Games We Can Play That Teach ELA Standards

Learning can be fun if we make a game out of it. In this workshop for Pre-K-2 teachers, we  play non-competitive movement and theater games that teach a variety of standards, and then parse out how to lead them and the standards they can be adapted to. It’s fun! And educational!

CCR English Language Arts Standards K-1.RL.1 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text. 2.RL.1 Ask and answer who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. K-1.RL.3 Identify (describe) characters, settings, and major events in a story. 2.RL.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. K.RF.2.a Recognize and produce rhyming words. 1.RF.2.c Isolate and pronounce initial, medial vowel, and final sounds in spoken single-syllable words. K-2.SL.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners in groups.
NC Essential Standards in Theatre Arts  K-2.C.1 Use movement, voice, and writing to communicate ideas & feelings. K-2.A.1 Analyze literary texts and performances.
NC  Essential Standards in Dance K-2.CP.2 Understand how to use performance values (kinesthetic awareness, concentration, focus…) K-1.CP.2.1 Use body and voice control in personal and general space.


Using Drama to Elicit Details & Elaboration

Creative drama activities help students discover details in their writing. This workshop for teachers leads them through a process that teaches students how to move safely and with control in the classroom and how to facilitate imaginative and dramatic explorations of characters, places, and situations. These explorations lead to vivid, detailed writing.

Participants will:

  • learn how to teach children to move safely and with control in the classroom
  • learn several game structures that can be used repeatedly and adapted to teach a variety of curricular objectives
  • gain confidence with using movement in the classroom
  • understand how movement games and structures can boost memory, aid kinesthetic learners, foster creative thinking, and teach cooperation
  • make connections between, movement, and their curriculum
  • make creative choices
Curricular Connections
NC English Language Arts Grade 3-8.W.3 Write Narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. Grade 4 2.05 Make inferences, draw conclusions, make generalizations, and support by referencing the text. Grade 5 3.01 Respond to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes by:…examining reasons for a character’s actions, taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character.
Theatre Arts K-8.C.1 Use movement, voice, and writing to communicate ideas and feelings. 


How Do I Get My Students to Collaborate & Discuss Effectively?

The English Language Arts Speaking & Listening thread requires collaborative discussions in pairs, small groups, and larger groups. How do we teach our students the behaviors, methods, and expectations that allow for productive group discussion and collaboration? In this workshop, teachers will explore the basics of effective small group processes (such as sharing leadership and responsibility, paying attention to group process tasks, using positive language, intensifying listening skills, and developing a class norm of skilled collaboration) and how to weave them into class work.

Curricular Connections

CCR Anchor Standard English Language Arts 1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.  3-5.SL.1.b Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. 3.SL.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
NC Theatre Arts 5.C.1.2 Apply appropriate vocal elements of volume, pitch, rate, tone, articulation, and vocal expression in various types of formal and informal presentations. 5.C.1.3 Construct original scripts using dialogue that communicates ideas and feelings.
NC Health ICR.1.1 Classify behaviors as either productive or counterproductive to group functioning.



In this workshop, students learn to create invisible objects and imaginary worlds. They work with partners and learn to: focus on a partner, accept a partner’s offers, lead and follow. They develop kinesthetic awareness, tune into body language, and non-verbally communicate ideas, characters and feelings. They learn the basics of creative thinking. They explore ideas in groups through improvisation and discussion. They create and perform original mime skits that incorporate their new mime skills.

The Durham Arts Council Says:

Mime Artist Sheila Kerrigan impressed students of George Watts Montessori with her multi-talented theatrical repertoire in mime, juggling, and improvisation….At George Watts, Kerrigan began the after school program with a little mime show followed by instruction of simple mime gestures such as being stuck in a box, leaning against a wall, and climbing a ladder. She then proceeded to guide the children through collaborative creative processes during improvisation exercises. Students passed around an imaginary object and transformed it into something new with each subsequent turn. Students then broke into small groups to plan a silent theatrical performance. A showcase of their creations was followed by a discussion of what the audience perceived the performance content to be. Stories took a range of humorous plot lines from playground activity to fishing adventures. Finally, Kerrigan closed off the afternoon with a little juggling practice.

