Students acting out (in a good way)

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Ryan Silvola/Beloit Daily News Reading interventionist Brynn Hambly visits Kelsey Jones's first grade class at Powers Elementary on Friday. She and the students are freezing in a pose that's meant to convey what the character is feeling at that moment in the story. Hambly uses drama to help students engage with reading.

BELOIT - Bringing the theater into the classroom is what reading interventionist Brynn Hambly does to inspire students at Powers Elementary School to engage with their texts.

Though she said drama is just one tool in her tool box, Hambly said turning a lesson into a performance helps bring the words to life and spark an interest in the reluctant reader.

"Drama is a process-oriented teaching tool that stands to engage the body, voice, imagination, and brain of the student," Hambly said. "Drama can teach core curriculum in a deep and meaningful way, activating kinesthetic and sensory learning. Additionally, drama simultaneously teaches social skills, such as working together, collaboration, trust and problem solving skills."

She uses a variety of methods to inspire students who are still developing as readers and may need a little extra literary help. One of her exercises is that she will pretend to be a traveler from a distant land who needs help understanding words or concepts.

"That way they're the expert and then become the teacher," Hambly said.

She also has students pantomime texts and freeze in a pose that's meant to convey the character's feelings at that moment.

In addition to her work in the schools, Hambly also serves as lead teacher for the Say Yes, Play, Grow! workshop series as part of Mountain View Act for Good program based in Mountain View, California, co-sponsored by Youth Drama for All and the YMCA of Silicon Valley. She designed the workshop for families to use drama to build confidence, expand empathy and encourage flexibility. The program currently only serves families in California.

The program is open to children in grades 1-3, including special needs and neurotypical students.

So far she has led two workshops and has workshops planned in April and this summer. She became involved with the project though a connection she had in the Bay Area.

"I hope it has legs, because I would love to bring it to Beloit," Hambly said.

Hambly has a Master's degree in Elementary Education and has a teaching certification. She also has served as a visiting assistant professor at Beloit College to teach the Drama for Teaching and Learning course, a class she also designed. Growing up in California, Hambly spent six years serving as Education Program Manager for the Seattle Children's Theatre before moving to Beloit.

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