T.I.S.D. to Use Drama in Core Classes

If you think acting is something kids do only in drama class, think again. Teachers in Tyler are using drama and acting in science, math and social studies.

A room full of explorers from around the world... but in real life, they're 7th graders at Boulter Creative Arts Magnet School in Tyler. They're just learning about history in a truly dramatic way.

"It's about getting them actively engaged in learning. "Drama for Schools" is working with teachers to get them excited about education and ways to educate their students," said Kathryn Dawson, who is a graduate student at UT-Austin.

She and Professor Sharon Grady were in Tyler this week teaching techniques used in the "Drama for Schools" project.

"It's a great way for kids to understand not just facts, but the reasons why something is done or why it happens," said Dawson.

What teachers and administrators at T.I.S.D. are hoping to see are results similar to what schools in La Joya, TX saw. That's where the program was first implemented in 1996. Schools in La Joya saw higher standardized test scores and better attendance.

"Most times, kids think learning is really kind of dull, boring, not something I want to do, but what we want to do is show them learning can be fun," said George Faber, Director of Visual and Performing Arts at T.I.S.D.

Students in the class and their teacher seem to agree.

"We had talked about all the explorers, we had talked about all their journeys and voyages and stuff, and we had a great time," said Boulter 7th grader Justin Booker.

Classmate Thomas Redwine said he learned a lot too: "Like when she went around the circle like on a radio show, it helped me remember the names of the explorers."

"I think it's useful because it holds the students' attention for a long time, and it also using those higher thinking skills," said history teacher Shelia Kirven, who laughed along with her students in the highly interactive class.

"Drama for Schools" coordinators visited four Tyler schools in all: Boulter and Dogan middle schools, as well as Caldwell and Douglas elementary schools. T.I.S.D. officials say they hope after two years of training and demonstration, teachers will be able to use drama effectively in their lessons.

Julie Tam, reporting.