9 Must Watch Ted Talks About The Arts

I’ve blogged about my discovery of the Ted Talks website some time ago now and I’ve been meaning to share with you some of my favourite talks that focus on The Arts. There are some really insightful talks that get you to really connect with the Arts in a way that you may not have before or that you may not have indulged in for a time because I think we get too caught up in our day to day school lives to really think about these sorts of things.

I ask you to indulge in at least one of these that takes your interest. Choose any one which sounds interesting.

Trust me, you will feel better about what you do once you watch it.

Consider it your 20 minutes of free professional development/reflection that you may not have had in a while. Enjoy.

1. Chris Bliss: Comedy is Translation

If you teach Comedy or enjoy comedy this talk is all about the truth that can be found in comedy.

2. Charles Hazelwood: Trusting the Ensemble

Hazelwood discusses the role of trust when leading an ensemble. I think some of the ideas are translatable to other areas of the Arts.

3. Handspring Puppet Co: The Genius Puppetry Behind War Horse

The creators of Joey in War Horse share the complexities of bringing the puppets to life on stage.

4. Charles Limb: Your Brain on Improv

This is my favourite. Limb explains what happens when you improvise when playing music. I also think this is relevant in Drama.

5. Ben Cameron: The True Power of the Performing Arts

Cameron discusses how the Performing Arts must compete in an Internet age.

6. Thelma Golden: How Art Gives Shape to Cultural Change

Golden discusses the meaning of Art and how can it redefine culture.

7. Amy Tan: Where Does Creativity Hide?

Tan analyses her own creative processes to see where it starts and flourishes.

8. David Eggers’ Wish: Once Upon a School

If you’re looking for something that’s pro-public school and teachers. This is it 🙂

9. Anna Deavere Smith: Four American Characters

A great soloist performing some interesting characters. A possible source for Individual Project: Performance.


Warm-Up of the Week: Two Truths, One Lie

I’ve had a couple of prac student’s for the first time this year and they’ve introduced me to some fabulous warm-up games for student’s. I really liked this one that was played the other day. It’s a great ice-breaker amongst kids who may not know each other very well or when your student’s may not know you very well.

1. Form a circle.

2. Each person must then tell the group two things that are true about themselves and one thing that is not true about themself.

3. Try to get the student’s to mix up the truths and lies because otherwise it will be obvious to pick which one is the lie!

A really easy, fun warm-up game. It gets the kids being creative with their lies! Something I’m sure they’re all already quite good at 😉

Elements of Production Teaching Suggestions

Over the next couple of posts I am going to look at the elements of production. The series will look at teaching:

  • The Elements, The Production Process, Roles and Responsibilities
  • Design – Set, Costume, Poster/Promotion
  • Design – Lighting and Sound
  • Direction
  • Theatre Criticism

I have just started this unit with my class and thought it would be a good idea to share my classroom experiences in real time rather than quite a while later as I have done with some of my other posts.

So here’s a suggestion for introducing the elements, the production process and roles and responsibilities to your students.


  • To establish the idea that theatre is not just about the actor’s but a whole team of people;
  • That it is a lengthy process requiring considerable planning with people from various areas of responsibility;
  • That the team’s primary role is to interpret a text and bring it to life on stage.

Remember: Try to re-inforce the idea that this is a “directing” course, not a theory course.

There’s No “I” in Team:

  • Form student’s into small groups.
  • Give each group a photograph.
  • Assign each group member with a role: director, actor, costume designer, set/props and any other role you like.
  • Allow each group 5 minutes to recreate a scene from the photograph but they must change it in some way to make it original.
  • Whilst groups are working out what they are doing, walk around and whisper “commands” into certain people’s ears, e.g. “Refuse to do anything,” “Let the actor do whatever he/she wants.”
  • Have each group present their photograph performance.
  • Afterwards ask groups to talk about how well or perhaps how well they did not work together and what they felt would have made the team work even better. The pressurised time situation is bound to bring out some interesting responses. You could also link in a discussion about the workplace and any similiarities or connections seen from the exercise.
  • Use this as a lead in to discuss the concept of a production team and the various roles in that team. Have handouts at the ready here with lists of responsibilities for each role.
  • Get student’s to complete a “heirarchy chart” of the various production roles that looks at the areas of responsibility and who is “in charge” of who.
  • Lead into a discussion about the three parts of the production process: pre-production (70%), production (10%) and post-production (30%). Yes, that does equal 110%. As well as, of course, how could we forget, Murphy’s Law and the need to be prepared for anything that may go wrong.

Paint By Number:

  • Create a workstation for each student with newspaper, paint brushes, water and a selection of colours (I use the primary colours).
  • Give each student 4 sheets of A3 paper. Have them number them 1-4 and put their name on the back of each.
  • Select four differing pieces of music. You could base these on the Laban movements. So, something soft, flowing and melancholic, something short, sharp and up-tempo, something constant and rhythmic, something brimming with tension.
  • As each piece of music plays, have the student’s paint what comes into their minds using the various colours, mixing colours, using shapes, line and pattern.
  • You can leave the exercise here at this point or as an extension to this exercise you could have the student’s write about what they created and which elements of drama they were drawing upon.
  • Finish the lesson by reinforcing that what the student’s did was to interpret and utilise their imaginations to create an original work that could then become a set or a costume design.

Here are some photos of what my student’s did during their lesson this week.

Image Credit: karlao, Paint by Number Activity, 2011.

Fantastic Find: Ted Talks

This weekend my school held the first of their soon to become annual Learning Conference.

Each year since our new principal started at the end of 2008 we have a Leadership Conference. We go away to a hotel for two days and are fed and get fancy satchels with booklets and free pens and mentos on the table and we listen to speakers share and discuss their ideas on education. We feel like the big wigs in the business industry who regularly attend conferences for two days and it’s really nice.

This year our principal has added the Learning Conference and an Executive Conference to the agenda so that we have three professional development weekends per year. All optional and you take away want you from it.

Anyway, one of the teacher’s who spoke this weekend introduced us to a new website called Ted Talks.

TEDTalks is the sister website of TED.com. TED began as a series of conferences bringing together people from the world of entertainment, design and technology. Since then it has grown and its scope become much broader and the website now shares the best talks and performances for free.

The non profit groups aim is to share and spread ideas. In doing that, they passionately believe these talks and their ideas are a vehicle in which attitudes, lives and the world can change. The most a speaker can present for is 18 minutes.

It’s an easy site to navigate with the ability to narrow your search down in terms of length, topic or whether or not they are considered “persuasive”, “courageous”, “ingenious” etc.

Whether to inspire yourself or to use as a resource in the classroom, it’s certainly worth taking a look.

I had a bit of a flick around and found something I liked. This talk is by a scientist by the name of Charles Limb, talking about some experiments he did with musicians so as to understand how their brain functions when they improvise. In Drama we improvise a lot too when we’re playbuilding, playing Theatresports or workshopping scenes. What I found so amazing was that your brain is so much more engaged when it’s improvising than when it’s rote learning or playing something from memory. Thinking about it now it seems kind of obvious but it just reminded why it’s important to encourage active engagement in learning because if we just rote learn everything our brains will get lazy!


Image Credits:

hyg-27, Used under the Creative Commons.