Persuading through Words, Movement and Expression Wednesday, October 12, 2016
“Should Children Have School Homework?” That was the question debated by South Huntington Grade 5 students following a series of lessons designed to hone their persuasive speaking skills. Classroom teachers, teachers in special areas and teaching artist Dafna Soltes Stein worked collaboratively on the Art of Persuasion project. “This arts-in-education project combined literacy with elocution and theater skills,” explains Ms. Soltes Stein. “It gave students the opportunity to be physically active, putting conceptual and practical information into practice. As a result, they learned to speak persuasively and confidently.”
For the project, the classroom teachers used the fifth grade Power to Persuade reading curriculum. The students learned about persuasive speaking through reading as well as through expressing their own opinions in writing. At the same time, Ms. Soltes Stein (below) led a series of lessons focused on specific movement and public speaking skills. “The classroom teachers were actively engaged, observing and encouraging their students during these sessions,” stresses Ms. Soltes Stein. “Because of their commitment and engagement, their nurturing and supporting of the students, the children were enthusiastic and focused throughout the project.”
Ms. Soltes Stein asked the students to consider two questions. First, what are the benefits of communication and collaboration? “When and why is persuasive speaking skills are useful in the students’ everyday lives as well as in the lives of the adults around them.” She also asked the students how movement and public speaking skills (body language, facial expression and vocal quality) can be used to increase one’s confidence in delivering a persuasive speech.
The students collaborated in small groups and pairs, practicing gestures, emotions, eye contact and pausing (above and below).
Special area teachers also made connections to the art of persuasion. For example, the physical education teacher taught the students Latin dance (specifically, push/pull dancing). The art teacher engaged students in a visual arts project that explored myths and the dynamic tension between things that are opposite.
In addition, the students saw artist David Gonzalez perform the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (videoclip below). The students read the myth prior to the performance. After the show, Ms. Soltes Stein discussed the persuasive skills used by Mr. Gonzalez. For instance, she asked: “How did the artist hold our attention using vocal quality, body movement and music in his storytelling?”
In the final session, the students were assigned to the role of either teacher, parent or students to argue in favor of or against school homework. They were encouraged to deliver a forceful message by applying what they had learned about the way to enter a room, posture/stance and the use of eye contact, facial expressions, pause and gestures.
“My favorite moments were during this final session,” says Ms. Soltes Stein. “The students assigned to arguing against homework used improvisational dialogue. Their ability to scoop lines of text off the page as well as to improvise dialogue with confidence, joy and laughter was proof that the project’s goals had been met successfully.”
The classroom teachers concur. “Dafna did an excellent job,” says one teacher. “In one activity, students delivered the same line using different emotions. This was a great activity because the dual language children were able to do it. Overall, students came out of their shells. They participated and they saw the value of their work as witnessed by an appreciative audience.”
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