Above: a performance of Giant Bugs 2 by Chicago 4th grader Michael Breen
The Striking Viking Story Pirates of New York City celebrate children’s writing by turning their stories and poems into live musical performances with costumes, puppets and professional actors. What a great way to show appreciation for the creative genius of young writers! You don’t have to be a New Yorker to be part of the show, though. Any young writer can submit a story.
I love that these performers are so committed to preserving the spirit of the works through their acting. While some of what they do is quite funny, at the same time they are completely sincere in their interpretations of the children’s work, celebrating its intentional silliness while reveling in its earnestness. The result is utterly charming.
An easy way to bring performance into a writing class is to ask one writer read her or his story aloud while other students act it out. With young writers, dramatizing original stories is not only entertaining; it can also be a wonderful tool for learning writing skills such as pacing, dialogue, and revision. By noticing at which point in the story the actors get confused, a young writer can figure out what spots of the story may need elaboration. This can also become an opportunity to develop class cooperation and communication, as documented in the work of Vivian Gussin Paley and Patsy Cooper, whose books are well worth reading for anyone interested in children and their stories.
There’s an amazing sense of accomplishment that a young writer feels when seeing her or his work on “stage.” Performance can become a fabulous aspect to add to almost any writing environment!
posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools