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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Workshop for Elementary School Teachers

Creating a Multi-Arts Performance Piece

Learner Team members and students examine the elements of the classic journey as identified by Joseph Campbell. They then create a multi-arts performance piece that represents a journey story. They apply what they have learned in previous lessons in order to rehearse, critique, revise, and perform their work.

Learner Team members MaryFrances Perkins, Lokita Glover, and Thomas Raphael work out the action for their group’s performance.

In Program 4, Learner Teams apply knowledge gained in Programs 1–3 to create a multi-arts performance piece based on Quidam. Viewers will use what they have learned to create a similar piece based on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

In Sendak’s book, the character Max makes a journey similar to that of Zoe in Quidam. You will brainstorm how you would depict Max’s story applying the “hero’s journey” narrative structure. You then will construct a storyboard of the plot and indicate the role each of the art forms might play in telling the story.

Key Concepts/Vocabulary

  • Choreographer: someone who plans the movements of a dance
  • Choreography: a sequence of movements planned for a dance performance
  • Dialogue: the conversation between characters in a drama or narrative
  • Energy qualities: types of “muscle” energy, used to describe movement qualities
  • Leitmotif: a musical fragment, related to some aspect of the drama (character, emotion, or event), that recurs in the course of the plot
  • Orff instrumentarium: standard instruments used in the method of teaching music developed by composer Carl Orff (1895-1982); these instruments include xylophones, metallophones, glockenspiels, recorders, and a wide variety of unpitched percussion instruments
  • Ostinato: a short musical pattern that is repeated persistently throughout a composition or one of its sections
  • Pentatonic: a simple scale, based on five tones, that often is used when preparing students for success in musical composition; the teacher may elect to use this scale without student input, depending on the previous learning and abilities of the students
  • Sound carpet: a subtle foundation of sound intended to provide musical support to a piece of music; the sound carpet often establishes a tonality and mood over which prominent themes or melodies are played
  • Storyboard: a graphic, sequential depiction of a narrative, such as a comic strip; storyboards are commonly used to map out animation and film productions with each cel or frame illustrating an event
  • Symbol: something that stands for something else
  • Theme: a musical idea, usually a melody, that forms the basis or starting point for an entire composition or a major section

Teacher Notes

Body Percussion
Using the body as a percussive instrument can be an alternative to traditional instruments when they are not available.

Creative Work
When students are asked to make creative decisions and collaborate on creative tasks, it is important for them to know what outcomes are expected before they begin their work. Use a rubric to clearly outline the assignment criteria. Be specific about time allowed for completion.

Restating Questions
When students have difficulty responding to initial questions, it is helpful to restate the question in another way. Try breaking down a complicated question into smaller parts.

Space and Sound
Students working in collaborative groups can be noisy, and limited space can contribute to behavior problems. If you are planning to use group or movement-based activities, you may wish to find an alternative space, such as a gymnasium or cafeteria, and to advise teachers in nearby classrooms what you will be doing.

Small groups of students may arrange themselves into still or “frozen” images from a story, creating living snapshots that focus attention on details. In Program 4, Learner Teams progress from tableaux to completed scenes.

Lesson Plans

Complete Lesson Plans: Lesson plans, handouts, and readings needed to teach the lessons from this program in your classroom.



Based on the lesson plans and handouts for Program 4, think about how you might adapt these lessons in your own teaching and write some notes in your journal. If possible, introduce the concept of the classic journey to your students and use it as a tool for analyzing the structure of a piece of literature you currently are studying.

If you are able to apply these ideas in your classroom, please be prepared to discuss student responses at the next workshop session.

Reading Assignment:

The following required readings will support your understanding of Program 4 for the for-credit workshop:

You also may see the book The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler. Michael Wiese Productions; ISBN: 0941188701; 2nd edition (November 1998).

Referencing Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, the author asserts that most stories consist of a few structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies.

Ongoing Activities

Here are some other activities that can boost learning between workshop sessions.

Watch some or all of these programs from The Arts in Every Classroom: A Video Library, K-5:

Research the topics of performance art, theatrical instrumentation, and heroic quests in literature at your school or public library or on the Web.

Attend a show at a museum, theatre, dance company, or orchestra in your community. Consider how the work of various kinds of artists and others contributed to your overall experience of the performance. Share the experience with students in your classroom.