Introduction

Image of young boy in costume on stage with painted backdrop
Welcome to the module that will introduce you to the newly adopted Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for elementary school theatre. This module will cover the basic processes and concepts taught in elementary theatre, as well as compare the original TEKS with the newly revised TEKS.

Young children learn to walk and speak primarily through imitation. They learn about their personal histories and group identities through stories their families tell. They integrate this information with data from other sources in their environments, forming their own identities through activities such as dramatic play. These natural processes of child development form the basis of theatre education in the early grades.

The focus of elementary theatre is creative drama, a form of theatre in which teachers guide learners through processes of imagination, enactment, and reflection.

A form of playacting based on improvised dramatization, creative drama uses stories drawn from literature, history, and current events to inspire children’s original thought. The success of creative drama depends on the choice of relevant, appropriate resource materials. In kindergarten through grade 5, teachers and students use printed materials solely as a resource to stimulate their imaginations.

Theatre education provides excellent opportunities for children to explore and experience connections to other historical periods and cultures. The theatre TEKS are closely aligned with the social studies curriculum in elementary school, providing teachers with opportunities to teach theatre processes and knowledge while enhancing students' understanding of the world around them.

Building Skills and Knowledge

The skills and knowledge of creative drama are carefully structured throughout the elementary curriculum.

Young children build perceptual skills by:

  • imitating and re‐creating the world around them,
  • developing body awareness and sensory and emotional perception,
  • exploring the environment, and
  • playing with sound.

Instruction in beginning theatre techniques establishes a foundation for creative expression that can be built upon in later years, using approaches such as unison play, side coaching, and pair playing. In unison play, the teacher provides a stimulus as each child plays the same role simultaneously, yet independently of the other children. Side coaching, a skill used throughout the process of developing and refining acting skills, begins with the teacher suggesting actions and ideas from the sidelines. In pair playing, the basis for dramatic plot, students work in small groups, deciding among themselves how a scene will be staged.

Image of older actor practicing lines and image of two young children with puppets

 

As they get older, children engage in warm‐ups and theatre games to help them move from dramatizations with simple plots to ones with more complex plots, characters, and ideas. Pantomime, or non‐verbal movement, develops from early stages of spontaneity and imitation to structured movement that communicates specific emotions and ideas.

Following the theatre TEKS continuum, students advance from teacher‐directed activities to projects in which they demonstrate independent thought and action within a larger group structure to communicate their own messages. Alternating as players and observers in creative drama lessons, students begin to learn appropriate audience conduct. Participating in classroom conversations and critiquing drama experiences builds the foundation for independent reflection about dramatic events experienced in school and at home, in live or filmed formats. Scaffolded, or sequenced, theatre instruction helps children develop the concepts, techniques, and skills that serve as the basis for understanding formal productions in which they observe others perform.

Objectives

Image of girl reading a script in costume on stage
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to do all of the following:

  • Identify differences between the original and revised elementary theatre TEKS
  • Articulate some of the guiding principles behind the revised elementary theatre TEKS
  • Revise current lesson designs in order to align them to the revised elementary theatre TEKS

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the revised elementary theatre TEKS.

Please take a moment to review the elementary theatre TEKS alignment chart for elementary school theatre to see how skills are scaffolded from one grade level to another.

Review the elementary theatre TEKS comparison. Refer to this chart as we look at some of the changes in each strand. The side‐by‐side chart shows the changes in the elementary school theatre TEKS from the original TEKS to the corresponding revised TEKS.

Overview of the Revised TEKS

There are many changes between the original and revised elementary theatre TEKS. However, we don’t have to examine each one. All the fine arts TEKS were revised through the lens of creativity. In this case, the focus is on the art of theatre‐making rather than the craft of theatre‐making. Just because a child is making something does not necessarily mean they are being creative.

Image of group of young students practicing on stage
All the fine arts TEKS were revised through the lens of creativity.

The reason for the focus on creativity is the understanding that developing creativity through the fine arts is central to student achievement and sound child development. In the revised TEKS, the important skills learned in theatre are essential skills for student learning across academic domains as well as for lifelong success. In this module, you will see some differences in all strands of the elementary theatre TEKS. Then, we will think about how the revised TEKS will impact your lesson planning and teaching.

Introduction to the Strands

This module will focus on the kindergarten through grade 5 theatre TEKS. Please review the course discovery elementary theatre to get an overview of the elementary school theatre TEKS and examples of what using the revised strands might look like in the classroom. Take a moment to review the charts before we discuss each strand. Keep the charts handy to refer back to them as we review each strand.

