FREE RESOURCES: Creative Drama Resources
Available books, websites about drama and children's theatre

Free Drama Lesson Plans for Teachers
Lesson plans available on the Internet

A to Z Teacher Stuff
A to Z Teacher Stuff is a teacher-created site designed to help teachers find online resources more quickly and easily. Find lesson plans, thematic units, teacher tips, discussion forums for teachers, downloadable teaching materials & eBooks, printable worksheets and blacklines, emergent reader books, themes, and more.

TeachersPayTeachers.com
2 out of 3 teachers in the U.S. turn to TpT. Search from over 3 million free and paid educator-created resources across grades, subjects, and specialities that help deliver engaging, effective instructions to students.

Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Drama For Those Who Do Not Like Or Understand Drama. This curriculum unit is being designed for a specific group of students. These students have reading levels ranging from the third grade to the twelfth grade. They will be either juniors or seniors, with average or below average skills in English; including reading, writing and speech.

"Act Up!" Elementary Drama Lesson Plans
By Jane Dewey, Danville Schools, Danville, KY
Ms. Dewey has been Director of Arts Education since 2000 and an arts educator for over 20 years, having worked with the Richmond Area Arts Council and the Fayette Co. school district. She is an adjunct instructor at Centre College and the facilitator of the Kentucky Coalition of Arts Educators, and a peer consultant for the Kentucky Peer Advisory Network.

TeAchnology Drama and Theatre Lesson Plans
For over a decade, TeAchnology has been providing free and easy to use resources for teachers dedicated to improving the education of today's generation of students. We feature 46,000+ lesson plans. We are the online teacher resource that is designed to help busy Kindergarten through High School teachers.

ArtsEdge Lessons for Elementary School
The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
We’re focused on ways to support innovative teaching with the arts, and meet changing trends in education and to accommodate the ever-evolving impact of technology in our lives. Our collection of free digital resources has been streamlined for easier browsing and upgraded to leverage best practices in educational media and multimedia-supported instruction.

KET: Welcome to Drama Toolkit
Kentucky Educational Television, Lexington, KY
This Drama Toolkit provides K-12 teachers with high-quality teaching resources that bring the excitement of the theater into the classroom. You’ll find lesson plans, idea cards, glossaries, and many special features. Some of these, such as Kentuckians in Theater, Tour of the Stage, and Will Power, are designed for students as well as teachers.

Study.com: World Literature Drama Lesson Plans
The World Literature: Drama chapter of this course is designed to help you plan and teach about the history and different elements of drama in your classroom. The video lessons, quizzes and transcripts can easily be adapted to provide your lesson plans with engaging and dynamic educational content. Make planning your course easier by using our syllabus as a guide.

KinderArt: Drama Exercises for Kids
KinderArt makes teaching art easier for teachers, parents and artists with art lesson plans art curriculum and tips for all ages. We began KinderArt.com in 1997 because at the time, we saw a real need for FREE art lesson plans that parents and teachers could try with their students and children. Soon after, YOU began sharing your ideas too. And so it continues today&ldots; 20 years later!

TeachHub: 12 Fascinating Ways to Use Drama in the Curriculum
By: Loriana Romano, Lisa Papa, and Elita Saulle.
Integrating drama helps children in various ways. In this fantastic resource: ‘The Arts as Meaning Makers’, written by Claudia E. Cornett and Katharine L. Smithrim, there are 12 essential points that we strongly agree to be important to consider.


Children's Theatre Organizations
Groups supporting arts and theatre for young audiences

Children’s Theatre Foundation of America (CTFA)
CTFA is committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion by supporting theatre artists and organizations that share these values working to address past and current injustices to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and socially, politically, and economically excluded.

American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE)
AATE serves and inspires a growing collective of theatre artists, educators, and scholars committed to transforming young people and communities through the theatre arts.

Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
ATHE serves as an intellectual and artistic center for producing new knowledge about theatre and performance-related disciplines, linking with theatres, and promoting access and equity.

International Assoc. of Theatre for Children & Young People
ASSITEJ unites theatres, organisations and individuals throughout the world who make theatre for children and young people.

SmallSize.org (Europe)
European network for the diffusion of performing arts for early childhood, with special focus on the diffusion of performing arts for children between 0 and 6 years old.

Australian Children's Theatre Foundation (ACTF, AU)
ACTF supports delivery of arts-based programs into primary schools across Victoria, plus subsidy opportunities for remote, regional and disadvantaged schools and the commissioning of new works for young people ages 6-11.

Performing Arts and Young People in Aotearoa (PAYPA, NZ)
PAYPA is a network of performing artists and organisations working for children and young people in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Action for Children’s Arts (ACA, UK)
ACA campaigns for children across the UK to have access to the arts.  ACA considers it is essential that the voices of children should not be excluded from the national conversation.

Youth Theatre Journal (YTJ)
The journal focuses on the dissemination of ideas relating to practical and theoretical developments in the field of theatre and performance by, with, and for children and youth and drama/theatre education.

National Youth Theatre (NYT, UK)
NYT gives young people the opportunity to learn as much about themselves and how to relate to others, as they do about acting and technical theatre.

National Youth Theatre Company (NYTC, NZ)
NYTC is New Zealand's premiere all-access musical theatre training organisation - bringing confidence and life skills to young people through ongoing theatrical training and performance opportunities.

ArtsEdge: K-12 Resources (AU)
ArtsEdge facilitates relationships between the arts and Australian education sectors and creates opportunities through partnership to encourage, develop, and celebrate learning environments which spark creativity amongst students and their school communities.

Drama South Australia (DSA, AU)
DSA promotes Drama in education as a valuable and valued part of education, as well as encourages the study and development of Drama in education as a teaching methodology and as a creative and expressive art form.

The Puppetry Home Page
The Puppetry Home Page is a free resource for the puppetry community and is dedicated to helping people connect with the world of puppetry.


Funding Programs for Theatre Artists & Educators

Lin Wright Professional Teaching Grant
Supports the work and professional development of an exemplary secondary school teacher through the introduction of AATE’s national professional network.

The Don and Elizabeth Doyle Fellowship
This award is given to an outstanding graduate-level student of demonstrated artistic ability in the area of Theatre for Youth.

The Winifred Ward Scholarship
The tuition award of $10,000 is given to a graduate student who has demonstrated intellectual and artistic excellence in the area of child drama/theatre.

Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) Fellowships
TYA/USA Fellowships are designed to offer dynamic opportunities for growth, discovery and exchange to practitioners in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences.

Children's Theatre Scholarships (NZ)
New Zealand's Court Theatre is offering scholarships for Maori and Pasifka in performance, actng, drama, theatre, creatve writng, improvisaton and story telling. Interested? Get in touch!


AATE College/University/Research Experts List

These AATE members are available for information and advice on their specialties.  Feel free to contact them with your questions. All AATE members are welcome to join this list which is curated by the College/University/Research Network.

Sally Bailey
Professor, Drama Therapy / Theater
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Drama Therapy, Playwriting, Creative Drama, Puppetry
Work website: http://www.k-state.edu
Personal website: http://www.dramatherapycentral.com

Katie Dawson
Ass't Professor, Arts Integration and Teaching Artist Pedagogy and Practice
University of Texas at Austin
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Arts Integration, Drama-Based Pedagogy and Practice, Applied Drama/Theatre, Museum Theatre, Theatre-in-Education, Drama-in-Education, Research Methods, Teaching Artist Pedagogy and Practice, Professional Learning Models
Work website: https://theatredance.utexas.edu/

Emily Freeman
Community Engagement Director
Orlando Repertory Theatre in partnership with University of Central Florida (UCF)
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Community-Based Work, Applied Theatre, and Playmaking
Work website: http://www.orlandorep.com

