In today’s economic and educational environment, many schools, particularly those that serve underprivileged youth, find that they do not have the resources to provide adequate arts-based programs. At the same time, teachers increasingly feel that they do not have the time, training or support to incorporate Drama and “Active Arts” activities into their classrooms.

This is particularly unfortunate because these kinds of activities have demonstrated results that benefit students in significant ways. A recent UCLA study concluded that students involved in the arts tended to show higher academic performance and better standardized test scores; nearly 100 points better, according to a separate study by the National College Board. And a 2012 National Endowment Arts Achievement in At-Risk Youth study showed conclusively that students from all socio-economic backgrounds who have access to imagination-nurturing “arts processes” receive better test scores and grades, and get more academic achievement awards.

Students who participate in curriculum-linked active arts activities see many other positive results including stronger oral communications, thinking and social skill development, more self-confidence, imagination and a stronger ability to empathize with others in a group. Teachers also find that these activities, tailored to reinforce and extend current classroom themes and study units, wind up giving the entire class a boost, while particularly engaging those students who may struggle with more traditional and often static teaching/learning modalities.


These extremely well-received workshops train teachers in using drama and “active arts” — movement and verbal/kinesthetic learning activities, “guided play”, curriculum-linked exercises (including in subject-areas like the sciences and math) — to significantly enhance the classroom experience for themselves and their students. These methods can deepen and speed up the learning process – often faster and better than the standardized curricula suggest is possible, leaving valuable time for other things the teacher wants to accomplish — and all our workshops focus on how these methods align with specific “Common Core” and other teaching and learning standards. We focus teachers on the vital importance and clear benefits of blending these activities seamlessly into their work — as transitions between other learning activities, ways to give very active students different modes of learning, and as models for “excellence” in the classroom that can help build the kind of mutually-supportive and diverse “ensemble for learning” that every teacher wants and that will mean that curricular goals are achieved more easily.
Both BAYFEST’s in-school and teacher training programs build on the natural desire to play that is so paramount in children of all ages. Yet the demands of programmed curricula, mandated assessments and school-wide performance goals often means that the ‘spirit of play’ is given little chance to blossom in the course of the regular school day. BAYFEST believes, and our long history in classrooms around the US has proven, that when teachers learn to regularly use these simple yet powerful tools, it will enhance the students’ educational experience by engaging them and their imaginations. They gain a broader understanding of the concepts being learned and ask better questions.


Our methods of working with teachers and students have been developed through years of experience with K–12 students in the U.S. and U.K. and through feedback from classroom teachers.  Our teaching artists are all theatre professionals trained in creative dramatics and BAYFEST’s specific teaching methods.

For teacher trainings, BAYFEST teaching artists follow a standards-based curriculum developed by BAYFEST, and are trained to work collaboratively with teachers (especially in the more advanced workshops) to re-combine and develop their own exercises and methods to meet specific curriculum, classroom management and/or standards-based goals (see A DRAMAticly DIFFERENT WAY TO MEET THE STANDARDS™ ).

For in-class sessions, BAYFEST Teaching Artists develop workshops that complement a class’s existing curriculum, often culminating in a unique class performance. Classroom teachers are requested to observe and participate throughout the process, with the goal that they will gain new techniques to use on their own.  Before coming into the classroom, the BAYFEST Teaching Artist will confer with the classroom teacher to find a focus for a 6-10 week series of sessions with students.  After the initial sessions, intended to engage all students in active participation and assess areas of individual and group strength, the class moves into a structured process of developing a group story or dramatic event around the curriculum units, concepts, and goals set out by the classroom teacher.  Examples of the process have included various forms of dramatics games and play, dramatizations of books or historical events, kinesthetic explorations of concepts in science or mathematics, and ensemble exercises aimed at achieving class cohesion.

One of BAYFEST’s core principles is that we must contribute to the classroom teacher’s toolbox without adding new burdens to his or her job.  As the great British drama educator Dorothy Heathcote wrote, “Anything that makes more work for teachers is a bad idea. Any teaching technique that makes the teacher’s job less fun and exciting ultimately makes the teacher less effective and is an even worse idea.”

Specific areas in which our drama-in-action techniques can be especially effective include the following:

  • In-class projects, involving the whole class or smaller groups.  These may be designed to focus on curriculum content, team-building, or a general kinesthetic learning experience.
  • Reading training through imaginative dramatic techniques, such as talking through and acting out stories. Children who find reading challenging often engage quickly with such techniques and later prove to make significant strides in literacy, long after the program has ended.
  • Curriculum-linked exercises to teach science and math concepts.
  • Workshops on social issues, e.g. stereotyping, gender roles, bullying, media literacy.
  • Relationship-building among students through exercises focused on body language, language patterning, metaphor, story structure, autobiography, variation in points of view, and group movement.

The BAYFEST teacher-training and in-class Teaching Artist workshops have been universally well received.  After a recent series of trainings for Teach For America teachers working in southern California, workshop participants gave an overall score of 6.4 out of 7 on the following statements:

This workshop was helpful to me as a teacher.

The workshop was clear and well presented.

I am excited to invent other ways of using/combining these strategies.

I would like to attend more sessions like this and/or have follow-up after this session.

→ More educator feedback can be found on our Educator Feedback page.

For more information on the BAYFEST in-school drama and teacher training programs, please contact us:

3144 S. Barrington Avenue, Suite E. Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone: +1 (310) 439-1685 • Fax: +1 (213) 232-9724
 Facebook: /BAYFESTyouthTheatre • Twitter: @BAYFESTer