Arts News, May 31

Chris Parsons, Theater Arts Teacher
May 31, 2019

Third Grade Ensemble-Building

As theater educators, we all talk the talk of “ensemble,” and we tout the virtues of “working together” and the “value of teamwork.”  We stress that everyone is important. We put phrases such as “no small parts, only small players” and “we are all equal parts of a whole” on a loop and recite them instinctively. The truth is though, building an ensemble takes time. When we work on building an ensemble we are also working on building the individual. Students involved in this process learn to work with others, gain experience with interpersonal communication skills and problem-solving, practice active listening and empathy, take risks, and grow in self-confidence.

As part of their theater arts curriculum, the third-grade class recently embarked on an ensemble-building activity known as “newspaper islands.” In this activity, small groups of three to four students are asked to stand on a newspaper-page island. After every round, the island gets smaller and smaller (the newspaper is torn in half, then half again, etc.). Whichever team can remain on the island the longest, together, while still standing on the newspaper without falling off is the winner. In the end, all the students are winners because they have learned to work together!

A student in the air catching an ultimate disk

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By Sarah Merril, director of high school placement |

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