Mary Hall Surface: Visiting Artist

We are so grateful to the Orpheum for choosing Lamplighter Montessori School as a teaching site for their workshop, “A Playful Approach to Writing”. Internationally-recognized playwright Mary Hall Surface has been a teaching artist for over 30 years, and we were excited to experience one of her lessons.

Upper Elementary and Lower Elementary classes each had their own workshop session, which started with Mrs. Surface having them cup their hands and imagine holding something from their home. They turned to a partner and described their objects in five descriptive words. This exercise gave students the foundation of how imaginative and detailed they would be getting in the session!

Mrs. Surface then broke students up into groups of three, giving them a rolled up piece of paper to use as an object – any object. Stop for a second and imagine what your object might be. This was not a guessing game – it was an act of storytelling. Students took the paper and wordlessly acted out a story – beginning, middle, and end – not just a simple action. Another friend from their group then described what had happened in the story.

Everyone came back together for instructions on the second draft of their story – adding a conflict. It’s a great start to have your roll of paper be a hockey stick as you score a winning goal for your team, but what if… Students brainstormed possible conflicts, then broke back into small groups to act out their latest draft. Group mates interpreted the actions once again and identified the conflict.

The third draft of the story involved changing who was involved. Many students were acting as themselves, but what if you were suddenly a professional hockey player during the last two minutes of the championship game? How would you feel? What if you slipped on the ice? What emotions would we think the player would feel? What might be a resolution? How would different resolutions make him feel?

Students transformed rolled-up paper into creative objects that sparked fascinating stories. They put their ideas in a graphic organizer to explore later in class and MakerSpace. The session was a great exercise in imagination, storytelling, and empathy. Thank you again to the Orpheum and Mary Hall Surface for this experience!

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