Three English teachers at Platteview High School came together to conduct research that would eventually be published in the English Journal for the National Council of English Teachers.
Michael Kersulov, Kelly Falch and Anna Hartwig worked together on the article, ”Classroom Drama: Roleplaying Fictional Characters in a Political Debate.” Their work appeared in the January 2021 edition of the English Journal.
“What’s unique about this particular journal is that it is not just for researchers and it’s not just for teachers or practitioners, but it’s really for both at the same time and it’s one of the only journals that we have for English education,” Kersulov said.
The article took a look at brining in drama and theater into the English Classroom to help students explore literature and real world topics at the same time.
Hartwig said when teachers allow students to do performance based learning it allows them to get out of their comfort zones.
“I think that lots of times kids shy away from the theater because it’s fear of the unknown and then they find that once they try it, one that it’s not very scary at all, but that they actually kind of enjoy it,” Hartwig said.
Students were assigned a character and to interpret how the character might respond to a political issue.
There were around 10 characters to choose from across multiple genres and countries.
“So there wasn’t really a right or wrong answer as long as the student could support it from the text and I think knowing that they weren’t going to be wrong was freeing for them too,” Hartwig said.
Students worked on several different activities throughout the to eek long unit.
“They had to create a campaign poster, they had to create a campaign commercial, they had to write a script, create a costume they had to physically debate each other as their characters,” Kersulov said,” “So by creating, not only these multiple texts, whether it was a poster a script, note cards or a commercial, all of those different steps were, in their own sense, a small reenactment of acting or a small reenactment of performance.”
Falch said the idea for the article came about when discussing the English final during a plan period with the entire English department.
“I had this idea to let kids choose a character and then I turned that person into a presidential candidate and then Anna and Mike just kind of jumped in and gave me their ideas as well,” Falch said, “it was definitely a collaboration of all of our ideas and they all had different ways of going about doing it.”
Falch said the English teacher trio spent around two and a half weeks on the project and all agreed that next year they would extend the project, if they do it again.