By Laura Mauro, Arts For All Intern

June 22, 2015

During my spring semester at City College of New York, I took a class in which I observed ELL- based students using theater to learn English.  I grew fascinated during this class about what strategies would be most helpful to these students. What I learned was not only “how” we should teach them but also “why” we should teach them using theater as a learning medium.

One of the first strategies that I researched was reading theater.  Reading Theater focuses on repetition and increasing reading comprehension to eventually increase fluency in reading. ELL learners need to read a story many times to gain the fluency that non-ELL students have when they read an unknown text the first time.  In a typical class, they often will read a story one or two times and then move on.  ELL students need more time to practice with a story and understand what they are reading.  This is why the Reading Theater is so beneficial for this population because it gives them time to really understand what they reading without being rushed.

Typically in theater classes, When you put up a full length production the focus is not only the script but on the various elements like sets, costumes and lights that help create the world of the production.  Reading theater allows the text to be the focus of this “production” and, also teaches students how they can use body and voice to enhance the characters in the story.

Another strategy that can also be used to teach ELL students is Tableaux. This strategy is when students create a frozen picture with their body representing a concept that they are learning. An example, is asking students to create a tableaux showing the major conflict in the story they are reading. This technique allows students to physicalize the knowledge and see it rather then just reading it.  Both reading theater and tableaux will help ELL students increase their reading comprehension.

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Students in an Arts For All Literacy Through the Arts Class

Reading comprehension can be challenging for ELL students. This is due to the fact that is often hard for them to engage in what they are reading. Some of issues ELL students might face are insufficient background knowledge to understand a story, which can make it more difficult to identify with the character and situation of the story. That is why strategies like reading theater and tableaux are helpful for these students.

Some of the benefits that occur after using reading theater are an increase in both fluency and reading comprehension. In Kristina Robertson’s article, Reader’s Theater: Oral Enrichment and Literacy development for ELLS,  shestates “ ELLs benefit greatly from having opportunities to read a text many times because it helps them develop fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.”  In addition, Robertson stresses that this work “focuses on enhancing speaking skills like pronunciation, inflection, expression and varied volume.” These elements will then increase student’s engagement in the story. When students are actively engaged in a lesson it is easier to learn more than if they are not engaged. Studying drama helps build students’ confidence and also their ability to complete work. In the article The Benefits of using Drama in the ESL/EFL Classroom,  Chris Boudreault stresses that “ using drama helps the students develop confidence in students ability to learn the new language and that will in turn have impact both in school performance and also developing more engagement in school overall.”

In conclusion, Learning a new language is not easy. That is why using visual or physical strategies can help students not only engage with the material. All students learn in different ways and theater allows teachers to break out of typical teaching and really allows the students not just read about a character but become that character and engage with the story on various levels.

June 8th, 2015

lauraAFA: Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Laura Mauro. I am an artist in many aspects of my life including theater, scrapbooking and teaching. I currently work at a craft store where I am surrounded by arts and sewing all day long. I am also an avid reader and will read anything I can get my hands on. I rarely leave the house without a book and I love young adult literature. When I was growing up, I was one of twenty-five grandchildren and that is where my love of children began. I love interacting with children, watching them and seeing how they explore the world. I have also loved theater and that started in middle school, when I was in my first production of Annie. I also love to travel and go to new places and I hope in the future to get more stamps on my passport.

AFA: What three words best describe you?
Creative, Determined and Learner

 AFA: What is your artistic background? What background do you have in arts education?

I went to a Liberal Arts College called Wells College in upstate New York. I graduated as a Psychology Major but I was heavily involved in theater department as a stage manager. I learned how much I loved organizing and seeing shows progress from table read to opening night. In my senior year, I was involved in two large projects that involved theater. The first project was my senior thesis that explored theater and its impact on various populations including children, teenagers and adults. My second project was that I stage-managed my schools productions of Pygmalion. These two experiences really shaped me and taught me how ingrained theater would always be in my life.

