Most people like theater, but one of the things we forget when we think of it is that almost every play starts with a read-through, where there’s no acting yet – only interpretation while reading.
This is not only a preparation for more serious theatrical activities but also a great way to develop abilities and skills that are important beyond the art. We are talking about a deeper understanding of the reading material because don’t we all understand things better when it’s something we can identify with?
This week, students in Ms. Francois’ literature class practiced empathy and seeing things from another person’s perspective as they portrayed characters from literature. By putting themselves into the characters’ shoes, the students were able to empathize with them, and by changing their own identities and personalities, they were able to develop profound connections with the characters and their ideas that may or may not be so different from their own.
Contemporary literature as the mirror of our society
Although most traditional school curriculums put emphasis on studying classical pieces of literature, whose importance is undeniable as they are intellectual monuments of our society through history, at Allison Academy, we tend to take a modern approach to understand the world around us. That is why, to gain deeper insight into the matters of society and the world we live in, we tend to take up modern pieces of literature for analysis.
Ms. Fran’s 11th grade English class read Stephen King’s infamous novel The Outsiders. Students portrayed the characters in the book by putting themselves in their place and feeling the hardships they encounter in the story. The union brought about by shared hardships is a common thread in many examples of literature. It is a natural first step to encourage students to look at current events or their personal backgrounds, to make relevant connections, and to examine the examples given in fiction in order to have a better understanding of the issues the contemporary world faces today.
This is also a good way to help students create a family amongst friends. A horror novel may be an unconventional choice for a literature class but didn’t Edgar Allan Poe, the master of classical American gothic literature, also invent the horror genre and yet we have studied his art for ages? That is why Allison Academy brings the best pieces of fiction to life in its classes with the help of its creative and talented students who channel their acting talents, great diction, and a passion for great literature.
Intensifying the literary experience through play
Blending literature classes with reading activities and theatrical exercises such as reading aloud is one of the most beneficial practices that help students develop multiple skills.
This role-playing exercise has multiple great benefits as identifying with the characters in a story allows for a deeper comprehension of the text, enables students to achieve self-connection, and helps them better understand our world. Studying literature can also help students develop perspective-taking skills, i.e. the ability to consider a situation from two or more differing viewpoints. Ultimately, these skills can help children develop compassion and empathy when interacting with others.
One of the incredible things literature allows us to do is dissolve ourselves into the mind of another person, allowing us to have a greater understanding of others and the world around us.