Welcome to The Value of Theatre Education: Applying the Revised TEKS. The revised theatre Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are to be implemented in the 2015–2016 school year. This lesson will introduce the new fine arts TEKS and focus on the theatre TEKS for grades K-12.

Image of students and teacher rehearsing


Students who participate in a strong theatre program build a broad base of theatre content knowledge and skills. When theatre curricula are implemented with a variety of appropriate instructional methods, all learners have an opportunity to develop to their highest potential.

Theatre students develop capabilities in the following areas:

  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Individual and collaborative planning and implementation
  • Historical and cultural understanding
  • Self- and social-awareness
  • Research skills
A theatre curriculum that facilitates in‐depth learning for all students is comprehensive, well‐planned, scaffolded, and comprised of diverse and challenging educational experiences in theatre.
Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts (CEDFA), Theatre Curriculum Framework

Children and adolescents develop concepts about themselves, human relationships, and the environment by participating in role‐playing. Students of dramatic literature sharpen critical thinking skills by exploring the motivations behind characters' actions, analyzing emotional responses to situations, and interpreting playwrights' intents.

Students who design and construct scenery, props, lighting, sound, and makeup learn to analyze the ideas of others and to apply their interpretations to new works. Students explore and communicate how a dramatic presentation relates to a particular time, place, and culture.

Students become critical consumers of media through careful evaluation of performances in a variety of media.


Image of elementary students and teacher on stage in front of set
By the end of module, teachers should be able to do all of the following:

  • Recognize the four strands of the revised theatre TEKS
  • Identify major changes from the original to the revised theatre TEKS at all levels
  • Articulate how the revised TEKS relate to the revised Bloom's taxonomy, college and career readiness, and 21st century skills

Take a moment to review the original and revised TEKS in the 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. Familiarize yourself with the changes in middle school and high school TEKS by selecting corresponding links above the chart.

The theatre TEKS alignment chart for elementary school theatre shows how skills are scaffolded from one grade level to another. Review the K-5 vertical alignment chart, and continue your review for middle and high school vertical alignment documents by selecting the corresponding tabs above the chart.

Overview of the Theatre TEKS

State leaders in all of these disciplines came together to revise the TEKS. All disciplines share the same introductory language, which reads, "The fine arts incorporate the study of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts to offer unique experiences and empower students to explore realities, relationships, and ideas. These disciplines engage and motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking, and innovative problem solving. The fine arts develop cognitive functioning and increase student academic achievement, higher‐order thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, making the fine arts applicable to college readiness, career opportunities, workplace environments, social skills, and everyday life. Students develop aesthetic and cultural awareness through exploration, leading to creative expression. Creativity, encouraged through the study of the fine arts, is essential to nurture and develop the whole child."

Image of students performing on stage


Becoming familiar with the other fine arts disciplines can be helpful to a theatre educator to engage with colleagues in dance, art, and music.

The fine arts disciplines also all have very similar strands. Becoming familiar with the other fine arts disciplines can be helpful to a theatre educator to engage with colleagues in dance, art, and music. Compare the original and revised strands in theatre below.

Original TEKS Revised TEKS
  • Perception
  • Creative expression/performance
  • Historical/cultural heritage
  • Response/evaluation
  • Foundations: inquiry and understanding
  • Creative expression
  • Historical and cultural relevance
  • Critical evaluation and response

How is Historical/cultural heritage different from Historical and cultural relevance? How could that change impact how teachers and students approach an historical piece of dramatic literature? Or a story drama? Or a devised work?

Photo by Michelle Michel via flickr. Photo used with permission ©2015 Long Center. All rights reserved.

Introduction to the Strands

The theatre TEKS are organized into five strands. In theatre, Creative expression is divided into two parts—performance and production.

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.

In kindergarten through grade 5, the TEKS are organized by content area and grade level. For example, "Theatre, Kindergarten" begins the theatre section. At the middle school level, courses are based on rigor and indicated by Theatre, Middle School 1, 2, 3. This is a change from the original TEKS which were grade-level specific. This now matches the progression in high school theatre courses. High school courses Theatre I–IV represent student achievement levels and do not represent grade level classifications. Theatre Arts I is a general theatre survey course on which all other high school theatre courses are built.

Images of a person working with professional lighting, an old theatre sign, and an amphitheatre


The revised TEKS begin with a brief introduction to the overall goals of theatre which is followed by the knowledge and skills statements. Review an example from Theatre Grade 4.

Theatre, Grade 4

(b) Knowledge and skills.
(4) Historical/cultural heritage. The student relates theatre to history, society, and culture. The student is expected to:

(A) explain theatre as a reflection of life in particular times, places, and cultures; and
(B) identify the role of live theatre, film, television, and electronic media in American society.


Knowledge and skills are stated for each strand at each grade/course level. For each broad category of knowledge and skills, several student expectations are listed, describing how students will demonstrate the specified knowledge and skills. These statements of student expectations provide a framework for instruction and assessment of student achievement.

Design of the Theatre TEKS

The design of the theatre TEKS scaffolds learning, creating both horizontal and vertical alignment of knowledge and skills. With each advancement in grade or course level, student achievement increases in the following:

  • degree of sophistication of knowledge and skills
  • scope of skills and knowledge to be taught
  • depth of understanding required in students' evaluation and response

The fine arts TEKS consider the stages of child and adolescent cognitive, social/emotional, and physical development to ensure that expectations for student achievement are developmentally appropriate.

Image of students performing on stage


Many concepts and principles function interdependently in the theatre TEKS. Although some basic concepts and skills are taught and learned in isolation, they are integrated in the formats of dramatic play, creative dramatics, and theatrical performance. If one production component is weak, the quality of the whole performance is affected. Thus, the four strands of fine arts TEKS work in concert with one another.

The course discovery resource shows examples of how each strand can be taught in the classroom and is divided into elementary, middle, and high school levels. You can also discover new theatre course offerings in this resource.

Photo by Michelle Michel via flickr. Photo used with permission ©2015 Long Center. All rights reserved.

Application of the Theatre TEKS

Image of Andrew Lloyd Webber
The way the strands function in theatre can be demonstrated by analyzing CATS, Andrew Lloyd Webber's record‐setting musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber first conceptualized CATS when reading T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats that he picked up in an airport bookstore.

Webber used the book to write the script and music that casts, technical designers, and production staff have shared with many thousands of audience members. The common perceptual foundation shared by all in the various professional acting troupes performing CATS enables them to communicate Webber's intent through their various specialized roles in the production. This communication is vital to the unity of the production.

Cast of CATS on stage during production


Actors draw on their personal experiences and feelings when interpreting scripts and developing their creative expression and performance. This is developed in every aspect of a production from casting, through rehearsals, to its many performances. The specialists who are involved in a major production, such as actors, directors, lighting crews, stage managers, costume and makeup artists, musicians, and choreographers, have finely honed skills that contribute to the overall impact of the performance. Initial sensory and spatial perceptions are formalized and standardized as elements, principles, and vocabulary. A unique feature of CATS is its junkyard scenery in which everything is four times its natural size, so that the cats appear in perspective to their environment.

Image sources:
Effie via wikimedia
Effie via wikimedia

A production's integrity and ability to interpret playwright's intent relies on consideration of historical and cultural relevance. CATS is built on a strong tradition of musical theatre and cannot be fully appreciated or enjoyed without knowledge of the theatrical productions that preceded it, its significance in the context that it was first produced, or the impact it had on musical theatre afterwards.

Cast of CATS on stage during production


Only through continuous, open response and evaluation has CATS maintained its long run on Broadway, in England, and as a touring production. The casts and crews, individually and in groups, engage in constant reflection on their technical performances and artistic choices to achieve a recognized standard of excellence.

A comprehensive school theatre program, grounded in the sequential content standards of the theatre TEKS, provides a solid foundation of content to influence and enrich students' lives today and into adulthood. Because of the interconnected nature of the strands, an equal amount of time does not need to be allotted to each. Courses may focus in great depth and complexity on specific areas and simply touch on others. With this approach, all students learn a process for self‐expression, develop higher‐order thinking skills, understand meaningful course content, and reflect with increased insight on issues in their communities.

Image source: Effie via wikimedia

The Role of the New Bloom's Taxonomy in the Theatre TEKS

The New Bloom's Taxonomy gives intentionality to higher levels of active learning in the revised TEKS. Take a moment to look at the revised TEKS and consider evidence of Bloom's Taxonomy.

How do the TEKS reflect this in the diagram?

Research is showing that students can learn the lower-level skills of Bloom's Taxonomy at the same time they are learning the higher-level skills, and in fact, they better process new knowledge and skills if they are learning in this way. The increase in action verbs through the kindergarten through grade 12 sequential spiraling of the TEKS helps develop and promote age appropriate, higher‐level thinking skills.

Bloom's Taxonomy Activity

Now that you have reviewed the revised Bloom's Taxonomy, check your learning by matching the skills to the correct position in the hierarchy.

Colorful Bloom's Taxonomy graphic without text labels

The Role of 21st Century Skills in the Theatre TEKS

The revised TEKS also employ the 21st Century Skills, created by Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), in the new standards. Those skills are organized into three categories.

The Role of 21st Century Skills in the Revised Theatre TEKS

Image of a person building a set
Learning and Innovation

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy

Life and Career Skills

  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • School and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility

Think about lessons currently being taught that cultivate these skills. While teachers may already be doing some or most of this, the revised TEKS include these skills in student expectations throughout the theatre courses.

Previously, the introductory language to the standards began with the description of the arts strands. In the revised TEKS, the opening language describes many of the 21st century skills that we know the fine arts teach, positioning the arts as an important factor for student learning across academic domains as well as for lifelong success for all students.

How can a focus on creativity and nurturing the whole child impact arts education, specifically theatre education, in Texas?

Download the interactive PDF to record your response to the question.

Image source: Jorge Royan via wikimedia

Fine Arts for All Students

The revised TEKS acknowledges and encourages development of students in theatre arts. Consider again the opening lines of the revised fine arts TEKS. The rationale for the importance of the fine arts to a child's development is in this language.