Jennifer Katona
Director Graduate Program in Educational Theatre
The City College of New York
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Curriculum Development in the Arts, Educational Policy, Directing and Choreography with Youth and Arts Integration
Work website: http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/edtheatre/

Linda Krakaur
Instructor/Project Manager
University of Maryland, College Park
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Drama in education, arts integration, arts and equity, literacy, professional development, school partnerships, international programs
Work website: https://education.umd.edu/

Matt Omasta, Ph.D.
Director of Theatre Education
Utah State University
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Theatre for Young Audiences, K-12 Theatre Education, Drama Across the Curriculum
PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE: http://www.mattomasta.com

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce
Assistant Professor, Theatre Studies / Theatre Education
Univ of Texas, Austin
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Culturally Responsive Theatre Education; Cultural, Racial, Ethnic representation in TYA
Work website: http://www.utexas.edu/finearts/tad/people/schroeder-arce-roxanne
Personal website: http://www.roxannearce.com

Johanna Smith
Professor, Theatre Education
California State University, San Bernardino
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Puppetry, Improvisation, Creative Drama, Service Learning in TYA
Work website: http://theatre.csusb.edu/
Personal website: http://www.professorjohanna.com

Elena Velasco
Graduate Assistant and Instructor, Theater
Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Directing, Choreography, Physical Theater, Musical Theater, Improvisation, Creative Drama, Theater Outreach
Personal website: http://www.elenavelasco.net

Amanda Wager
Assistant Professor, TESOL
Lesley University, Boston, MA
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Drama in Education, Applied Theatre, Popular Theatre, ESL & Bilingual Education
Work website: http://www.lesley.edu/graduate-school-of-education/home/
http://www.lesley.edu/faculty/amanda-wager/
Personal website: http://lesley.academia.edu/AmandaCWager

James Zager
Head of VPA Theatre & Arts Management
Carroll University, Waukesha WI
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: Directing, Playwriting, Devising
Work website: http://www.carrollu.edu/programs/theaterarts/
Personal website: http://www.jameszager.com


Books on Creative Drama & Children's Theatre
Easily search for these books on the Internet

Creative Drama for the Classroom Teacher
Ruth Beall Heinig. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1993.
A college textbook for Creative Drama teachers. Using straightforward language and clear descriptions of actual lessons, this book will get you started really teaching Drama in the classroom. Search for this book...

Creative Drama Resource Book for Grades K-3
Ruth B. Heinig. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1987.
Real lessons direct from the classroom. The focus here is on practice, not theory. You can immediately TEACH the lessons and activities in this book. Very clear explanations and easy reference. Search for this book...

Creative Drama Resource Book for Grades 4-6
Ruth B. Heinig and Ruth M. Heinig. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1987.
Real lessons direct from the classroom. The focus here is on practice, not theory. You can immediately TEACH the lessons and activities in this book. Very clear explanations and easy reference. Search for this book...

Drama with Children
Geraldine Brain Siks. Harper and Row, 1983.
Another college textbook for Creative Drama teachers. A little old-fashioned, but very easy to follow, with lots of practical lessons. Search for this book...

Improvisations in Creative Drama
Betty Keller. Meriwether Publishing Ltd., 1987.
A collection of Creative Drama lessons, enough for at least a year's work. The focus is mainly Theatre training and process-oriented work. If you're looking for ready-made lessons that WORK, this book has them. Search for this book...

Drama Themes: A Practical Guide for Teaching Drama
Larry Swartz. Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., 1988.
An excellent text to help you construct Drama lessons to support a wide variety of themes and curricular areas. Includes actual, useable lessons. Its strength is how Swartz makes Drama out of subject matter. Search for this book...

Theatre Games for Young Performers
Maria C. Novelly. Meriwether Publishing Ltd., 1985.
A collection of classic theatre games for teens. All the activities are intended to train young actors in performance technique. Lots of fun. Search for this book...

