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May 24, 2016
by: Beth Carreno

ESAA 2nd and 3rd Graders Skype with Lightning Thief Playwright

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ESAA 2nd and 3rd graders recently had the opportunity to attend a matinee showing of Theatreworks’ The Lightning Thief at the Weill Center.  Exposure to theater is important to everything from developing creativity and imagination to lengthening attention span.  It’s also a powerful connector to reading.  We were fortunate that our students had the chance to attend a live production of a book so many of them enjoy.

One of the things that makes our schools unique is the investment in “more.”  More opportunities to learn, to stretch, to build background knowledge, and to ask questions.  Thanks to his theater network in New York City, Mr. Burkey, the school’s drama instructor, arranged for ESAA’s 2nd and 3rd grade students to Skype with the show’s playwright, Joe Tracz.  (The book was written by Rick Riordan.) 

To prepare for the discussion, Mr. Burkey led the students in a “See Think Wonder” thinking routine.  Students discussed the observations they made seeing the play; shared things the play made them think; and asked questions they still had on the play or the process of creating a play.  Students generated the questions that they would ask Mr. Tracz through the thinking routine.

With Mr. Tracz’s face projected on the screen, students lined up to the computer to ask their questions.  “Did you read the book? Why did you make it a musical?  Why did you make it so funny?  Why did you want to become a writer?”  Mr. Tracz answered the questions with humor and insight.  It was obvious that he enjoyed sharing his passion about theater and writing with this group of students. 

The experience was more than a simple question and answer session.  It was an opportunity for our students to talk with a creative professional while digging deeper into the creative process.  What was Mr. Tracz’s advice to our students?  See lots of theater. Write. Read! 

Expanding Horizons is what we call our efforts to provide students with enrichment opportunities that include live theater productions and working with creative professionals.  Experiences like the ones our students experienced around The Lightning Thief build greater understanding and connection with their learning.   

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