By Sarah Seibert • Santiago Elementary School • Santa Ana, CA
When I was in fifth grade, my life was forever changed by participating in a play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now, as a fifth grade teacher with credentials in both English language and dramatic arts, I’ve seen firsthand what arts integration can do for my students. But when it came time to complete a research project for my master’s thesis, I decided I wanted more than anecdotal evidence. I created an action research study to assess my fifth graders in the four “21st Century Learning and Innovation Skills”—critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity—both before and after participating in Bad Wolf Press’ The American Revolution musical over a six-week period. I wanted to determine to what extent artisitic experiences in the classroom can help students master the skills they will need to succeed in college and careers.
Before beginning work on the musical, I assessed my 34 students (20 GATE; 14 non-GATE) in each of the four skills using a rubric that I created. We then spent a week talking about and practicing each skill using a variety of games and activities. Over the next five weeks we rehearsed The American Revolution and created costumes, choreography, and sets. Finally we performed for the students’ families and other classes. Throughout the entire process I observed the students, and in the final week I assessed the students again using my rubric.
The qualitative and quantitative data showed that fifth grade students of both genders, and a variety of academic levels, improved in their ability to use the four skills—with the large majority improving in all four! I noticed the most improvement in these specific areas:
- Improved problem-solving in real-life situations
- Improved in their willingness to offer ideas to the group while still valuing the opinions of peers
- Improved in their ability to fulfill assigned tasks without reminders
- Became adept at articulating and enunciating every word of spoken dialogue
- Learned to use their facial expressions and body language as communication tools
- Became comfortable generating and sharing interesting, original ideas
Over the course of the six weeks that we worked on our musical production, I was constantly amazed by my students. In the past, when I had worked on performing arts productions, the children were never given much autonomy in the direction of the plays. In my classroom, I relinquished control for the purpose of observing how well my students could communicate and collaborate with each other to come up with their own creative, original ideas. I was extremely pleased with the results. My students were capable of so much more than I thought they were! Conducting this research also showed me that my non GATE-identified students were just as capable of critical thinking and creativity as my GATE-identified students. The data from this research clearly illustrates that all students, no matter what their academic ability level, will benefit from participating in arts-integrated classroom projects.
You can download and read Sarah’s entire research study here:
We are so honored that Sarah used our play in her study, and so delighted that the experience was so beneficial for her students. WE LOVE RESEARCH STUDIES, so if any of you out there want to use our plays in your own research, please reach out to us and let us know how we can help. Or at least send us the results (whatever they may be)!