Fairy Tale Remix: A Professional Development Q+A with Ashley Winston

Fairy tales aren’t just for kids anymore.

October 4th was all about fantasy, as instructors for several ASPIRA schools participated in a professional development workshop led by teaching artists Ashley Winston and Maia Morgan. The session focused on teaching the instructors how to connect to their students through reading and literacy, and we have to admit, we wish we could have sat in for some of the activities (a “fairy tale talk show” sounds like it could yield hilarious results). We sat down with one of the educators, Ashley Winston, to discuss how professional development can be fun AND educational in building the arts into teaching strategies and curriculum. Here’s what she had to say:

UG: What topics were covered and what were some of the activities/exercises used to demonstrate these topics?

Ashley: We talked about using fairy tales as an anchor work to explore perspective and point of view. Teachers did a character exercise which involved exploring the space as an actual fairy tale character. Afterwards, they wrote from the perspectives of those characters. The teachers then shared their writing out loud. Lastly, we did an improvisational activity – a “fairy tale talk show.” Teachers came on the “set” as an actual fairy tale character. A show host led them through a variety of questions, helping them to think and respond as those characters.

What do you think the attendees took away from the session?

They learned activities which they can adapt to their classrooms. I also think they gained the ability to identify with their students more effectively after being out of their comfort zones.

Why do you believe PD meetings such as this one are important, especially when it comes to arts program integration?

PD workshops help challenge teachers to think differently and to stretch beyond their norm for instruction strategies. They also give them more ideas to work with and an opportunity to hear what other teachers are thinking and how other teachers create lesson plans for their students. They provide the instructors with more resources to pull from.

On a broader spectrum, what do you believe are the benefits of integrating the arts into other curricula?

There are SO many benefits, but ultimately the arts help to bridge those gaps in learning that teachers don’t usually have the time to address solely. It’s a way to address those missing skills and links seamlessly.

As an arts educator, was there anything you took away from leading the session?

I think there needs to be more discussion around how to make these sessions more effective for teachers; more thought needs to go into the planning in order to have a stronger impact!

Tell us what YOU think about how to make professional development sessions most impactful for teachers.