Monday, February 28, 2011

Beware the Jabberwock: An Arts/Theatre Workshop

Below is the agenda for the 90-minute workshop taught tag-team with an art teacher from my elementary school, at the FAEA winter conference in Santa Fe last week, a conference of art teachers and school administrators from all over New Mexico.

One of the purposes is to share and demonstrate ideas for lessons or lesson units that integrate the arts with other academic learning, in this case language arts. We presented this as a way to help elementary students (4th or 5th grade in this case) fall in love with language.

This went over so well with the adults I suddenly want to start doing similar workshops with adults.


Introductions - 1o minutes.

Warmup for reading, passing out Lewis Carroll's poem, Jabberwocky - 5 minutes.

Reading Jabberwocky together - 5 minutes.

Discovering words - 10 minutes.

This is where readers individually go through and pick out some of their favorite words. Jabberwocky includes many wonderful nonsense words that look neat on the page and/or are delightful to say. Like frumious! Or frabjous!

We begin to talk about texture with words like tulgey and slithy. Some words, like whiffling and gallumphing, may suggest qualities of movement. The words may also suggest shape and form.

ELLs can play around with these words because they are nonsense and therefore they can command the language using what they already know about language, from Spanish and English. Different pronunciations of outgrabe are fine in this lesson. It's a chance for the teachers and students to discuss what rules of pronunciation they know.

Art time - 15 minutes.

Now it's time to make art. Taking inspiration from a favorite nonsense word, we draw pictures that somehow represent our favorite word. After everyone has had time, we throw the pictures down in the middle and whoever wants to talk about theirs may do so.

If there is time, we go back to the poem and pull out the specific adjectives and verbs that describe the Jabberwock and using those clues, everyone draws a quick sketch of the Jabberwock. There is a lot of room for interpretation here and the variations are quite fun.

Break - 5 minutes

Warm-up for movement - 5 minutes

From Image to Movement : Solo Exploration - 10 minutes

With side coaching from me, everyone explores creative movement inspired from a favorite word. What does "whiffling" look like? What is a gallumphing walk? Are we feeling slithy today?

Group movement collaboration - 15 minutes

Working in groups of 5-6, we practice by playing a basic machine game, the kind of thing everyone does in a theatre class eventually, making one machine with each person's body simulating an interlocking piece of machinery that moves and makes some kind of sound.

Next is a transition to making an animal: less mechanical, more of a flesh-and-bone body, but still using everybody in the group as part of one body. Groups discuss the body parts and create a Jabberwock that can move across the floor safely.

As time allows: sacrifice a classmate to the Jabberwock, allowing him or her to be eaten by the Jabberwock and then get pooped out. (Hey, I work with fifth graders.)

As time allows: slay the Jabberwock. Give a classmate a big boppy tube and let them slay the Jabberwock, which then dies a dramatic death.


fdwil111 said...


Secondly, many years ago when I was a pre-teen, my buddies and I had much fun "recording" radio plays from a book containing several 30-minute and 1-hour plays. Alas, I've lost the book, but it was a fun exercise in reading aloud and public speaking.

Algernon said...

For young people to take such joy in reading aloud and speaking publicly is also to foster something critical in their education, which is why my school's principal wanted a theatre teacher.

It's not just anecdotal, either. Research shows flourishing language development particularly among young English-learners when they are doing readers' theatre and similar work.