However, our professor extended our deadline to March 17 at the 11th hour. I have a feeling he does that every semester. We work with a syllabus that has us submitting the first draft in the seventh week, but then he bumps it to the eighth at the last minute. That way, we have a fire under our butts. Half of the class was totally ready to submit this week. I was almost ready....I needed to finish up the last few pages. I *could* have submitted on March 10, but was SO glad I had more time.
During this week, we posted a Status Update to the forum threads. Here's mine:
I am in the home stretch on my paper. I have one more point to make (and one supporting organization that I want to take a deeper look into), and then make my conclusion, and then done. I was prepared to hustle and pull a couple of late nights to get it done by Thursday, but I am glad we were granted a little more time because I’m trying to get my points as tight as I possibly can.
My paper wound up being cyclical and I was really surprised by that! Everything that I dug up about drama play and/or presenting Shakespeare to young children had very similar sound bites – the experts all tout the same benefits. In some ways, the paper has a “air-tight” quality to it, because the same points keep getting brought up again and again, even though the paper is divided into six sections. However, it was also difficult for me to reign it in when a point I was writing about harkened back to a previous point. I found myself going off the rails a few times and I had to do some editing to get back on track.
I met with my mentor, teaching artist Katherine Puma, and interviewed her about the Shakespeare curriculum she has built through many years of trial and error with young children. She kept saying “Keep it simple, keep it simple…trust yourself, trust the children!” I’ve tried to take those words to heart and keep my writing simple.
I honed in on three authors – Sarah Clarkson (an early childhood educator), Dr. Thomas Lickona (child psychologist and lecturer), and Michael S. Pritchard (philosopher). All three mentioned the same problems for children today: excessive consumerism, overuse of technology, and too much standardized testing. All three leaned toward the opinion that young children should have more play time in order to build a strong foundation for managing the temptations and distractions of media and technology as well as the stress and fatigue induced by current scholastic demands.
The research that I looked at included a drama play study that focused on ELA skills and another that focused on mathematics. Both studies had successful outcomes and touted the same auxiliary benefits: the kids not only performed better on standardized tests in both studies after working with teaching artists, but they also showed more classroom unity, self confidence and personal agency with problem solving.
My thesis has pretty much stayed the same. I kept my leading question from Proposal Week One (with a few small tweaks) and gave it direction with a couple of follow up sentances:
In our modern world, where adults collectively joke that it feels like they are missing a limb when they misplace their smart phones, how do we create a generation of children that are successful academically, but also have the wisdom to know when it is appropriate to put down their screens and be present: expressing empathy and a desire to be in community with their peers? It is admirable to strive for academic awards, but those prizes are empty unless emotional and social skills are also developed along the way. An early introduction to Shakespeare curriculum and drama play can set the stage for successful academic, emotional and social development in children, ages five to nine.
I am very interested in how drama play and Shakespeare curriculum can support the whole child, helping them perform better academically as well as learn how to work with themselves (i.e., manage their emotions) and crave engagement with others. I’ve pretty much stayed on that line.
I thought I would go more into Common Core, but alas, it is a can of worms too big for 25 pages! Since it is under a lot of criticism and who knows whether or not it is with us for good, I decided to focus on why it doesn’t work for children under the age of eight and how drama play can prepare them for dealing with rigorous standards (whether they are Common Core or another program) in the upper grades.
Thanks for you support over the past couple of months. I look forward to reading your updates this week.