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GREAT TEACHING 25 December 2018 Professionally Speaking The Ontario Certified Teacher featured in this profile has been recognized with a teaching award and exemplifies the high standards of practice to which the College holds the teaching profession. their own cultural experiences and knowledge in a way that's meaningful to them," says Matthew. "Drama is incredibly powerful as a tool for learning and means of expression because it combines embedded inquiry with storytelling," says the award-winning teacher. "We undergo rigorous research to tell our stories with integrity — whether interviewing people in our community or plowing through statistics on global warming. We ask ourselves ethical questions: 'Are we telling this story in a balanced way?' That sets the stage for impactful learning." Kennedy strives to be imaginative in how that learning happens. Some students, for example, aren't comfort- able writing critiques or reflections on their work or that of their peers. So she gives fledgling thespians the option to present those on video. To convey dramatic theories and practices, Kennedy focuses on fun exercises. For instance, she has groups develop an original soundscape; they deconstruct what makes a setting sound believable. For a haunted house, students asked what environmental sounds, manufactured sounds and bits of dialogue would create intrigue and realism? This became a lesson in listening, pace, tone, volume and pitch. "It creates an environment that is totally different," says former student Christine Mepstead, who is in her first year of kinesiology at Western University. "We learned in drama class how sound can be as enticing as anything else." A tableau is another way to keep things compelling; it's a moment in time that allows actors to tell a story through facial expression, gesture and use of space. But Kennedy likes to add a twist — she'll introduce music that doesn't quite fit, for instance, a children's choir during a war scene. "I love making unlikely pairings to show how contrast can disrupt the audience's perception and create greater depth," says the 15-year teaching veteran. Kennedy teaches all sorts of students, ranging from those who just need an arts credit, to others who will remain with her for all four years, to PALS (Practical Academic and Life Skills) students with significant learning challenges. For all, the goal is to develop a deeper appreciation for how others think and feel, for which drama is an ideal role-playing vehicle. It can happen in something as simple as an improvisation game, where one student plays a clerk while another plays their customer; and then have them switch and continue their dialogue from the other character's point of view. But what does Kennedy count as an ideal outcome for her students? "We can consider another person's perspective because we have this awesome guise of drama. We can then transfer that to real life, by identif ying our commonalities as well as our dif ferences." This leads to more openness and understanding. Hunter, Kennedy's freedom-loving Grade 11 student, repeats one of her expressions: There are no "shut-ups" in drama. That doesn't just mean don't be rude, but rather let ideas flow freely. "If you shut people up, you shut off their creativity," he says. "Everybody has a creative spark inside, so we should let people express themselves." Sidney, another of Kennedy's students, says this makes drama a place where it's OK to take risks — which has had a profound effect on her overall learning. Sidney now offers opinions and raises her hand more readily in other classes, explaining that: "Ms. Kennedy gave me that confidence." "The 'no shut-ups' message is a culture-creating move on my part," says Kennedy. "I often say during class that we need to accept all ideas for five minutes. You can think an idea is poor but you're not allowed to dismiss it. Ideas are like playing leapfrog … the idea that you hated might be exactly what gets you to an exceptional idea. Like we say in improv, 'yes, and….' It leads you to new places." PS Connecting Beyond Your Classroom Jessica Kennedy, OCT, believes that making connections outside of the classroom — for a more hands-on authentic experience (beyond the theoretical) — is essential for greater student buy-in and deeper learning. Here's where to begin: 1) Tap into history Foster an awareness of history with a museum or heritage site visit. If you can't go in person, search online for virtual opportunities. Use Google Hangouts to link students to a museum curator. Kennedy has her students use these opportunities to develop stories for their drama projects. 2) Engage experts Invite industry professionals (for instance, performers or playwrights) for a class visit, or ask them to connect digitally to impart relevant knowledge, as well as impart inspiration and advice. 3) Use your community Build a relationship with a local retirement residence, for instance, have students ask seniors about their youth, how things have changed over the years or if they have any advice to share. In drama, you can use this research for building characters or a pres- entation. It's a way to learn more about local and world history, and to provoke life lessons. 4) Be resourceful The Council of Ontario Dance and Drama Educators (code.on.ca) offers valuable online support, including unit plans and lessons for K–12 in English and French.

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