An eager group of kindergarteners sits in a circle on their classroom carpet.

An Arena Stage teaching artist says, “Is everyone in places?” Everyone sits criss-cross applesauce, excited for the fun to come.

“Let’s review our actors’ tools. Repeat after me! I work with my body. I work with my voice. I work with my imagination. And we work with each other!”

This is how every Moving Stories workshop begins. Moving Stories is our literacy through creative drama program for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. Using song, movement, sign language, and storytelling, it explores beloved children’s stories and promotes literacy skills while bringing books to life.

A Moving Stories residency consists of three visits to a class. On the first visit, students are introduced to a book. On the second visit, students get to act out the story, and on the third they are often visited by a character from the story. They will then help the character solve a problem or complete a task, making connections between the character and their own experiences.

For example, for the book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle, students use their imaginations to drive their imaginary motorcycles to the beach and scuba dive to the bottom of the ocean. There, they learn about different underwater species, sing songs, and use their bodies to join in a fish dance party. Then they hear the story. In a later workshop, they help the hermit crab (played by a costumed teaching artist) figure out how to make new friends when it moves to its new home.

While they sing, dance, and act during the workshops, students are also honing skills like reading comprehension, sequencing, critical thinking, and listening. Teaching artists emphasize that students have their actor’s tools with them at all times and can use them to tell stories whenever they want.

Moving Stories engages the young members of our community at elementary schools like Van Ness and J.O. Wilson. When students see their teaching artists walking around the neighborhood, they point and say “Arena Stage!” Some of the Moving Stories participants are the younger siblings of artists in our Jefferson Middle School Voices of Now Ensemble.

Teaching artists and students agree that the enthusiasm and creativity of Moving Stories is one of the best ways to start a day. Yesterday an envelope packed with construction paper thank-you notes arrived from a first-grade class. Their messages included “I love the book,” “We hope you come back,” “Arena Stage you are kind,” and “Thank you for bringing stickers.”

To learn more about Moving Stories and find out about arranging a residency for your school, visit our website!