Seattle Educators Learn Theater Techniques for the Classroom

Posted on Wednesday Mar 14, 2012 9:13 AM

Jewish educators participated in dramatic professional development session on March 12. Facilitated by theater expert Joyce Klein, teachers gained new insights about how to incorporate stage techniques into their classrooms for an interdisciplinary, active learning experience. Education Services sponsored the session, which was held at Seattle Hebrew Academy.

Teachers participated in theater-style exercises, followed by role-play and improvisational skits that demonstrated methods to use with students. The key, however, is in the evaluative discussion that is part of the drama activity. Every role play concerns a contemporary situation that connects to Jewish history or text, and it always includes a dialogue about kids' emotions in each situation. The connection to the present often is made prior to delving into the past. That way, students already have a sense of belonging once they read or listen to a story, and they are able to see themselves in the text. "Incorporating drama helps them understand that the text is really about their lives today," said Klein. "Every teacher is an actor with a captive audience to entertain, so steal from the theater whenever you can."

Klein, a Seattle native and the author of The Shabbat Book, lives and works primarily in Israel. She has been working in theater and Jewish education for more than 30 years as a storyteller, director, playwright, and teacher. Most recently, her work has concentrated on creating living history events for families, such as the transformation of a park in the Golan Heights into an interactive village at the time the Talmud was written. As far as costumes, "Jews wore stripes," Klein quipped. She demonstrated a simple, yet historically accurate, costume design that teachers can make for themselves and their students. On the use of living history in the classroom, Klein commented, "Create an environment for them to live in. Theater is a time machine."

Educators will take the techniques highlighted in the session back to our day schools and supplementary schools. This session was part of an ongoing calendar of professional development opportunities; details about upcoming Education Services events will be posted at