Structuring Drama Work: Available Forms in Theatre and Drama
Jonothan Neelands. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
An absolutely information-packed book discussing and contrasting conventions and approaches to the teaching of drama. Contains lots of useful activities-mostly appropriate for older kids. Search for this book...

Children's Theater: A Paradigm, Primer and Resource
Kelly Eggers and Walter Eggers. Scarecrow Press, 2010.
This work is valuable for those wishing to know more about the importance and use of theater for children, both educationally and socially. Search for this book...

Acting and Theatre (An Usborne Introduction)
Cheryl Evans, Lucy Smith. Usborne Publishing, 1992.
Providing an introduction to theater, this work covers all aspects of the theatrical world, both creative and technical, including acting, set design, costumes, and more. Search for this book...

Forum Theatre for Children: Enhancing Social, Emotional and Creative Development
Nick Hammond. Stylus Publishing, 2015.
This innovative book illustrates the vital role of drama for young schoolchildren. A dynamic fusion of theatre and psychology, it describes each step of the process of Forum Theatre. Search for this book..

Why Children's Theater Matters: The Impact of the Arts on Young People
"Live theater, it seems, matters as much as math and reading skills."

By Kori Radloff, The Rose Theatre, Omaha NE

On the surface, children's theater seems simple: a few over-the-top characters, some brightly-colored costumes, a simple plot borrowed from a children's book and maybe a catchy song or two. It's an hour spent together as family, then it is back to the "real world," as the on-stage images fade into a distant memory.

In reality, studies have found that children's theater has a powerful impact on children and their development. Studies show that engaging in imaginative activities like theater fosters increased intelligence. Seeing the world through a new perspective helps young minds imagine new worlds, new possibilities, and new ideas. Children who attend live theater have shown greater tolerance of different people and ideas, as well as increased empathy for others. They show a better understanding of reading materials. they view social studies concepts in a new light as history comes alive in front of their eyes. Teachers have even found that by incorporating drama activities in the classroom, their students' math scores have increased. There is no doubt that theater not only entertains, but also enhances children's lives in many ways.

Here are a few excerpts that illustrate the power of children's theater:

From Education.com:  "Study after study has shown that the arts are more than fluff. Longitudinal data of 25,000 students involved in the arts, conducted at UCLA's Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall, shows that consistent participation greatly improves academic performance and significantly bumps up standardized test scores. Students who make time for the arts are also more involved in community service, and less likely to drop out of school. And we're not just talking about upper middle class kids. These facts remain, regardless of a child's socio-economic background.

"Theater also connects to the importance of reading. A play has the ability to jump a story off the page and bring it to life. This can be a revelation to regular bookworms, but also a real boon to reluctant readers. "Part of it is that what's happening on stage is very similar, in a way, to the play acting and role playing all children do. It's live, and good plays are just a little bit 'incomplete', if you will-they need the audience to complete them, and they change slightly with the audience. Films, of course, are static," says Kim Peter Kovac, President of Theatre For Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA), a national organization for professional children's theaters.

"While plays work to jumpstart the imagination, they also lengthen the attention span. At first, Hartzell says, sitting still in a darkened room may not feel natural for children. But that's precisely why it's important. Because TV is such a popular form of entertainment, she says, kids aren't used to focusing for an hour or an hour and a half. "Kids today see a new image every 3-4 seconds. They're used to constant change. And they don't listen as well," she says."   (http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Why_Childrens_Theater_Matters/)

From The Huffington Post:  "Bill English of San Francisco's SF Playhouse says, theater is like a gym for empathy. It's where we can go to build up the muscles of compassion, to practice listening and understanding and engaging with people that are not just like ourselves. We practice sitting down, paying attention and learning from other people's actions. We practice caring.

