Call for Submissions!

The Youth Theatre Journal is now accepting submissions for 26.1, a special issues
volume that will examine ways that youth theatre practitioners, researchers and
educators engage in critical and innovative directions in research, methodology,
publication and presentation. We are interested in articles that explore ways our
field is collecting, articulating and presenting inquiry both at conferences and in
print. Submissions may be reflections or critiques of innovative research practices
in theatre classrooms, or in applied theatre settings. We welcome both theoretical
explorations of the subject and papers that address youth theatre’s concerns with
these innovative approaches.
• Papers might address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
• The use of performative inquiry, performance ethnography, ethnotheatre
• and/or research based theatre to collect/analyze data and share research
• findings.
• Issues, ethics around performing findings.
• Non-traditional written presentation of data, such as the use of hyperlinks,
• photos and or sound bites.
• The relationship between artists and researchers who engage in research-
• based theatre projects.
• Ways of assessing and/or evaluating innovative, non-traditional approaches
• to research.
Please submit all pieces through ScholarOne, http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/uytj
Submission deadline is October 18th, 2011.
Please direct all question to either;
Dr. Gustave Weltsek, gweltsek@indiana.edu or
Dr. George Belliveau , george.belliveau@ubc.ca

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Children’s Literature Pt 1

One of the projects I’ve taken on this summer is to finally get a cross-endorsement to teach English grades 7-12, something that I was 2 classes short of for several years. The short version of that story is that I started out thinking I needed English certification to teach theatre in Connecticut, but when Connecticut finally added a “unique special endorsement” in theatre I jumped to add that instead. But I DID spend all that money on Praxis tests in English and a course in the History of the English Language (mind numbingly dull, if you were wondering), so I’ve always wanted to get it done. I took an Advanced Composition class in the spring, which was doubly beneficial because it got me finally getting into a draft phase of TWO articles I think I could eventually develop for publication– hopefully I’ll be posting more on those later on.

So now I’m well into my final course, on a subject I adore, Children’s Literature. I’ve tried to use the course to get acquainted with more books that I could use in my teaching work, and also to get a better sense of what works in children’s books and whether and how that connects to children’s dramatic literature. I’ve been thinking lately about what it is that draws me to theatre for young audiences and I know it’s roots are in my experiences with books as a child. Great children’s literature, whether it’s dramatic, poetic, fiction, or nonfiction, is great literature, first and foremost. Maybe it is the simplicity of the vocabulary or the limited length most picture books work within, but I’m taken lately with the realization that so much good children’s literature is so close to poetry. Story stripped to its most essential parts somehow catches the heart more often.

I’ve read quite a stack of children’s books for this course but one thing that I’ve really enjoyed is being exposed to so many outstanding children’s literature websites. It’s great to see what others recommend, and it occurs to me that there’s room for book recommendations on this blog. So,  for your reading enjoyment, here are a few of the best children’s books I’ve read this month, maybe for a later post I’ll brainstorm some lessons around them:

Questions for the World: What great children’s books have you read recently? Or not so recently? What do you think makes for an exceptional story for children?

Teaching Students with Special Needs – Part 4

Substitute taught in a Playwriting class today and it got me thinking about ways I might adapt Playwriting (or Story Writing) for students with dyslexia or simply struggle with reading/writing for one reason or another. Some thoughts:

1. Try having student record their ideas on a microcassette recorder (or a computer if the technology is available). Sometimes writing is easier for a student with dyslexia if they can separate the “writing” part from the “coming up with ideas” part. This would also help with young children who say they “hate writing” when what they really mean is that they hate their wrists getting tired holding a pencil for a long time, not that they hate making up stories.

2. Try breaking down scene writing assignments into smaller chunks. Today I was asked to prompt my group of students to write a scene that followed a particular 8-part structure: A wants something from B, B won’t give in, A tries a new tactic to get it, etc. One student was clearly overwhelmed by the notion of writing a “whole scene” with all of these elements. So I told him instead of trying to write a “whole scene” that he should just focus on the “mini scenes” within each step. I took 8 sheets of paper and wrote each step in the assignment at the top and told him to just focus on writing the part of the scene that was described there, whether it was a line or two or a stage direction, and then move to the next page for the next part and see how far he’d get. I told him later after he finished all the “mini scenes” he could string them together into one big scene but this way he could better just focus on each step.

Question for the World: If you do writing activities with your students, do you adapt your instruction for those with reading/writing challenges? If so, how?

What Makes Children Children?

I find the title of this article, Your Baby is Smarter Than You Think, to be counter-productive, but perhaps in a time when newspapers appear to be on their way out the author is merely shrewd in composing a title that will get attention. (The fact that it is currently the number 1 emailed article on the New York Times website would seem to support this argument. What do I know.) The article itself is quite interesting though. There’s something about the study of children that in essence becomes a study of humanity. I find educational research of the very young to be really fascinating.

One of the (many) issues I’m exploring for possible article writing as I come down from my Conference High is this question of what is it that makes children children, and how should (if at all) our understanding of children impact the direction of Theatre for Young Audiences. My undergraduate thesis focused somewhat on this issue but I’m in a different place now and I think it may be time to have another look at that 9 year old manuscript and see where those ideas can go next.