures to communicate emotions in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

Grade 2

Grade 2: Reading Standards for Literature: Craft and Structure # 5: Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
Grade 2: History: Change, Continuity, and Context: 2.1: Create a chronological sequence of multiple events.
Grade 2: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a Interpret story elements in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama). b. Alter voice and body to expand and articulate nuances of a character in a guided drama experience (e.g., (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
Grade 2: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6: 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: Reading Standards for Literature: Key Ideas and Details #3: Describe characters in a story (e.g. their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
Grade 3: History: Change, Continuity, and Context: 3.3: Generate questions about individuals who have shaped significant historical changes and continuities
Grade 3: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a. Apply the elements of dramatic structure to a story and create a drama/theatre work. b. Investigate how movement and voice are incorporated into drama/theatre work.
Grade 3: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. Practice drama/theatre work and share reflections individually and in small groups.

Grade 4

Grade 4: Reading Standards for Literature: Key Ideas and Details # 3: Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
Grade 4: History: Perspectives: 4.1: Explain connections among historical contexts and people’s perspectives at the time.
Grade 4: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a. Modify the dialogue and action to change the story in a drama/theatre work. b. Make physical choices to develop a character in a drama/theatre work.
Grade 4: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. Share small-group drama/theatre work, with peers as audience.

Grade 5

Grade 5: Reading Standards for Literature: Key Ideas and Details #2: Determine the theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Grade 5: History: Causation and Argumentation: 5.10: Use evidence to develop a claim about the past.
Grade 5: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation. a. Describe the underlying thoughts and emotions that create dialogue and action in a drama/theatre work. b. Use physical choices to create meaning in a drama/theatre work.
Grade 5: Theatre: Performing: Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. a. Present drama/theatre work informally to an audience.
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ACTive Learning Through Drama with Barbara Washer