Teacher Guide for a Residency Integrating Social Studies, English Language Arts, and Theatre Arts

Explore Social Studies Through Theatre for Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades

Sheila Kerrigan

(click here to download as PDF)

kerrigan at mindspring dot com

919-360-0690 c


The purpose of this residency is to spark student interest and deepen understanding of Social Studies events, historical figures, trends, movements, and concepts chosen by the classroom teacher. The path is through a creative exploration using writing and drama.

Rationale: Why Drama?

The logic behind this residency is that moving and improvising and imagining (what actors and dancers do) can provide fertile soil for thinking and writing. After imaginatively and physically exploring a character, it is easier to write in that character’s voice and point of view.

NCSCOS Goals & Objectives

English Language Arts
Grades K-5, Goal 4 Apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
Grade 2, 3, 4, 5, 2.01 Make inferences and draw conclusions (Gr.2) about characters and events (Gr.3) and themes (Gr. 4 & 5).

Theater Arts
Grade 3, 4, 5 2.04 Create characters and events to use in the dramatic process.
Grade 5, 4.04 Apply sound and movement to display character, mood and actions. 5.06 Investigate text to determine Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Social Studies
Grade 3, 7.01 Identify the deeds of local and global leaders.
Grade 4, 3.02 Identify people, symbols, events, and documents associated with
North Carolina’s history
Grade 5, 4.05 Describe the impact of wars and conflicts on United States citizens, including but not limited to, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and the twenty-first century war on terrorism.

Skills and Concepts Involved in Explore Social Studies Through Theater

Cooperation & Working in Groups: Working with partners; moving safely and with focus in a group; working alone in a group; listening; developing kinesthetic awareness of self and others.
Communication: Communication of ideas, characters, and feelings to others; listening to others; using positive speech when giving peer critiques; speaking clearly with volume and energy when performing; facing the audience.
Creative thinking: Creating a supportive atmosphere so that people can take the risk of creative thinking; using group & solo brainstorming techniques; creating and exploring a character.
Self-expression: using words, movement and body language to communicate thoughts, feelings, characters, and stories.
Writing: writing from the point of view of a character in history; writing in a specific genre (monologue, letter, or poem); incorporating sensory details in writing.

Preparing for the Residency

Four weeks before the residency

Sheila Kerrigan will meet with the teaching team to plan the residency. We will:

  • look at Social Studies curriculum,
  • clarify which Social Studies content areas to focus on,
  • set goals and objectives,
  • look at resources,
  • agree on a schedule, and
  • create assessment tools.

One to Two weeks before the residency

  • Teachers give students a list of content topics to choose from. Students choose a historical character or event to research, take notes and write a short paper or outline summarizing what they know. Students may work alone or in groups of two, three, or four.

By the time the residency begins

  • Each student or group has written a paper with information about their chosen Social Studies topic.
  • Teachers or students have cleared wall, bulletin board, or white board space in the classroom for use during the residency.
  • Resources relevant to the Social Studies study areas are available in the room and in the media center.

During the Residency

Honorable Teacher: stay in the classroom at all times! Teachers, not visiting artists, are responsible and liable for their students. This is not a time for bathroom breaks, phone calls, lunch, doctor’s appointments or meetings. By contracting for this residency, you are committing to being present in the classroom during the entire residency and participating fully in the activities. Please be prepared to model life-long learning for your students, and to work together with me as a colleague and team-mate in the classroom.

I hope to be working with you as a partner in the residency; and I hope you will be contributing expertise, working with groups, monitoring behavior, assisting students who need help, teaching and learning alongside me, and assessing learning and skill-building as they happen. I also hope we can consult together daily about what is working and not working, and how to improve the residency as it happens.

What Could Happen: A Menu

Until we have met and agreed on the Social Studies content, I cannot  be more specific about the residency plan than the following menu of choices:

Check in
Set goals
Agree on guidelines
Warmup: name game
Mime or drama technique practice: control game
Statues game on social studies characters
Move the statues
Deepen the statues
Museum showing of statues
Free-write on details generated by character study in statues game
Write poem, letter or monologue from point of view of character in history
Read to partner, partner gives critical response
Revise writing according to critique
Perform what is written
Answer Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why? questions on paper
Develop dialogue and action that communicates the Who? What? etc. with scribes
Revise writing to incorporate the Who? What? etc.
Perform what is written

After the Residency

At the end of the residency, students will evaluate the residency and assess their progress in stated objectives. Teachers will assess student learning in the chosen curricular content. The teaching team and Sheila will meet to review assessments and evaluate the residency based on our stated goals. We will talk about possible next steps.

Pre-Outline Questions Answers How will you show it?
WHO is the main character? Age? Relevant characteristics?
WHAT is the problem, conflict, or issue at stake?
WHAT does s/he need or want in this scene? (motivation)
WHERE is s/he? (setting)
WHEN does it take place? time of day? season of year? (setting)
HOW does the character try to get what he or she wants? (strategy)
WHY does this scene happen? What happened before to cause this event?
WHAT happens at the climax to resolve the issue?

Your name ______________ Day and Date_______________

Dramatic Scene Action Outline

What is it about? (Theme.)

What happens at the beginning? (Introduction. Exposition.)

What is the conflict and how will you reveal it? (Conflict.)

What happens in the middle? (Build.)

How does the conflict reach its peak? (Crisis. Climax.)

How is it resolved?

Who gets what?

Who loses what?

Who learns or discovers what?

What happens at the end?  (Conclusion. Denoument.)

Your name _________________________Day and Date___________________

Evaluation Questions Answers How did you learn it?
WHO are the main characters you saw? Ages? Relevant characteristics?
WHAT is the problem, conflict, or issue at stake as you see it?
WHAT do you think they each need or want in this scene? (motivation)
WHERE do you think they are? (setting)
WHEN do you think it takes place? time of day? season of year? (setting)
HOW does each character try to get what he or she wants? (strategy)
WHY does this scene happen? What do you think happened before to cause this event?
WHAT happens at the climax to resolve the issue?

Your name ______________ Day and Date_______________

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