The effects of theater arts instruction on fifth grade students' learning of the U.S. Reconstruction period

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study attempted to determine whether students participating in a summer camp learn more about a fifth grade history concept of social studies, the Reconstruction Era, via a theater arts production. Data collected for this qualitative study included pre- and post-test drawings, scripted comments, student interviews, teacher interviews, daily observation checklists of the summer camp, and a culminating student performance. The data set was used to investigate the research question, "What are the effects of theater arts instruction of social studies content on fifth grade students' learning of the U.S. Reconstruction Period?" This study also sought to address the following research sub-questions: (1) What factors contribute to students' success in writing a historical script? (2) What factors contribute to students' success in performing their own written play? (3) How does theater arts instruction influence students' accuracy of learning major characteristics of the historical concept of Reconstruction? This study took place in June 2011 in an elementary school in southeast Georgia. The total sample for this study was 11 students who had finished fourth grade in May 2011 and were entering fifth grade in August 2011. Two teachers for the summer camp were also used, both of which had just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Middle Grades Education and received their Georgia teaching certification in May 2011. Results indicated a growth in accuracy of knowledge about the Reconstruction Era. Results also indicated that the students specifically enjoyed the summer camp because they got to learn the social studies content through theater arts. Students associated their growth in learning the Reconstruction Era with learning the content through theater arts instruction. At the end of the summer camp students wrote and performed a final production associated with segregation, a concept learned in the camp associated with the Reconstruction Era. The students wrote the play based on the 2010 remake of the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid, in which segregation of an African American child was evidenced upon his arrival to China. Students spent most of their time, during the summer camp, writing the script for the final performance.

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Elementary education, Social sciences education, Theater