Expressing with Passion

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Developing Skills
Expressing Words through our bodies

The teaching team discovers during a book club meeting and vocabulary study that students are struggling to understand the word “consternation.” This discovery becomes a pivotal moment for re-organizing the days’ activities to meet the students’ needs. The teaching artist introduces a theater strategy called statues as a way to activate words like “consternation.” Tanera recites Hamlet’s advice to his Players, “Suit the word to action, the action to the word…” as a way to challenge students to step up to the challenge of using words through their bodies. Daisy finds her expression, “It is fun when we’re given a word
and have to figure it out. When she says the word ‘terrified’ I think about the spider I foundin the shower."

“Can you guess what the word consternation means?” asks the teacher. He models with a face.
A student creates a visual for the word consternation. This drawing uses the teacher’s facial expression as a source of inspiration.

finding voice for the words

Students are often reluctant to speak “loudly and proudly” in class, yet in the hallway they seem to project with expressive voices and body movements. In the classroom students will make small gestures with their hands or arms and think that it is much larger than it really is. We see clear evidence that having students match a gesture with an emotion helps with their reluctance and inhibition to speak loudly and proudly. Some of the gestures come naturally as the word is spoken. We notice Tommy’s head and shoulders going down when he thinks of the word shame. Once the gestures are created to match the individual emotion, we work on making them larger so that it is clear to the audience. The repeated practice and explicit discussion helps students gain the confidence and expands their speaking abilities.

We list emotions on the board: SURPRISE, SHAME, PRIDE, CONSTERNATION and SUSPENSE. To activate the words, students provide a line or a thought that will come out of that emotion.


Working in small groups to ensure trust, students identify specific thoughtsand feelings and match them with voice and body. “Let’s use the phrase ‘I’m so excited... ’to illustrate our words.” Jordan and Tommy are taking a risk with bold physical and vocal expression, while James and Rebecca who have appeared sure of themselves in a group are not so certain in a mini performance in front of the class. One student comments, “It helps to think and find meaning behind the words we are saying
to make a motion with our bodies or to use emphasis.”

The teacher takes time to review a specific teaching strategy. He uses the phrase “see one, do one, teach one” with his students to reinforce concepts of learning, practicing and teaching others. Once we finish the explicit discussion of modeling (see one), students practice emotions and gestures, and are ready to “do one” on their own. Students confer with each other.

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