Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Blogging: Trial #3

Greetings Dear Visitors,

I am ecstatic to share this website/blog and so grateful to Sarah Lowman for helping me to make it happen. As I have run workshops and courses using theatre activities for multicultural and multidimensional learning, I have always found that words to describe it are not enough.  These videos from our summer 2011 course, LLED Theatre for Reflective Practice in the Language Classroom, dynamize the creative, joyful learning environment we shared.  I hope these short videos help convey how the games are played but also some of the “why” and to “what end.”  This is further elaborated in our book, Teachers Act Up! Creating Learning Communities Through Theatre.

As an academic with two small children, I barely seem to have time to get the necessities accomplished let alone to maintain a blog! I think the greatest motivation will be to respond to any and all of your thoughts and ideas, as well as reactions to material on this site.  So please, let’s open the dialogue here and let the show begin.  For now, I have to shift workday gears and review my syllabus for LLED Poetry for Creative Educators.  May the energy of the summer course also infuse the written creativity students and I will engage in this fall.  I am also hoping to complete a few new manuscripts in collaboration with Stephanie Baker and Sharon Chapelle.  Poetry, always poetry–may my prayers be answered and I will make disciplined time to reflect in blog and poetry form on what it’s like to hardboil and peel, contain frustration over endless spilled milk (juice, soup, cereal), wipe, brush, dress, celebrate, discipline, log in, log off, teach, mother, write and all the verbs in between.  I am looking forward to returning to the American Anthropology Association meeting this November in Canada—I am hopelessly in love with Anthropology and the ways it brings the social sciences, humanities, and creative writing together.


I have a meeting now! May we learn about blogging together!



4 responses to “Blogging: Trial #3

  1. Mariana Souto-Manning August 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Congrats on your new blog, Misha!!


  2. Amy Atkinson August 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Hello all!

    Hope the rest of your summers went well. As everyone is starting back to school, I thought I’d share how I got to use some of our theater games this week.

    I was selected to teach two 4-hour sessions of instructor training for H&R Block. Everyone who is going to teach a tax-class this fall had to come to my class for lessons focusing on effective facilitation techniques. I was very excited about this opportunity to pass on the wisdom gleaned from our class this summer!

    On the first day, I used the number ball game in Spanish. We played several rounds normally, then I took the ball away and made everyone play several rounds with a “space ball.” Everyone had a lot of fun! We had a range of people from a fluent Spanish speaker to one older lady who knew no Spanish at all. I was pleased to see how quickly they adapted to using the space ball, even warning participants with “You didn’t catch it! Now it’s over there!”

    Afterwards, we talked about how good facilitation is like the ball game. As the teacher, you are responsible for keeping the ball (of participation) moving throughout the class. If you hold onto the ball too long (lecture), you disrupt the flow of learning. We throw the ball by asking questions and soliciting student input, which should be as directed and purposeful as when we pass the ball in the game. If we throw an uncatchable ball (by asking a question that is too hard/vague), we have “dropped the ball” and must go get it and start over (by rephrasing the question, adding hints, redirecting the conversation, etc.).

    Also, like when we used the space ball, we do not have a real, physical ball when we are teaching. However we must be just as aware and in tune to where the ball is in our classroom. The analogy really resonated with the students, and several people came up with extensions that I hadn’t even considered.

    On day 2, we were discussing how to deal with negativity in the classroom. Several of the classes are mandatory for all H&R Block tax professionals, so it is not uncommon to run into one or two students who complain and refuse to participate. So I had the class do a “Rainbow of Desire” for the unwilling participant to bring to light the many motivations and contributing factors to this attitude.

    Before the activity, several of my students admitted to a prejudice against such students in assuming that they felt themselves to be superior to others and thus above participating. However, in doing the rainbow of desire we explored other possibilities, like feeling sick, being tired (often people come straight from their day jobs to a three-hour course that doesn’t end until 9 or 10 PM), having home issues, being nervous about participating, etc. It was amazing to hear the change in attitude among my students from “Those people are just hopeless cases, there’s nothing you can do,” to real discussion about ways to make our classes safe and welcoming environments for this type of student.

    If I had had more time, there were so many more games we could have played that would have been very relevant, but unfortunately I was already condensing 12-hours of H&R Block Instructor Training into 8 hours, and we ran out of time. But the games we were able to play had a noticeable impact, and I had several students thank me for the fresh perspective and fun we had in class.

    Hope everyone has fun teaching/learning this semester! I can’t wait to hear the ways that y’all use the theater games in your classrooms!

    ~Amy “Aimer” Atkinson


  3. Jennifer August 13, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Hello everyone! How great it was to look through the videos posted and remember all of our fun and learning. It reminded me of more games I want to bring into my second grade classroom. For now, I wanted to share my experience with the name game with my students. I have 17 7 years olds and you just never know what they are going to do or say. I did the name game on the first and second day of school and it was a HUGE hit! Even the new kids felt like they were part of the family instantly and we all had a great time. One funny thing that happened during the game, I was first and did my example and then the child right next to me went into the circle and said his name (CXXXX) and then grabbed his pants and thrust his pelvis towards us and said “equipment” in a very interesting manner. I asked him what he meant and he said like the equipment belt his dad used to work around the house. You can imagine the scene as we imitated his movement and voice for the next 18 times. My principal came in to observe in the middle of it and let out a little giggle after we all got to CXXXX…eQUIPment. Funny!

    Next up is explosion tag and maybe a little space dodgeball. I had forgotten that one but after seeing the video I think it would be a great “brain break” to get everyone up and moving and the blood flowing. Amy I loved your entry, isn’t it great to hear from the students how much they have learned from this type of thing? I can’t wait to hear from everyone else!

    Joyous Jennifer


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