Collaborative Creative Process for Performers

DancersThis residency leads students through a collaborative creative process from setting group guidelines, choosing an initial idea and gathering material about it to performing their finished piece. They follow a structure for making progress on the piece. They create original performance material by improvising, writing, discussing, researching, and re-writing. They practice positive critiques. They learn about group dynamics and healthy group practices such as equitable power-sharing, trust-building and consensus decision-making. As they progress from a simple idea to a composition in time and space that communicates intellectually, kinesthetically, and emotionally with an audience, they learn the fundamental, liberating truth that they can create their own worlds using their bodies and imaginations. They contact and release the power of their imaginations. People who rely on others to create and perform together learn that they can recreate their lives together.

National Core Arts Standards: Cr.1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work. Cr.2 Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. Cr. 3 Refine and complete artistic work. Pr.6.1 Convey meaning through artistic work.


Creating a Cooperative Classroom for Learning through Drama in Grades 4-8

Especially for teachers who want to use movement and drama in the classroom to teach Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts, this experiential workshop demonstrates how to guide students to move in the classroom safely and with control. Sheila includes techniques that build collaborative learning skills into a classroom norm. Teachers gain an understanding of how to lead movement-based exploration of curricular objectives in their classroom. They take home a guide to leading the activities they take part in during the workshop. This workshop was developed during a Kennedy Center training.

Teachers enact the crucial moment in the William Tell story.

What a Kennedy Center evaluator said about this workshop:

“Well-planned, fabulous, engaging, with the right touch of humor–you got tired teachers up and excited.”


Curricular Connections: NCSCoS-ELA Speaking and Listening, Comprehension and Collaboration K-12.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


What Were They Thinking? Integrating Theatre, English, & History in Grades 3-8

In this professional development workshop, teachers experience practical methods for using drama and movement to teach Social Studies and English Language Arts curricular content. They choose figures from history and explore them through movement and imagination; they write from the point of view of the characters they choose and create a brief, informal readers’ theater presentation. Teachers take home a guide to leading the activities they take part in during the workshop, including a script for leading similar activities in their own classrooms. This workshop was developed through a Kennedy Center training.

Body Language and Non-verbal Communication

For students of theater and communication, and anyone who wants to understand what people are saying beyond their words, this workshop breaks down and demonstrates the elements of body language and non-verbal communication. Participants observe and qualify movement in others, learn to bring their unconscious reactions to body language into consciousness, change specific aspects of their own movement, and observe how their feelings and thoughts change as they change their own body language.

NC Theatre Arts Standards: 6-8.C.1 Use movement, voice, and writing to communicate ideas and feelings. 6.C.1.1 Use movement and acting skills to express a variety of emotions to an audience. 7.C.1.1 Use movement and acting skills to express a variety of characters to an audience. 8.C.1.1 Use physical movement and acting skills to express stories to an audience.


Mime and Movement for Actors

For drama students, amateurs, and professionals, this residency or workshop helps  create strong, believable, fully-physicalized characters. Participants experience a variety of physical approaches to character development such as image work, energy work, animals, honing kinesthetic awareness, sharpening focus, developing a presence, exploring rhythm and dynamics, and studying and practicing body language principles. Sessions begin with a warm-up, continue with guided physical approaches to character, improvisation-based physical explorations, reflections on character discoveries, and end with reflection on learning and growth. By the end of the residency, participants  will have a sense of how physicalization can strengthen their focus and enlarge their stage presence.

Ms. Kerrigan’s residency was very beneficial and enriching for my 8th grade Movement class. It complemented our unit on gesture and made valid in very obvious ways how vital gesture and expression are to movement and choreography. Sheila presented very well and maintained a good rapport with the students. I was impressed with her clarity, humor and thorough approach to the material.      –Mary Grady Norkus, Durham Academy


Community-based Art for Social Change

change workshop

Community artists and activists convene for a learning exchange to investigate issues and resources for creating desired change in the community. Developed through Sheila Kerrigan’s work as a lead facilitator with Alternate ROOTS’ Resources for Social Change, ( ) the learning exchange incorporates principles of shared power, open dialogue, an aesthetic that embraces multiple perspectives, and equal partnership to effect personal and community transformation. The learning exchange is experiential and uses arts processes to explore issues and build community.

Site designed by Steven Durland


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