The Bunny Rocket, dramatic conventions and emergent literacy skills

The Bunny Rocket is a five-day process drama I co-created and co-facilitated in 2017 with Jessica Cermak as part of our thesis requirement in the MA in Applied Theatre Program of the City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies. We implemented the programme in a pre-kindergarten in Brooklyn; its student population mostly consisted of English as New Language Learners (ENL) from mainland China. Although Jessica and I shared in the project, we each had our own research objectives. I started with the question

How might drama conventions that were designed for older participants be modified effectively to support ENL pre-kindergarteners’ emergent literacy (skills one needs in order to learn to read and write)?

There were two parts to this research. First, I documented how Jessica and I adjusted Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode’s dramatic conventions in our process drama design and as we implemented it. Second, I analyzed the information we had gathered from the five days, i.e., student participation, against two emergent literacy frameworks: the Storch and Whitehurst framework and the Wasick and Henderson framework.

An important lesson I learned from this experience is I don’t find it satisfying to do research on something I feel I already know the answer to. I was already confident that dramatic conventions would help emergent literacy; that is, after all, the conceit of educational theatre. I appreciated how this research helped me articulate in concrete detail how dramatic conventions could help support emergent literacy. It gave me the language to communicate with educators and those outside the applied theatre field. I know I have done meaningful work; still, a part of me felt like I was merely filling in the blanks of a very obvious puzzle. Since then, I had done my best to pursue questions that also personally challenged me; not just because they felt “significant.”

Below is a document that contains sections of my research that addresses how dramatic conventions help support the emergent literacy of ENL pre-kindergarteners.

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The Bunny Rocket, dramatic conventions and emergent literacy skills
You can download the PDF here.