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All Children Can Play: Designing Instruction for Diverse Learners

A week ago The Rose had the honor of hosting a professional development session taught by Tessa Derfner, Coordinator for Arts Instruction for the Spectrum School in New York City Public Schools.

The session was called All Children Can Play: Designing Instruction for Diverse Learners, which gave educators a chance to learn new ways to engage young people.

The workshop was made possible through a professional development contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Derfner, who serves as the Coordinator for Arts Instruction for the Spectrum School in New York City Public Schools, presented an immersive workshop, “All Children Can Play: Designing Theater Instruction for Diverse Learners.”i-x4ctssq-x3

Among the workshop attendees were teaching artists, theater practitioners, and public school teachers from across the region. Following the workshop, one participant stated, “I loved meeting and talking about solutions for problems with people from different backgrounds and experiences.” Another participant walked away better prepared to help students, explaining, “I was given many tools and tips to utilize in my classrooms.”

The workshop served as an introduction for some, and a refreshing review for others, to Special Education practices in the United States. Derfner explained medical conditions one may encounter in the classroom and techniques for adaptation in the classroom. An especially enlightening segment of the workshop covered the importance of catering lesson plans to individual students’ needs including varying learning styles and multiple intelligences.

One participant felt that “all of the visual, tactile, and kinesthetic examples of the accommodating strategies were very helpful.” Another participant expressed, “The idea of seeing all behavior as communication was very beneficial and eye-opening.” Derfner discussed sensory strategies, techniques for addressing behavior, and tips for inclusive instruction.

The Rose Theater was thrilled to welcome Tessa Derfner to our community and looks forward to making our classrooms as accessible as possible for all learners!

A few comments from workshop participants:

After this workshop, …
I definitely feel more empowered to work with young people who have special needs.  I better understand students’ different sensory needs, and how to accommodate them.  I am so excited to apply what I’ve learned to my autism spectrum classes here at The Rose!  I am inspired to create fun and adaptable lesson plans for my students with special needs.
-Hayley G, Teaching Artist

i-csvlspc-x3It was a great opportunity for the staff at The Rose to get a relatively quick summary about working with students of all different abilities. Tessa had some great information about special education and gave us many tools for working with students in our classrooms/productions here. I also believe that many people gained a lot of “teacher confidence” from this workshop!
-Chloe L, Teaching Artist

This workshop was a fantastic opportunity for classroom teachers, administrators, teaching artists, and parents, to gain new and exciting knowledge to engage young people in new and exciting ways. Tessa is a well-known figure in the theater education world, and we were honored that she shared her insights with our community,”
-Fran S, Teaching Artist and Accessibility Coordinator

Derfner’s work in the arts and special education is highlighted in the documentary SPECTRUM OF HOPE that has been presented with: the National Inclusion Project at the National VSA Conference, the Pratt Institute, ArtsConnection, and the NYC Department of Education. She and her school are the recipients of: the Music Theatre International COURAGE IN THEATER Award; The Junior Theater Festival SPIRIT OF THE FESTIVAL Award and BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE Award; the BROADWAY JR. FREDDIE G. Award; the New-York Historical Society AMERICAN MUSICALS PROJECT Award; and the NYC MAYOR’S AWARD FOR ARTS & CULTURE, presented by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Thank you again, Tessa, for bringing your insights to The Rose!





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