"Kids need this kind of practice even more than adults do. This is going to be their planet and they've got more time to apply that empathy and make a difference. Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax challenges us to actively and specifically teach children (and vote for presidents with) empathy. Why not take your child to the theater to do just that."  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-gunderson/world-theater-for-children-and-young-people-day_b_1343408.html)

From Medical Daily:  "Researchers measured to see if live theater made students more tolerable of different people and ideas, as well as better able to read another person's emotions (empathy). Of course, researchers conceded students from a drama or advanced English course may have gone into the experiment already being familiar with plot and characters; same for those who have read or seen a movie version of Hamlet or A Christmas Carol before.

"Even so, "it is very clear that reading or watching movies of Hamlet and A Christmas Carol cannot account for the increase in knowledge students experienced by winning the lottery to see the plays," researchers explained. "Even when we control for watching the movie or reading the material for school, the estimated effect of winning the lottery to see the plays remains basically unchanged, producing an effect size of 58 percent of a standard deviation for the treatment group on knowledge of the plot and vocabulary of the plays."

"Live theater, it seems, matters as much as math and reading skills."  (http://www.medicaldaily.com/live-theater-better-student-vocabulary-tolerance-and-emotions-be-or-not-be-smarter-307407 )

From SocialStudies.com:  "Creative dramatics, a highly effective method for integrating arts education into core curriculum, produces a positive and lasting impact on student learning, in terms of creative and critical thinking, language development, listening, comprehension, retention, cooperation, and empathy and awareness of others.  Creative dramatics not only has the power to bring curriculum to life, but also to stimulate active involvement in the development of conceptual understandings.

"By bringing the methods of drama in to their lessons, teachers can turn their classrooms into exploratory arenas of learning for themselves and their students. Integrating the arts nurtures global intelligence, speaks to emotional literacy,  fosters innovative thought processes, and cultivates habits of lifelong learning. In my own teaching, I find that the more drama activities I am able to use, the more students understand the concepts we are working on and the more cognitively and emotionally engaged they are. Using creative drama is practical and engaging, and it brings the social studies curriculum to life in very meaningful ways."  (http://www.socialstudies.org/system/files/publications/yl/2503/250309.pdf)

From The Washington Post:  "Instead of art as a stand-alone subject, teachers are using dance, drama and the visual arts to teach a variety of academic subjects in a more engaging way.... Educators and artists who are proponents of the method say it reaches students who might not otherwise absorb traditional classroom methods.

"Some children can struggle with math because it's abstract. Children can get emotionally invested in acting out a story, though, that involves counting. And they are exceptionally good with imagination, far better than...adult acting students."  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/teachers-are-using-theater-and-dance-to-teach-math--and-its-working/2016/02/22/61f8dc0c-d68b-11e5-b195-2e29a4e13425_story.html)

"Deep arts involvement may help to narrow the gap in achievement levels."
Kids love roles in ArtReach's Treasure Island Treasure Island Rose Theatre performs Treasue Island
ArtReach's Treasure Island, Rose Childrens Theatre, Eugene, OR

From the National Arts Council:  "Students who have arts-rich experiences in school do better across-the-board academically, and they also become more active and engaged citizens, voting, volunteering, and generally participating at higher rates than their peers.

"Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers who have high levels of arts engagement or arts learning show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers. In middle school, high school, and beyond, they tend to do better on a host of academic and civic behavioral measures than do at-risk youth who lack deep arts backgrounds. To varying degrees, those outcomes extend to school grades, test scores, honors society membership, high school graduation, college enrollment and achievement, volunteering, and engagement in school or local politics.

"At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied. These findings suggest that in-school or extracurricular programs offering deep arts involvement may help to narrow the gap in achievement levels among youth..."  (https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Arts-At-Risk-Youth.pdf)

From AmericansForTheArts.org:  "Data from The College Board show that in 2014, students who took four years of arts and music classes while in high school scored an average of 96 points higher on their SATs than students who took only one-half year or less.

