Interview with Tina Milo: Drama in the ESL Classroom
Tina Milo is the founder of Big Little Actors. She gives acting workshops to students in their own classrooms. If you’re looking for an in-school field trip, BIG Little Actors is a great choice. Read this interview to find out more about Tina, her workshops, and her passion for the dramatic arts.
“Kids hide behind the characters I give them and just open up.”
What is Big Little Actors?
Tina: Big Little Actors is a series of high-paced drama workshops designed for primary and secondary students. The workshops take place in their own classrooms. We simply move the desks out of the way and voilà! the magic begins!
Who is your target clientele?
Tina: The workshops are designed for all primary (K-6) and secondary (1-5). I have worked with students from the English boards and ESL students from the French boards. Any teacher who is interested in a drama workshop can call me and I will bring my “stage” to their school. It is a field trip that comes to you.
How do ESL students benefit from your workshop?
Tina: For ESL students I have acting activities that are designed for practicing vocabulary. In these they are asked to respond quickly to what they see, what they are doing or how they feel. Students favourites are the Create-a-Story-with-a-Word Game, and the Thank you for… improv game which create a safe, fun environment for expressing themselves and speaking English.
What motivated you to start this project?
Tina: I taught both theatre and “acting on camera” classes for over 15 years in Vancouver. I always loved kids’ spontaneous and sincere way to achieve goals through being creative. I love seeing shy kids opening up, getting out of their comfort zones. When I moved to Montreal two years ago, I was amazed by its bilingualism. I realized that drama with its unique and fun intensity would be a perfect way to make one feel safe while learning, and even making mistakes in, a second language.
How did it begin?
Tina: It began a long time ago in Vancouver, when I decided to start an acting school for Serbian kids. My motivation was for the kids to learn (keep) their mother tongue through drama. I was not pushing them to speak Serbian; they just spontaneously did it, thanks to their enthusiasm for acting.
Where have you presented in the past?
Tina: I was fortunate that my most productive years as an actor were with Belgrade`s Dah Theatre, one of the most renowned European theatre companies. Later on when I moved to Vancouver, I transitioned from theater to film and television, which brought me a new perspective on acting. In 2015 I created a one-woman show called, The Village, which I had a chance to perform in many countries (Denmark, India, Montenegro, Serbia, Canada). I also represented Canada at numerous international theatre festivals. My dynamic acting career definitely defined me as a teacher and as an artist. I am passionate to share my experience with young people and they reward me (for that) every step of the way.
Where have you presented in Quebec?
Tina: Recently, I had the pleasure of working with high school students at Lower Canada College, helping their drama teacher with a mask workshop. I was very honored to work with a special needs class at Edward Murphy School (EMSB). I also run the Drama Club, which runs from January until June at St. Dorothy School in St. Michel (EMSB) where the children are working on creating scenes, writing scripts, and designing costumes and dances to present on stage for their friends and family at the end of the year. Big Little Actors has visited many schools in the greater Montreal area (CSDM, EMSB, CS de Laval). I also had the pleasure of presenting my workshops at SPEAQ’s DEESL event that was held in April 2017 in Sainte Thérèse.
What are the students/teachers reactions?
Tina: Testimonials from teachers are always pouring in after seeing their students shine in another light-especially in English Intensive classes, where students forget about being language-shy. Teachers often send me impressions their students had, sometimes even in writing.
Teacher: The best thing we’ve done in class is?
Student: When we were working with Tina.
This is what motivates me every day.
What surprises you most?
Tina: How wonderfully children with special needs react to acting. They are spontaneous and just perform without over thinking what I ask them to do. I am also very surprised how much influence we have on our students. For example, after experiencing my workshop, a Grade 6 Intensive ESL student approached me and thanked me for helping her decide which high school to choose. She decided on the one with the enriched drama program! I was happy to help, but felt very responsible as well.
What are your plans for The BIG Little Actors?
Tina: I am very proud to be a member of Programme La culture à l’école, which assists teachers financially to encourage arts and culture in their classroom. I am happy to know that teachers will have financial help from the Ministry for cultural activities. Also, this grant helps me travel and visit schools outside of the Greater Montreal area. This fall, I’ve been invited to Ormstown Elementary School to work with their students and help them put together a musical production that will open in April. In the near future, I intend to present my workshops in French as well as in English. My hopes are that the students will be easy on me when I make a language mistake, just like the way I am easy on them.
Thank you Tina, for sharing this information with our readers at ESL Blogs.
For more information on The Big Little Actors and Tina Milo:
Some of Tina’s past events!