Using the Arts to Unlock Student Potential

Date of event: December 10, 2013

Location: Athenaeum Theatre

Intended Audience: Program managers

The day consisted of two workshops led by professional teaching artists. Participants donned their winter coats, as the building’s heat wasn’t working, and made their way to both sessions.

Workshop: Using Drama Techniques to Unlock Student Potential

Using role play to explore communication and relationships.

Facilitated by: Jacob Watson and Alyssa Vera Ramos, For Youth Inquiry

Participant packet for download (pdf format): Participatory Theatre for Youth Engagment


  • Scaffold exposure/risk level of activities so students build trust and confidence: Jacob and Alyssa encouraged participants to scaffold their use of drama techniques with their students. Start with safe group activities and warm-ups like “think-pair-share” or “stand if you agree.” (See “Low Exposure Activities” on page 4 of their participant packet). After students build trust among themselves and the classroom facilitator, they can move on to higher exposure activities like improvising a scene or sharing personal stories. (See “High Exposure Activities” on p. 5 of the participant packet)
  • Using “Tableau” as a tool for engaging students in interpreting text and exploring a theme: Tableau is a common drama tool used both as a student engagement activity and an assessment tool. In this example, the participants had read a story about a girl and her boyfriend. The girl was wary of public affection and wasn’t sure how to draw boundaries for herself. In the video, Alyssa walks participants through creating a tableau about a character’s feelings in the story. To see a short video of the tableau activity, click here:

Workshop: Using Art-Making Techniques to Unlock Student Potential

Art-making is an effective way of engaging students in learning and reflection.
Art-making is an effective way of engaging students in learning and reflection.

Facilitated by: Emilio Robles, professional teaching artist

Participant materials for download:

Workshop highlights:

  • Found Poems: Found poems engage students in deep thinking about a particular topic and can be a nice assessment and reflection tool for both teachers and students. Emilio took participants through the process of creating a found poem. Students respond to a question with individual writing and then boil down that writing to key words and phrases. Small groups combine their distilled thoughts and co-create a poem that is read aloud to the class. (See the “Found poems activity” document for full directions.)
  • Treasure Maps: Treasure maps are student-created visual representations of a student journey, whether it be a journey to a goal like college or graduation or a journey through a difficult time in their life. They help students break down the steps necessary to acheive their goals. Emilio demonstrated his treasure map and talked through his thinking about why he illustrated what he did. He provided art-making supplies for participants to create their own.

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