"Creativity, encouraged through the study of the fine arts, is essential to nurture and develop the whole child."
TAC §117.102. Art, Kindergarten, Adopted 2013. (a)(1)

The revised TEKS ask fine arts teachers to assure that all students, no matter how many courses they take in any fine arts discipline, come away with knowledge and skills to take with them wherever they may go. What a student learns in the theatre class can impact their lives in their job as a lawyer, a librarian, a construction worker, a teacher, and in their role as a parent or a member of a community.

The fine arts have a unique ability to meet a child at their abilities. It does not matter that they have never seen a performance, read a line aloud, or picked up a hammer. Access to theatre education encourages communication, self-discipline, and evaluation which benefits students regardless of any inherent talent. In particular, the fine arts possess an incredible adaptability making it easy for teacher to meaningfully instruct students receiving special education services or who have language barriers.

Image of child in costume on stage looking out into the audience from behind a red curtain

Technical and Musical Theatre TEKS

Critical to note about the revised theatre TEKS is that there are now TEKS for Musical Theatre (levels I‐IV) and Technical Theatre (levels I‐IV). While many districts have offered Technical Theatre in the past, teachers were teaching all levels of the course without TEKS. Now, teachers have a guideline for what students should know and be able to do when they have completed each of the four levels of Musical Theatre and Technical Theatre. Take a moment to look at these revised TEKS.

Students performing on stage


Carefully look at the introductory language for Musical Theatre. Note where it reads, "The course will enhance and cultivate the creative gifts of each student while encouraging a sense of self-confidence." Like the other courses in the fine arts, the TEKS review committee determined the new Musical Theatre TEKS would highlight the creative nature of the art form and the critical development of skills like self-confidence that will benefit students in many aspects of their lives.

Technical Theatre I also articulates critical skills garnered by students taking the course, "Through a variety of experiences with diverse forms of storytelling and production, Technical Theatre I will afford students the opportunity to develop and exercise creativity, intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills. Participation and evaluation in a variety of theatrical experiences will afford students opportunities to develop an understanding of self and their role in the world." Of course students will leave the course with knowledge of how to use a table saw. More critically, perhaps, is "critical thinking and problem solving" skills that will help students to be successful in all of their endeavors.

Photo by Michelle Michel via flickr. Photo used with permission ©2015 Long Center. All rights reserved.


Image of woman backstage with clipboard, tape, and headset
A quality theatre program at all levels requires a variety of facilities, equipment, and materials for classroom instruction, technical construction, storage, rehearsals, and performance. For elementary school, where the focus is mostly on creative drama, an open space is typically sufficient.

The following are needed for quality instruction in middle school and high school:

  • Standard classroom
  • Flexible theatre space
  • Complete theatre facility

A standard classroom is used for basic instruction and rehearsals.

A flexible theatre space is a large room (ideally a theatre room or a black box theatre) with a high ceiling that can be used for rehearsals, laboratory scenes, and small-scale productions. This setting provides intimacy between performers and the audience, limited scenery needs, and flexibility in arranging platforms and lighting instruments to create various stage configurations.

A complete theatre facility with seating for 500 is preferable to a multipurpose auditorium that seats 1,000 or more. The most common configuration is the proscenium stage, though other configurations include the thrust, arena, and open stages. Flexible theatrical lighting and sound equipment, a box office and lobby, scenery and properties shop, a costume shop, makeup and dressing rooms, and storage areas are essential parts of the theatre facility.

These three types of facilities and an instructor's office with a telephone accommodate classroom instruction, experimental laboratory work, and full-scale theatrical productions.

The traditional proscenium theatre is used for most productions since it provides space for large-cast shows and correspondingly large audiences. Complex scenic and lighting equipment allow for instruction of the TEKS in technical theatre and provide safe theatre conditions. In the absence of appropriate equipment, teachers and students should avoid using dangerous makeshift rigging.

Image of theater with stage and seats


An alternative flexible theatre space helps teachers provide problem-solving experiences that enable students to build, in effect, different theatres by restructuring the room into various configurations. An intimate performance space can also challenge and enrich students' experiences by allowing the staging of little known and diverse types of plays that usually attract smaller audiences. Students can generally use the same support facilities, such as a scene shop, costume shop, storage, and makeup and dressing rooms, for both the traditional theatre and the flexible space.

Numerous large storage areas are critical for protecting the theatre's stock of scenery, properties, costumes, makeup, lighting and sound equipment, tools, and raw supplies. Without storage space, such items can be lost, stolen, or tampered with.


Thank you for participating in this online course. We hope it will help you to implement the revised theatre TEKS into your school district and classroom.

Quality theatre education that puts Texas students first is the goal for theatre arts educators across the state.
Image of children practicing in class



Extend Your Learning: Tools and Resources

There are many resources and professional development opportunities 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 theatre TEKS alignment chart, the theatre TEKS comparison, or the course discovery theatre.

Tools and Resources

Professional Development Opportunities for Theatre Teachers