Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Further Reading & Resources on Performance in the Classroom

Main content start

DiPirro, Kevin. “Devising/Revising Student-Centered Pedagogy.”  CCC Online 1.1 (January 2012). 

This interactive website stages the question “What does student-centered  teaching pedagogy mean to you? (How) Do you perform it in your classroom?” Mimicking Shakespearian rhetoric, voices begin by reading the scrolled texts on the page, guiding the reader/auditor/viewer to a series of clouds with the labels: “Trust” “Improvisation” “Devising Theater””Beliefs” and “Pedagogy.” Each cloud then links to 5-10 others, which then lead to pop-up boxes of writing to scroll down as well as video links. Clicking on “Pedagogy,” for example, we are presented with a series of clouds (SC Director, A Dream Scene, Right Responsibilities)that engage with DiPirro’s leaning curve as an instructor of “Devised Theater.” (While this sounds fairly particular, the content in this and the other clouds are made explicitly and vividly applicable to any writing instructor.) Likening the experience of director/teacher to standing on stage in very small underwear, DiPirro talks about the challenge we face as instructors balancing/managing control and chaos, certainty and play in the classroom. He argues for the need to move beyond a director/teacher who feigns to give control to students but then makes all executive decisions and the director/teacher who abdicates creativity and control to students–but which then leads to chaos. In this series of clouds, then, DiPirro offers readers/teachers a way to discover a stronger non-authoritarian role in the classroom (a role he developed as a result of interviews, improv and videos with students over the course of 6 months).  In a similar way, each “big” cloud from the opening page takes a different perspective on how to arrive at a successful ‘student centered classroom.’ We “want students to take responsibility for their learning and gain agency as they learn to write,” he says. This website offers a smart, richly detailed, -expansive- and satisfyingly concrete approach for arriving there. (Annotation by Gabrielle Moyer)

Fishman, Jenn, Andrea Lunsford, Beth McGregor and Mark Otuteye. “Performing Writing, Performing Literacy.” CCC 57:2. December 2005. 224-252.

Drawing on the first two years of the Stanford Study of Writing, this essay points to the gradual institutional marginalization (if not forgetting) of “performed writing” and the numerous reasons for reintegrating it into a curricula and pedagogy of writing. How, they ask, can we make room for performance in the writing classroom? The essay responds with examples of students performing writing outside the classroom, allied to a rich engagement with performance studies to support its value. One of the critical functions of extracurricular performed writing (spoken word, dramatic performances, public speaking for committees/clubs) was to recuperate students’ confidence in writing–something regularly lost in first year academic writing classes.

The essay further marks out how performance functions as a “catalyst to personal and social transformation” because it fosters “social and self-reflection through dramatization or embodiment of symbolic forms.”The essay then shifts to the writing experiences and voices of two students. Each student writes in detail about a project in which they successfully integrated performed writing and academic writing. One student notes, significantly, that his experience with performed writing helped him see the need to deliberately ‘perform’ the written essay–given his embodied voice would be absent from it. Finally, the writers of the essay offer some concrete suggestions for integrating performance in the classroom. These include: reading aloud, asking students to read aloud, staging formal debates, inviting students to dramatize texts, attempting to enact elements of complex arguments in order to call visual and physical attention to different aspects of rhetoric and writing, incorporating multi-modal writing into our curricula and making use of different forms of delivery. (Annotation by Gabrielle Moyer)

Sherwood, Steve. (1997) “Ethics and Improvisation.” The Writing Lab Newsletter. 22(4). 1-5.

In this piece written for an audience concerned with writing center tutoring, Sherwood discusses how each encounter with a new student and/or student assignment is an act of improvisation by the teacher/tutor. While this approach may be more valuable as metaphor than actual practice, Sherwood quotes Don Welch in saying that improvising in the writing center makes us “especially sensitive to context, interaction, and response” (p. 3). For Sherwood, and Welch, these moves are framed as ethical and/or moral decisions that we can make as teachers/tutors. This may have direct correlation to discussing performance in the writing classroom as students are equally involved in discussing, listening, and understanding one another in ways that may push them to be more ethically aware of their writing processes. (Annotation by Chris Gerben)

Wagner, Betty-Jane. (1990). Dramatic improvisation in the classroom. In S. Hynds & D.L. Rubin (Eds.), Perspectives on talk and Learning. pp 195-211. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

This chapter is embedded in a very useful (and thorough) collection of essays looking at the role of speaking (widely construed) in the writing classroom. Other topics include student-teacher conferences, group work, and historical perspectives on talking and/or speaking, among others. This particular chapter addresses dramatic improvisation, largely in the form of role-playing in the writing classroom. Though ostensibly aimed at a K-12 audience, this chapter has immediate application for college writing courses in how it addresses embodied rhetoric in service to literacy, learning, and writing goals. Summing up the importance of speaking (and dramatic improvisation and/or role playing), Wagner states, “Improvising or inventing is at the heart of all oral language development…[d]ramatic improvisation—invented conversation that mirrors the interactions of real life—provides a powerful stimulus for a continuation of this valuable enterprise” (p. 211). She balances in-class examples and theory to convince readers. (Annotation by Chris Gerben)