PlayMakers Laboratory uses an experiential learning approach in our arts education programs that teach creative writing by utilizing creative drama techniques for imagination exploration.  Our team of teaching artists joins classrooms in Chicago Public Schools (and beyond) to collaborate with students to motivate, cultivate, and illuminate their voices through their writing. PML offers two levels of in-school residency programs; each consist of six 90-minute sessions and culminates in an in-school performance entirely comprised of students’ writings.

For more information about our in-school residency, please contact Executive Artistic Director, Brandon Cloyd.

Our residencies utilize the presence of 4-5 Teaching Artists in the classroom, allowing for deeper one-on-one engagement with students. Each 90-minute session includes time for creative drama games, group story writing, performance, and individual story writing, giving students the opportunity to build community within the classroom and develop collaboration skills while also having time to explore and create independently.

After each six-week program, each student has written 6 new stories individually and a number of group stories. Our ensemble of actors and musicians then takes a selection of these stories to transform for the stage. PML returns to the school to present an original performance drawn entirely from the student-written material. Following the performance, students’ notebooks are returned to them filled with comments and encouraging words from the teaching artists, with hopes they are inspired to continue their journey as writers and storytellers.

The collaboration between student-author and adult-performer creates a performance that is told from a student’s perspective but with the honor, respect and training of a professional performer. The school performances are an opportunity for the student-authors to see their work performed in front of an audience of their peers, an experience that is profoundly moving and empowering for the students.

Curriculum Options

Level One: Introduction to Creative Writing
Intended for 3rd-5th grade students
Explores the foundations of creative writing

  • Day 1: Building Blocks of a Story
  • Day 2: Fictional Writing based on Pictures
  • Day 3: Personal Narratives
  • Day 4: Writing with Figurative Language
  • Day 5: Playwriting
  • Day 6: Persuasive Arguments

Level Two: Revising & Refining Writing
Intended for 4th-6th grade students
Explores how to make revisions to creative writing utilizing peer to peer feedback as well as exploring poetry and genre writing.

  • Day 1: Creating a Story
  • Day 2: Revising A Story
  • Day 3: Personal Narratives
  • Day 4: Genre Writing
  • Day 5: Dialogue Writing
  • Day 6: Monologues & Speeches


“...part pep rally, part musical theater extravaganza—and one of the most real, uplifting and engaging theatrical experiences in town.”

–Lucia Mauro, ChicagoTheater.Com