Image of group of young students practicing on stage

Theatre Strands

 

Foundations: inquiry and understanding
The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment using elements of drama and conventions of theatre.

 

Creative expression: performance
The student interprets characters using the voice and body expressively and creates dramatizations.

Creative expression: production
The student applies design, directing, and theatre production concepts and skills.

Historical and cultural relevance
The student relates theatre to history, society, and culture.

Critical evaluation and response
The student responds to and evaluates theatre and theatrical performances.

Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

The first strand in all theatre courses was previously called Perception and is now Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The TEKS review committee was charged with making the standards accessible to generalist teachers who are often charged with fulfilling this instruction in their classrooms. As a result, the elementary theatre TEKS call for the use of common objects to represent setting, characterization, and actions. Teachers do not have to create a set, elaborate costumes, and blocking to successfully implement the TEKS and help students engage in dramatic play.

Defining and demonstrating correct use of basic theatrical terms is now expected in the fourth grade. This is the first introduction of theatrical terminology in the elementary theatre TEKS. In the earlier grades, teachers are concerned with safe use of movement and voice. Students participate in dramatic play, but they are not creating it. They imitate. You will need to be prepared to provide examples of the terms in dramatic presentations and to use the terms during dramatic activities. Review the course discovery grade 4 theatre to view how the Foundations: inquiry and understanding strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised elementary theatre TEKS looks like in a grade 4 classroom.

Image of young girl with a shoebox theatre

 

Perception Moves to Foundations: Inquiry and Understanding

 

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

Theatre, Grade 4(1) Perception. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment, using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to:

(F) represent environment, characterization, and action.

Theatre, Grade 4(1) Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to:

(F) use common objects to represent the setting, enhance characterization, and clarify action.

 

Creative Expression: Performance

Image of children on stage in holiday-themed performance
Students are expected to dramatize literary selections as early as grade 5. Students start building toward that dramatization in kindergarten when they assume roles through imitation and re-creation. They move into role play in real life and imaginative situations through narrative pantomime, dramatic play, and story dramatization. The Creative expression: performance strand indicates that not only are students expected to be creative, but they must also define creativity and think about their work.

Review the course discovery grade 5 theatre to view how the Creative expression: performance strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised elementary theatre TEKS looks like in a grade 5 classroom.

Creative Expression: Performance

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

Theatre, Grade 5(2) Creative expression/performance. The student interprets characters, using the voice and body expressively, and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to:

(D) dramatize literary sections in pairs and in various groupings and create simple stories collaboratively in improvisations and story dramatizations, describing the characters, their relationships, and their environments, and demonstrating a logical connection of events.

Theatre, Grade 5(2) Creative expression: performance. The student interprets characters using the voice and body expressively and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to:

(D) dramatize literary sections in unison, pairs, or groups, demonstrating a logical connection of events and describing the characters, their relationships, and their surroundings; and

 

Creative Expression: Production

Image of a young boy and girl behind a small theatre set
In the Creative expression: production strand, students apply design, directing, and theatre production concepts and skills. This strand is designed to scaffold theatre lessons beginning with creative play in kindergarten. In the early years, students learn to exercise control of themselves, their voices, and movements in creative play. In kindergarten, students start to create playing space using common objects such as tables or chairs and then move into selecting aspects of the environment, such as location, climate, or time, for use in dramatic play. By grade 5, students should be able to focus on others as well as themselves, use theatrical vocabulary, and create spaces and stories. One new student expectation in this strand is that students are expected to "observe live and multimedia theatrical performances." Beginning in grade 3, teachers should seek opportunities for their students to watch and discuss live performances.

Review the course discovery grade 3 theatre to view how the Creative expression: production strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised elementary theatre TEKS looks like in a grade 3 classroom. Grade 3 is where students start to make connections between the technical elements of theatre and character, place, action, and theme. Students start to identify and use technical theatre elements such as props, costumes, sound, and visual elements that define character, the environment they are creating, the action of the dramatic play, as well as theme.

Creative Expression: Production

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

Theatre, Grade 3(B) Creative expression/performance. The student is expected to begin to use simple technical theatre elements.

Theatre, Grade 3(B) Creative expression: production. The student is expected to use simple technical theatre elements, costumes, sound, and visual elements that define character, environment, action, and theme.

Historical and Cultural Relevance

Image of actor on stage in elaborate costume and make-up
The original theatre TEKS strand called Historical/cultural heritage is now Historical and cultural relevance. Notice how grade 2 student expectations have shifted from the original TEKS to the revised TEKS. By including fables, myths, and fairy tales from a variety of cultures, students will be able to experience more perspectives than those represented in their everyday environments. In grade 5, students are expected to explain theatre as a reflection of life in particular times, places, cultures, and oral traditions specific to American history, reflecting a move from fantasy to reality and the corresponding differences in theatrical representations.