After I left Wells, I started becoming intrigued by theater education. I worked at Props Assistant at Stage Door Manor for two years. This job really opened my eyes up, to the beauty of theater education and how amazing it could be. I then worked at French Woods Summer Camp as props designer and counselor, and I both taught and helped design close to forty shows that summer. I really loved this job. I just wanted more time to teach the kids about prop design and the deadlines made that hard. During this time I had also graduated with MA in Theater from Long Island University: LIU Post. During school I had taken design, stage management and arts management classes and I was so lost about what I wanted to do. I then got hired as an educational intern at Tada Youth Theater and I knew theater education is what I wanted to do. I had never seen theater classes for students as young as 2-8, and I knew that this field really fit all my passions in life children, theater, psychology and learning and teaching. After that I applied and got accepted to CCNY Educational theater program. This program as taught me so much and I am so happy to going to school with some strong arts educators and being taught by an amazing department. I am about to enter my second year and am so excited to see where this path takes me.

AFA: Why did you want to become an intern at AFA?

I learned about this company from my peer Meredith Smart at CCNY. We each had to do a presentation about a company doing educational theater-based work in New York City. I was intrigued by their Literacy Through the Arts program and wanted to learn more. I love reading and using theater to teach reading seemed right up my alley. When I learned more about his company I just really loved their mission statement and what they stood for.

Theater has transformed my life in many ways, and I want all children to be exposed to the various arts, because it has the potential to change their life as well. I have a new little nephew and I want his life and all the other babies being born to have an arts-rich life. That is why I believe so strongly that arts education should start before preschool and stay involved in the education system until college graduation. I think that is why this program really touched me because it exposes children to many things that they have not experienced before. I think being creative is a natural tendency and we should encourage students to always be creative through the arts. 

AFA: What’s your favorite piece of art? Be it theatre, a painting, a song…and why?

This is hard question. I am going to pick a theater piece that has always stuck with me. The first time I saw Wicked was a life changing experience. It was a well -oiled machine and all the pieces worked perfectly. It was the first piece that I saw with a clear director vision that influenced all pieces of the show like acting, set, props and costumes. The show felt to me like a good book that I could get lost in and that really touched me. I have seen this show three different times and that magic is still there.

May 27, 2015

Teaching artists Bonnie Pipkin and Mary Meyer recently finished teaching the Step Right Up! Program at the Green School, a public high school in Brooklyn that has very little funding for arts education. Bonnie and Mary have been teaching this program through Arts For All since 2008. In it, they work with students to write, rehearse, produce and perform an original work of theater. The workshop meets twice a week for ten weeks and culminates with a performance for an invited audience of family and friends.

This year’s play was a zombie-inspired, multi-media piece called Heart and Soul. The students at the Green School did a great job creating and performing this original play! The Green School’s step team, the G Squad, opened the show with a short dance performance.

Here’s a picture from Heart and Soul.

SRU 3 copy For more info on Step Right Up!, click here or email us at learnmore@arts-for-all.org.

Please join us this Thursday, May 21st at Pera Soho for an End of the Year Celebration and Fundraiser, to wrap up the school year as well as celebrate all of AFA’s accomplishments thus far!

Happy Hour specials will be available from 6-7pm at the bar, but we will be there until 9pm!

Complementary appetizers will be provided to guests in attendance

Alicia Marilyn Designs will be showcasing and selling her jewelry collection and giving 25% of proceeds to Arts For All. If you’re unable to attend in person, Alicia is donating 25% of online sales to us this week as well!

Pera Soho
54 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012
Thursday, May 21st
6pm Sharp-9pm

Please invite friends and family, hope to see you there!

Thanks so much to everyone who attended our Annual Benefit Cabaret on Monday, April 13th at 42 West, especially to all the wonderful performers and Arts For All volunteers!  It was such a great evening.  There were wonderful performances by co-hosts, Alexander Gemignani, Steve Rosen, musical director and pianist, Tedd Firth and bassist Matt Aronoff , as well as Kate Baldwin, Elizabeth Stanley, Stanley Bahorek, Conor Ryan, Kristie Kerwin, Kalli Siringas, Erika Hennignsen and Mrs Smith. We are so grateful to everyone who donated their time to make this evening so special and such a success!

Here are a couple pictures from the evening courtesy of stellar Arts For All volunteer, Julie DeVito.

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We’re gathering some great items for the silent auction at this year’s benefit, including tickets to a Red Carpet Premier at Tribeca Film Festival 2016, a gift certificate to L’Artusi Restaurant, tickets to Frieze Art Fair 2015, a three month membership to Crunch Gym and more!

Bidding has already begun on select items on our online auction.
A more complete selection of items will be available at our silent auction at the benefit on April 13th.

Click here to view our online auction.

auction