–by Claire Miller
Teaching artist Claire Ritzler (right) shows early childhood education students how to make a sheet ripple like ocean waves during a teaching workshop Oct. 27.
Claire Ritzler spread a silvery-blue sheet on the floor through the center of the circle of students and carefully placed her other props behind her.
Then she began her tale.
She spoke about Max, a child with a creative imagination and a flair for getting into trouble, and his mother, who sent him to his room without supper when she found the kitchen and living room a mess. She also described the Wild Things, a group of creatures living on an island in Max’s imagination.
All of these characters from Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” came to life when Ritzler, a teaching artist from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, took what few items she had – a CD player, the sheet, an apron, a few shadow puppets and a flashlight – and showed a class of early childhood education students how to make storytelling more creative and interactive.
“The students at Georgia State have been great,” Ritzler said. “They’re very receptive to this teaching style.”
Ritzler’s recent visit to the College of Education is a result of the COE’s partnership with the Alliance Theatre Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists, which began in 2009 when early childhood education faculty members wanted their B.S.E. students to learn to use imaginative storytelling and literacy lessons in their classrooms.
“We were trying to find ways to show students how to integrate the arts with literacy,” said Christi Moore, COE literacy instructor. “I have a background in music and I wanted to see if there were any organizations in the community who could help us bring the arts into the classroom.”
Moore and Teri Holbrook, COE assistant professor of literacy, contacted the Alliance Theatre Institute and began collaborating with its teaching artists.
The first year they collaborated, students learned to create story baskets, participated in creative drama workshops and found inventive ways to tell popular stories. This year, a new digital storytelling workshop has been added, which shows students how to use programs such as Microsoft MovieMaker to tell stories.
Early childhood education student Jasmine Roberson cuts out a shadow puppet during a workshop with teaching artist Claire Ritzler.
Holbrook believes that both the early childhood education students and the children they teach will greatly benefit from this collaboration with the Alliance Theatre Institute.
“This type of instruction introduces children to the different elements of a story – beginning, middle and end, problems and solutions and character development,” she said. “And it’s great to see our students coming back and telling us about putting these storytelling techniques into use in their field placement classrooms.”
After watching Ritzler tell “Where the Wild Things Are” in class, early childhood education student Leandra Lawrence is ready to try Ritzler’s techniques in her student teaching.
“I love watching teaching artists come into classrooms and do this,” she said. “I’m going to implement this in my classroom soon.”
For more information about the B.S.E. program in early childhood education, visit http://education.gsu.edu/ece/2369.html. For more information about the Alliance Theatre and the Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists, visit www.alliancetheatre.org.