Review the course discovery grade 2 theatre to view how the Historical and cultural relevance strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised elementary theatre TEKS looks like in a grade 2 classroom. Once a fable, myth, or fairytale has been read, students assume roles and, through dramatic play, are able to re-create the story they read using found objects. They could also extend the story beyond the ending of the written text. Students might also re-create the entire story to be relevant to their own time or culture.

Historical and Cultural Relevance

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

Theatre, Grade 2(4) Historical/cultural heritage. The student relates theatre to history, society, and culture. The student is expected to:

(B) identify diverse cultural dimensions in dramatic play.

Theatre, Grade 2(4) Historical and cultural relevance. The student relates theatre to history, society, and culture. The student is expected to:

(B) explore diverse cultural and historical experiences through fables, myths, or fairytales in dramatic play.

Critical Evaluation and Response

Image of students on stage during performance
In the Critical evaluation and response strand, students respond to and evaluate theatre and theatrical performances. As the student progresses from kindergarten through grade 5, expectations are scaffolded. In kindergarten, for instance, students are expected to respond to dramatic activities through discussion. In grade 3, they are asked to look at the elements of theatre and the use of movement, music, and visual components in dramatic activities and performances. Then in grade 5, they identify how movement, music, and visual components enhance ideas and emotions depicted in theatre.

The following comparison of the original grade 5 TEKS for ideas and movement highlights the differences of the revised standards. Rather than "compare and contrast," students are asked to use higher‐order thinking skills to discuss how movement, music, or visual elements enhance theatre in and outside of the classroom. Review the course discovery grade 5 theatre to view how the Critical evaluation and response strand is taught. You may also wish to view the examples provided to see what teaching with the revised elementary theatre TEKS looks like in a grade 5 classroom. After viewing a live performance, students identify the emotions that were depicted in the production through the use of not only movement, but also music and costumes as well as the elements of theatre.

Critical Evaluation and Response

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

Theatre, Grade 5(5) Response/evaluation. The student responds to and evaluates theatre and theatrical performances. The student is expected to:

(C) compare and contrast ideas and emotions depicted in theatre, dance, music, and art and select and explain the use of movement, music, or visual elements to enhance classroom dramatizations.

Theatre, Grade 5(5) Critical evaluation and response. The student responds to and evaluates theatre and theatrical performances. The student is expected to:

(C) identify and discuss how movement, music, or visual elements enhance ideas and emotions depicted in theatre.

 

How Lessons Change with the Revised TEKS (Grade 2)

Take a moment to look at the activities and the corresponding student expectations for the original and revised lesson samples listed below.

What differences do you notice in both the TEKS student expectations and also the activities in the lessons?

How Lessons Change with the Revised TEKS

Original TEKS Revised TEKS

TITLE: Dramatizing Story
GRADE LEVEL: Elementary, Grade 2
ORIGINAL TEKS ADDRESSED: Theatre, Grade 2 (4)(B). The student is expected to identify diverse cultural dimensions in dramatic play.
ACTIVITIES: The teacher tells a story of a child who wants to be a star. She stops to ask questions about who this character might be, selecting identity markers with the students. The students pantomime the story of the child becoming a famous singer.

TITLE: Dramatizing Story
GRADE LEVEL: Elementary, Grade 2
REVISED TEKS ADDRESSED: Theatre, Grade 2 (4)(B). The student is expected to explore diverse cultural and historical experiences through fables, myths, or fairytales in dramatic play.
ACTIVITIES: The teacher retells the story of el Cucuy, a traditional Latin American legend. The teacher then guides the students in narrative pantomime of the legend, and the students reenact the story in groups.

Resource: El Cucuy: A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish (English and Spanish Edition) by Joe Hayes.

Image of students in theatre class

The original lesson sample is based on the student expectations in the original TEKS under the Historical and cultural heritage strand.

The revised lesson sample illustrates how to include cultures that the teacher and student may or may not already be familiar with and to explore other cultures together. In this example, a grade 2 teacher has adapted the activities to include a legend from Latin America rather than using a simple fairy tale with a message. The teacher might first ask the students if any of them have heard of Cucuy. While Cucuy is a legend and tales of Cucuy have been passed down orally through generations, there is also a book resource for teachers to use.

