Friday, May 8, 2009

Theater as a Form of Visual Support

Kids love to play within a defined space--the space helps the child organize the play and by defining some aspects of the play, the child is more able to make the remaining decisions. Some kinds of space are particularly empowering. Visually organizing our clinic space into a little puppet theater brought out previously unseen language and pretend play skills in many of my young friends this week at the clinic. In this game, our Raised Platform served as a stage and helped children play for longer periods of time in pretend play as compared to playing at the table or on the floor. We saw many new play ideas emerge as each child interpreted theater in his or her own way.

Each time a child went into the theater with toys or puppets or props, a new story unfolded. Often the story was just a snippet of an idea and parents or peer playmates needed to fill out the story to make it more coherent--but each child gave us a place to start with varied ideas drawn from their own experience with movies and books. Playing to an appreciative, although small audience of one or two in the chairs set before the stage, most of my young friends seemed to understand the essential idea of performance. The routine of bowing and the audience clapping at the end was the favorite part for many children. Most children did not want the role of being in the audience for long. I modeled new little skits but had to get on and off the stage in record time.

We will start to work with little visual scripts next week, but it was fun to see what snippets of stories each child was able to create with just a little visual organization of space. We are beginning our summer project of using drama and theater to support new language skills and I will keep you updated on how it goes.

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