Made to Measure: Developing Emotional Literacy - Blah Blah Blahs Theatre Company
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Made to Measure: Developing Emotional Literacy

24 Apr Made to Measure: Developing Emotional Literacy

Caitlin Wall and Imogen Fletcher are MA Applied Theatre and Intervention students at the University of Leeds.  They recently observed several sessions of the Blahs’ Made to Measure work in schools.  These are dynamic bespoke projects co-constructed with schools, where teachers and artists work in partnership to develop new understandings and classroom practice using drama and story based approaches to learning. The sessions were led by Senior Creative Practitioner Pavla Beier and took place with Year 3 and Year 4 classes. This blog records Caitlin and Imogen’s perspectives on the value of drama in developing children’s relationships, agency and emotional literacy.

Through a combination of storytelling, group activities, still images and reflective writing, the Blahs encourage children to question and delve into the narrative on a deeper level, considering how characters might be feeling or how conflicts may be resolved and ultimately providing a rewarding experience for both the children and their teachers.

Each session started with a group story-telling activity, building a relationship between children and adults, and giving the children the opportunity to contribute. By simply sitting with the children around a square on the floor, the facilitator effectively created a communal atmosphere, with everyone on an even level. Crucially, in this first activity no suggestions from the children were questioned or critiqued. This gave a sense of agency to the child and encouraged them to follow their imagination. Additionally, this participatory exercise was by no means forced, as each child had the option of whether they wished to contribute or skip their turn. This warm up activity created a comfortable and conducive atmosphere in which the children were invited to become active participants in their learning.

The sessions we observed connected to existing classroom texts and topics, but we were also aware that emotional learning was taking place. A particular activity that gave focus to this included the involvement of the teacher. As a teacher would usually be seen as a figure of authority, it was interesting to see them become as actively involved as the children, breaking down pre-existing power balances usually seen within a classroom setting. In one exercise, the teacher sat on the floor in the middle of the circle, posing as the main character within the story. The children were then asked about how the character would be feeling within his current situation. This activity brought both child and teacher together, working within the same performance space.  Themes of empathy and understanding were explored throughout the workshops as the children were asked to relate to the character’s emotional state and understand how they would feel within the situation themselves.

The work also appeared to strengthen the bonds between the children, particularly during group activities. For those who are usually shy or unsure of speaking in front of the class, this was an opportunity to thrive within a creative environment, where a range of individual responses were accommodated and used.
The development of a child’s character, emotional understanding and wellbeing is  something that should be nurtured within their time at school. This type of work allows these developments to be explored and acted upon without the children feeling pressured, exposed or vulnerable. The Blahs’ Made to Measure sessions provide an invaluable opportunity for creative learning to support the all-round development of the child within an environment they associate with security and trust.

For more information about the Blahs’ Made to Measure work, please contact:  pavla@blahs.co.uk or call us on 0113 426 2767.