How Lessons Change with the Revised TEKS (Grades 3 and 4)

Download the grade 3 lesson. This document gives another example of an original lesson that was modified based on the revised TEKS. Take a moment to compare and contrast the original lesson and the revised lesson.

What do you notice?

Image of a group of students on stage with their teacher

Download and review the original grade 4 lesson. Take this lesson, which is based on the original TEKS, and revise it based on the revised student expectation shown.

As you complete this activity, consider the following questions:

  • What are some ways you can revise the lesson based on the specificity of the student expectation?
  • How might you incorporate creativity and meaning? For example, in the lesson incorporating the original TEKS, the teacher provides all of the sounds.
  • What would happen if a group of students make sounds with found objects while another group of students respond physically to those sounds? By opening up the lesson, students have more opportunity to engage their creativity.
  • In what ways might your assessment change?

Reflection Activity

Download the interactive PDF to record your responses to the following questions:

  • What are some ways you could revise the lesson based on the specificity of the student expectation?
  • How might you incorporate creativity and meaning into these lessons?
  • In what ways might your assessment change when basing lessons on the revised TEKS?

How Lessons Change with the Revised TEKS: Your Turn

Image of a group of young children with colorful drawings in the background
Now find one of your own lessons. Use the lesson plan template and choose one of the original TEKS student expectations on your lesson plan and replace it with the revised student expectation(s) from the TEKS you downloaded at the beginning of the module.

What are some ways you might adapt your lesson to embrace the revised TEKS?

You don’t have to start over, but it is important to reflect, revise, and align to be sure the revised TEKS are incorporated and that the best possible theatre education is offered to our students. We want to encourage 21st century learning, college and career readiness, and of course creativity every day.

The Revised TEKS with Considerations for Students with Special Needs

Students with special needs who need accommodations required by Section 504 or special education individualized education programs (IEP) can benefit greatly from theatre classes. Theatre teachers may benefit from training that will help them ensure that their theatre classes are meeting the needs of all students. They also need to be aware of all accommodations required for their students and have easy access to students' plans as well as the resources needed to accommodate all student needs.

Image of group of young students practicing on stage

Some examples of opportunities for inclusion for special needs students might be:

  • Devising a theatre piece with a deaf student and other students and including sign language performed by all students
  • Helping a student who struggles behaviorally find his or her creative outlet in theatre
  • Having other students assist a student who is blind or visually impaired by describing a setting or environment or creating a touch tour.

These are a few examples of how the new theatre TEKS guide teachers to develop student skills by using kinesthetic, aural/oral, and visual techniques to address all learning styles to reach all learners.

The Revised TEKS with Considerations for English Language Learners (ELLs)

Image of teacher reading a story to a group of students
English language learners (ELLs) also benefit a great deal from theatre class. Elementary teachers, through the use of the English Language Proficiency Standards alongside the TEKS, can provided substantial support for ELLs even as they grow proficient in the skills of theatre and creativity.

Theatre classes provide great opportunities for students to practice the following skills:

  • Producing sounds of newly acquired theatrical vocabulary
  • Sharing information in cooperative learning interactions, such as dramatic play
  • Narrating, describing, and explaining with increasing specificity and detail when responding to a performance
  • Responding orally to information presented in a wide variety of visual media

To help students connect learning, teachers can incorporate the four language domains in theatre curriculum.

The Four Language Domains

Listening is the ability to understand spoken language, comprehend and extract information, and follow social and instructional discourse through which information is provided.

Speaking is the ability to use spoken language appropriately and effectively in learning activities and social interactions.

Reading is the ability to comprehend and interpret written text at the grade-appropriate level.

Writing is the ability to produce written text with content and format to fulfill grade-appropriate classroom assignments.

The theatre TEKS directly call for skills in all of these areas. For elementary students, participating in dramatic play enables students to embody words and ideas which results in English language production and understanding for ELL students. Through storytelling and dramatizations, students work with peers in comfortable learning communities.

Conclusion

The revised TEKS have been designed to engage and motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking, and innovative problem solving. Elementary school students are encouraged to be creative and are led to discover and understand cultural and historical relevance so that they can begin to make real‐world connections.

Group of young children in costumes in front of a set

Quiz

Extend Your Learning: Tools and Resources

There are many resources and professional development to help align a district’s curriculum and teacher instruction to the revised theatre TEKS. Listed below are a few that will be beneficial to creating and developing a program. Take a moment to review each one. Bookmark these resources or some of the others used in this module, such as the elementary art TEKS alignment chart, the elementary theatre TEKS comparison, or the course discovery elementary theatre.

Tools and Resources

Professional Development Opportunities for Theatre Teachers