Teachers Act Up!

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

Forum Theatre

“Building upon warm-up games and images, we use [a technique called] “Forum Theatre” as a means to place privately experienced, recurring struggles in classrooms and schools as the central focus in pre-service and in-service teacher education. This approach moves away from canned, ready solutions to problems, solutions that ignore the interactional and contextual complexities of classrooms, schools, and society….Forum Theatre provides fertile grounds for addressing the questions: What does one teacher’s conflict reveal about the educational profession at large, and how might this conflict relate to larger social, cultural, and economic issues?” (Cahnmann-Taylor & Souto-Manning, 2010, p. 90).

Pay Attention Please!: The videoclip below showcases the use of Forum Theatre with pre- and in-service teachers.  The protagonist shares a generative story concerning a problem that many teachers experience in our hypertechnical world.   How do you manage the classroom and keep students focused on content learning when they bring cell phones, laptops and other potentially distracting and potentially useful technology into the learning context? In this case the protagonist is a Spanish teacher with a mock lesson on noun-adjective verb agreement (“es una bolsa roja o rojo?”).  Watch the video of the “generative story” and the many different spect-acting possibilities offered by the group.

Interested in what participating spect-actors offered as alternatives? Here are several different options that range from the real to the ridiculous.

1. Clear Instructions, Scrambled Signals

2. Remove the Problem, Cause Another One

3. Clear Consequences

4. Experimenting with the Ridculous

Questions to Consider:

  • Which of these interventions seems real and/or of value? Why?
  • What other interventions might have taken place? [Might students pay more attention to Spanish instruction if the focus were on real-life communication (e.g. facebook with friends in Mexico) rather than a sole focus on grammar?]
  • When teachers perform “ridiciulous” solutions (those that are totally unreal), this generates a lot of laughter.  Why engage in the ridiculous as well as the real?

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