Ensemble Story Teaching:
Where Students Learn and Tell Together
A New Approach to Teaching
What is Ensemble Story Teaching?
Designed by Kevin Cordi as a tool for those who work closely with youth, Ensemble Story Teaching
is both a unique and effective method to teach standards-based curriculum. As an inquiry based approach, ES
borrows from educational drama or process drama and narrative (story) inquiry to engage learners through story.
Students help design and enter the world of the curriculum by using dramatic conventions and narrative to
construct meaning. Kevin’s approach is rooted in his 20 years experience and scholarship both as a
classroom teacher, storyteller and college instructor.
Kevin respects youth voices. In fact, Kevin was named, the first full-time storytelling teacher
in the country by the National Storytelling Network and for 11 years, and has always used story-based curriculum
in his lesson planning. He has also co-authored an award-winning book, with Judy Sima, called Raising Voices:
Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes.
Why is this Drama not the same as Drama Performance?
Although ensemble story teaching borrows from theater conventions, it inspires inquiry from
students, not necessarily stage performance. In fact, this learning concentrates on the process of creating and
understanding and is rarely performed. The drama is in the building of the story-based inquiry. Students are
not expected to perform, but only engage and experience story. A stage is not necessary; classroom space is all
that is needed.
What is Story Process Learning?
At The Ohio State University, Kevin studied process drama with both Dr. Brian Edmiston, author
of Imagining to Learn, and world renowned educator Dorothy Heathcote to form the foundation of his Ensemble Story
In process drama, students use their imaginations to design and enter the lesson, and expand to
question, extend, and/or re-experience it. For example, instead of reading about the Civil War, students use
drama and story to engage in the war as a soldier or nurse so that they can experience the Civil War from a
personal vantage point. Students can enter The Hungry Caterpillar as the caterpillar. Kevin can serve as a
mediator for this type of learning and can help students explore stories.
Why is it used for teaching?
This ensemble story teaching encourages students to use story and drama to further their
learning. Stories can take many forms, such as writing, drawing, telling, and role play. As an ensemble
classroom, students share their story using these many, different drama conventions. Ideas are explored
concurrently in some dramatic way by all participants. As a class, the student and Kevin share stories, however
the stories can be diverse and contrasting, as an ensemble.
Why use story and dramatic roles?
When students become authors, story listeners, and storytellers, it is the standards of
composition in action. As students compose their own work, their inquiry aligns with teaching standards.
Imagine all of your students involved in role, not as students, but as coal miners, fairy tale
helpers, or members of Congress. The learning is endless; it is left to the imaginations of the teacher and the
Be involved in an innovative method of teaching using story and drama and watch your
students’ curiosity and action grow!