Why This Teacher Takes Her Students to Live Performances Every Year

A former ballerina turned elementary teacher shares the benefits for her students.

Sponsored By TheaterWorksUSA

As a teacher with a dance background, Emily Gage feels strongly about exposing her students to the arts, particularly live performances. “I truly believe the arts are so important for students to experience,” she says. “If I hadn’t grown up with dance in my life, I feel like I’d be a completely different person.”

So when she heard about the opportunity to take her students to a TheaterWorksUSA performance, Gage jumped on it. For her class field trip she was able to take her 23 second grade students to a live performance at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sharing the benefits of theater going with her Title I students is a dream come true.

“Live performances broaden students’ perspectives on the world.”

Most of Gage’s students had never before been to the theater. “At first, many of my students didn’t even make the connection,” she says. “When I said we would be going to the theater, they automatically thought of the movies.” Not only did the performance expose the students to storytelling in a new way, it gave her students a valuable real-world experience in an arena they may not have otherwise encountered.

Before they attended, Gage discussed theater etiquette with her students, such as what kind of clothes to wear and how to behave courteously once they arrived. They took a close look at all the pieces needed to come together to make a performance work: the lighting, the cast, the crew, the props, the layout of the stage. And the students answered questions such as What’s a musical? and What’s the difference between a musical and a play? 

“Live performances help students connect on a deeper level to literature.”

From a strictly academic perspective, Gage loves the fact that TheaterWorksUSA’s live performances bring stories, books, media and educational concepts alive. For example, Gage’s class attended a live performance of Junie B. Jones. Before the performance her class spent time reading and studying many of the books in the series, getting to know the quirky main character intimately.

“My students put a lot of work into making connections between the performance and the books. They had fun comparing the characters’ words and actions on stage and on the page,” she says.

Gage loves discussing performances with her students after they have seen the characters come to life. “The learning continues as we talk about how the performance portrayed the story and how the actors brought the characters to life on stage. The students always hone in on the benefits of the live version of the story.” 

TheaterWorksUSA provides curriculum guides for their school performances. These study guides contain fun activities and discussion topics to enhance students’ connections with the material. Gage remarks that the guide that accompanied her stduents’ performance was a great match for supporting the character trait elements that are part of her school’s IB curriculum. 

“Live performances inspire students to look at the world through a creative lens.”

Gage reflects, “Exposing children to the arts through performance, art, dancing gives students the opportunity to experience stories and, in a larger sense, life in a different way.”

And sometimes, watching a creative performance inspires students to take risks and try something they’ve never done before. “My students can hardly believe that people actually get to do this — act! — for a living,” Gage says. “It sparks a creative interest in them, and many kids have asked if we can have an actors’ club.”

While she hasn’t yet figured out a way to make that happen, her class has been trying out reader’s theater during their ELA time. “We recently did a fairy-tale unit,” says Gage, “and the kids learned so much beyond reading the story, from cooperating with one another to make the story work to understanding the responsibility of their roles. It’s so much easier for them to portray someone they’re familiar with—they become the character. It’s given my students, particularly the shy ones, more confidence.”

Interested in taking your class, grade cluster or school to a theater performance that’s tailored especially for students? Check out the graphic flyer schedule of when TheaterWorksUSA’s school productions are in your area! 

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