"The College Board...recommends that education stakeholders consider arts requirements for high school curricula, high school graduation requirements, and college and university admission requirements in the arts. 

"Students with four years of art and music classes averaged 523 on the Writing portion of the test - 57 points higher than students with one-half year or less of arts and music classes, who averaged 466 points."  (http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2015/by_program/reports_and_data/research_studies_and_publications/SAT_Scores_2014_Arts%20Ed.pdf)

From National Assembly of State Arts Agencies:  "In a well-documented national study using a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on

standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. Moreover, the high arts-involved students also watched fewer hours of TV, participated in more community service and reported less boredom in school.  (http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Publications/critical-evidence.pdf)

Hats off to the Rose!  About The Rose Theatre Omaha:  The Rose Theater is one of the largest and most accomplished children's theaters in the nation, with a reputation for enriching the lives of children and families through top-quality professional productions and arts education. In 2016, American Theatre magazine named The Rose one of the 20 top children's theaters in the United States. The Rose is committed to making the arts accessible to all children, providing opportunities for thousands of children throughout the community to attend shows and participate in classes each year. Over the course of a year, approximately 70,000 people attend the public performances held at the theater, and nearly 30,000 students attend field trip shows annually. The theater strives to introduce young people to a mix of both traditional favorites and ground-breaking original productions. A number of plays and musicals have made their world premiere on The Rose stage, including Pete the Cat: The Musical, Sherlock Holmes & the First Baker Street Irregular, Zen Ties, Buffalo Bill's Cowboy Band, and The Grocer's Goblin & The Little Mermaid. We take pride knowing that The Rose is the place where children of all ages experience theater for the first time, and we are dedicated to helping them appreciate theater for a lifetime.

How the Performing Arts Benefit Kids
Kids who perform gain skills that extend far beyond the standing ovation.

By Julia Savacool, Scholastic

It's no big secret that getting kids involved in the performing arts can have major payoffs in school. After all, research shows that children who sing/dance/act/play their little hearts out are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement compared with their non-performing friends - and they tend to have enhanced cognitive, motor, and social development to boot. But the benefits don't end there. Getting up on stage can enrich your child's life in all sorts of surprising ways.

Kids Who Perform Are Quick Thinkers:  Whether you're a kid or an adult, the ability to stay calm and carry on is what keeps a small blooper from mushrooming into a major one. "When something goes wrong during a show, kids learn to improvise," says Brian Olkowski, a 4th- and 5th- grade teacher in San Ramon, CA, and director of the school's drama club. "One of the best things kids discover is how to think on their feet." No performance is ever perfect, says Olkowski, so the real skill is learning to minimize errors and get back on track. "When someone flubs a line, the other kids learn how to cover for him," he says. "I tell them it's not about never making a mistake; it's about never letting the audience see your mistake. Those are great skills that transfer to the classroom setting as well, whether it's giving a presentation in front of peers or being called on to answer questions."

Still, it helps to prepare your child for the possibility of problems cropping up, says Lisa Lollar, Psy.D., a psychologist in Denver, CO, who works with performing artists. "Talk about what she might do if she drops her music or forgets a line," says Lollar. "Working through the scenarios in advance and coming up with a solution will help her feel prepared if something surprising happens." The ability to expect the unexpected - and then roll with it - will give your child confidence any time she tests new waters. Lollar adds: "If you help your child define success as being willing to try something new, the idea of messing up isn't so scary."

"You get to become someone else."
 Scholastic Publishing A Thousand Cranes
Published by Scholastic - Centenary Stage Co. NJ

They Master Their Anxiety:  Let's face it: Even grown-ups get nervous when we have to speak in front of our colleagues or give a presentation to the boss. Learning from an early age how to cope with performance jitters gives kids a leg up in those big life moments. "The first step for a parent is to normalize a child's feelings of anxiety," says Lollar. "Tell them, 'You know, a lot of kids - and even adults - feel nervous before a performance. It's completely natural.'" It won't take away the nerves, but it will let your child know there's nothing wrong with feeling this way.

