Stage Blocking: Movement in the Classroom

Featured Instructors:

David McGraw, M.A., M.F.A., senior lecturer in theatre arts, head of Performing Arts Entrepreneurship program

Overview:

Explains how instructors can plan their movements across the space of the classroom to invigorate lectures and discussions.

Benefits:

  • Engages students
  • HIghlights key information
  • Improves instructor-student relationship

Description:

Stage blocking is the carefully planned choreography of performers on a stage designed to affect how audience members perceive the performance.  Instructors can similarly use stage blocking to enliven a lecture or discussion, highlight key information, and improve student engagement.  Using performance techniques in the classroom does not merely entertain students; rather, it helps the instructor to connect with students so they can better understand course content.

 

Stage Blocking: Details & Examples

Stage blocking, McGraw demonstrates, can literally change students' viewpoints:

  • Walking toward students who seem disengaged can quickly bring them back to focus.  
  • Approaching a student with a question can help to encourage the student. 
  • Choreographing your movement between whiteboards and screens can help convey the organization of information or the relationship between opposing views. 
  • Incorporating movement can be especially helpful for visual-spatial learners.  

Stage Blocking: Best Practices

Stage blocking is possible in a variety of classrooms, but may require some adjustments.  Consider rearranging chairs to allow for greater movement and connection.  Especially in large lecture halls with stadium seating or a balcony, it is helpful to assess how much you can use the space without interrupting students' line of sight.

Consider recording yourself teaching for later review.  Most instructors report that they learn a great deal about their use of space, timing, gestures, and habits of speech.

If you realize that you are in the habit of making unwanted movements, it may be easier to find an acceptable alternative than to try to eliminate it altogether.

Professor McGraw recommends that you strategize about your movement in advance, even marking your lecture notes for blocking.

As you plan your presentation, it is helpful to contemplate the timing of your movement — just before, during, or after a significant statement.  Will your movement highlight or distract from a particular statement?  Some practitioners have found that moving just before usually works best to highlight a particular statement.

Stage Blocking: Bibliography & Related Content

Bibliography

McGraw, A. & McGraw, D. J. (2015) Your Classroom, Your Stage. Retrieved from http://www.yourclassroom-yourstage.com

Tauber, R. T. & Mester, C. S. (2007) Acting Lessons for Teachers: Using Performance Skills in the Classroom, 2nd ed. Westport, CN: Praeger.

Timpson, W. M. & Burgoyne, S. (2002) Teaching & Performing: Ideas for Energizing Your Classes, 2nd ed. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

The University of Iowa ITS. (2016) Large Lecture Transformation Project. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from http://its.uiowa.edu/largelecturetransformation

The University of Iowa Speaking Center. (2016) Speaking Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from http://speakingcenter.uiowa.edu/

The University of Iowa TILE. (2014) Snapshot: A Staging Strategy to Improve Engagement. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from http://tile.uiowa.edu/news/snapshot-staging-strategy-improve-engagement

Related Content

Instructors at the University of Iowa seeking technology solutions to improve teaching and learning may wish to consult with the SITA program. Read more about howDavid McGraw collaborated with SITAs on the uidea project.  

Large Lecture Classrooms -- Learn about working with TAs, engaging students in active learning, personalizing learning environment, encouraging good preparation and attendance, and other best practices for the large lecture class. 

Motivating Student Learning -- Help students tap their intrinsic desire to learn.

Resources