Then before the big show, talk your child through his worries by reminding him of other moments when he's felt anxious, even when things turned out well. "Remind him of the baseball game when he felt really nervous at the plate, but managed to get a great hit," suggests Lollar. "Recalling past experiences with positive outcomes gives a child confidence." Other tricks: Help your child calm his body in the minutes before the performance begins by taking four or five long, deep breaths or counting backward from seven. Both force his mind to focus on something other than his nerves.

Once the show is over, let your child bask in his accomplishment, then casually comment on how well everything went. He will carry this experience with him for the next time, as more evidence that he can successfully perform under pressure.

Performers Express Brand-New Emotions:  One of the wonderful things about being in a play is that for a short period of time, you get to become someone else. For a child who struggles to talk about her feelings, there is a tremendous relief in disappearing behind a character and using it as an intermediary through which to open up. "It is a very safe way for kids to try out certain feelings - and take ownership of them - while playing the role of someone else," says Olkowski, who also runs a summer theater program for children. "I've worked with shy kids who are able to blossom on stage and express themselves in a way they aren't comfortable doing around their peers."

Playing the role of someone else also teaches kids about empathy. "They learn to put themselves in someone else's shoes," says Jessica Hoffman Davis, author of Why Our Schools Need the Arts. "In performing the part of someone else, they learn what it's like to think like that other person."

Parents can also use a child's theater performance to open a dialogue about sensitive issues. "Take the experience of a character in the play and tie it to your child's situation," says Lollar. "If your child is nervous about her first day of school, it helps to say, 'Remember when you were in that play, and the character Lucy was scared? How did she handle it? What was she feeling? Did it work out OK for her?' Drawing parallels to the character's situation and her own will make your child more comfortable talking about her feelings."

For kids who aren't into acting, dance can offer another way to explore their interior world, says Annie Spell, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Lafayette, LA, and co-creator of Leap 'N Learn for the Classroom, a movement program for kids. "Dance teaches kids to think in a totally different way. You take the physiological experience of an emotion and assign it a corresponding movement instead of a word. It can be a powerful tool for kids who have trouble expressing themselves."

Their Self-Esteem Can Soar:  There's nothing quite like hearing a crowd of total strangers laugh at your joke or applaud your double pirouette to make you feel like a star. "Hearing the audience clap at the end of the show is an incredible feeling," says Olkowski. "The kids are like, 'Hey, this is for me!' That instant positive feedback is really rewarding."

But it's more than just the ego boost from the fans - any type of performance requires teamwork to succeed. "Kids are introduced to the notion of an ensemble," says Davis. "It's not just you up on stage. You are responsible for a larger group that is counting on you to do your part so they can do theirs." That weight of personal responsibility is rare in a child's world, and successfully delivering his lines or hitting the right guitar chords means more because of what's at stake.

"During a performance, kids become part of a larger system, working toward a common goal," adds Spell. "It is the culmination of weeks of practice, so the performance itself becomes the reward for all that work." Although a positive performance will give your child a self-esteem injection, it's important to put the emphasis on effort, rather than results. "Every child will fail at some point," notes Spell. "But if they judge themselves on putting their best effort forward and not on being perfect, the experience can still feel rewarding."

Performers See the World in a Whole New Way:  At the end of the day, the transferable skills a child learns from performing may not be nearly as important as the experience of performing itself. "We're always looking for ways the arts can benefit kids in other areas of life," says Davis. "It's as if art for art's sake isn't worth our time, when in fact, it gives kids an awareness about themselves and creative skills they'd never learn otherwise." She may never apply the improvisation skills she learned during the school play to a math equation or turn her teamwork with other dancers into leadership on the school playground. But simply by having been part of the performance process, your child has been exposed to a new way of thinking and doing. And that alone is a success to be proud of.

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