Using ALARM in the Drama Classroom

clocks

My latest explorations in the Drama classroom have revolved around the drama essay and improving the literacy of my students as well as the quality of the writing tasks I ask my students to produce during class.

In introducing you to ALARM it would be worth starting at the finished product before moving back towards the beginning of the process. Have a look at Max Wood’s video below. The matrix that he talks about is what you are aiming for your students to be able to produce independently. Eventually.

Why, eventually? Well, the thing I’ve learnt from these matrices (and I’ve made a couple now) is that before you get your students to create one, you will need to create one for yourself so you know exactly where your kids are heading. That’s when it can seem a little overwhelming. In all honesty, I would say it requires an initial outlay of time (I’m talking a good 2-3 hours) to produce the resource and get your head round how to deliver it to your kids. Once you’ve done it though, you’re set. You will save yourself hours of work later on.

It’s a HUGE area and one that its creator, Max Woods, is much better at explaining than I am so I’ll just direct you to his multitude of YouTube clips to help you familiarise yourself with the matrix and how it is put together.

Here’s a quick intro vid from Max himself:

 

I do think this kind of matrix is worthwhile. It makes you think in the way that your kids need to. It develops the thinking skills needed to apply the content. The content means very little if it isn’t applied in the right way and I think that’s where a lot of our drama kids miss the mark. I really feel this is avoidable. In my teaching I know I don’t commit as much time to theory as I should. The kids are generally fairly reluctant and many in the course are not the most skilled writers so it feels like a chore. I plough on through but I feel the resistance.

At the moment I’m trying to reintroduce the matrices back into my teaching but also more specifically look at direction words and their influence on guiding students to write a response. From this I’m also looking at how these direction words could be more influential in directing the types of responses we ask our students to produce in their logbooks after a workshop or whilst devising or rehearsing.

To some degree I think we do skip over the direction words of questions when we’re teaching, assuming that our kids already know what they mean. We then launch into a structure and direction that is going to ensure that the content is sandwiched in as best as possible not really realising that the direction word probably has an influence on this structure in the first place.

I really feel that refining this area could mean the difference between one result or another one that is higher. It only needs to be a few marks that do it too. Coupling this kind of teaching with the appropriate choice of theory topic and well designed experiential learning could mean essay success! Well, this is what I am hoping for certainly.

I’m in the process of developing these skills with my Year 11 students so I will share some of the resources as I go. I’m also looking to backward map this in the Stage 5 drama units and assessment tasks as well as incorporating the literacy continuum. I’ll try to keep you posted with resources as I go.

How We’re Celebrating Shakespeare 400

Shakespeare

This year marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. A huge cultural initiative has been running for the past year in all parts of the world to remind people of and to celebrate the significance of this great man’s work. I thought it was important that we do something at school to acknowledge this also. As with the many ideas I have they get big and out of hand and I really need to scale them back.

This year I found a simple way to celebrate all these fabulous works that I thought I would share with you. Perhaps you might like to do something similar or share your ideas/celebrations in the comments.

We started with a short speech at assembly and I showed a really lovely 6 minute clip from the National Theatre about their performances of Shakespeare over the years. It was probably slightly better suited to the senior kids than the juniors but I still think it captured the essence and beauty of his works.

At the assembly I asked for anyone who would like to present a short scene, monologue or duologue as part of the ongoing celebrations. We have our assemblies fortnightly so afterwards I fielded a few offers to present and I lined up a short five minute item for each fortnightly assembly. It is quite reliant on the kids doing most of the development but they do have to show me their ideas/performance prior to presenting it at assembly. So far we’ve got a sonnet reading and a monologue from Julius Caesar. We only have about 4-5 assemblies a term so hopefully I’ll get a couple more before the end. If not, I’m glad that I got a couple with which to continue the celebrations.

How are you celebrating? Share them in the comments below. 

A Quick Drama Taster Lesson (Prior to That Dreaded Subject Selection Evening)

Convinced Meme

Each year Drama teachers the world over have to sell their subject to a bunch of kids (often from primary school) either to give them a taste of high school life or to genuinely get them to take their subject in an elective year.

It is an ongoing battle that I don’t think any of us can rest on our laurels about. I would describe it as a fairly big PR exercise that we have to undertake every year, particularly prior to subject selection evening in order to remind people that our subject exists and yep, it’s worthwhile doing it.

I was sharing what I have done a number of times with a colleague of mine today who is doing it for the first time so I thought I’d share it with you too. Maybe it will be a good guide for when you are planning to do your own taster lesson. I’ve also attached this Drama Information for Open Night flyer I have made and photocopied onto A5 sheets to hand out at subject selection evenings, open nights etc. There are also a whole bunch of articles online (like this one), many of which I have shared on the Facebook page that you could also include about why Drama is such an important subject for students to take if there are still people who are not convinced.

I hope this is useful to you.

1. Start in a circle, introduce yourself and what you do as a Drama Teacher. Ensure you’ve chosen a space where you can make noise and not bother other classes. We do ours on the Swimming and Athletics Carnival days so the school is empty.

2. Ask students if anyone has done drama before or seen any drama before. The kids will often list a lot of musicals that they have seen. When prompting them about doing drama I ask them what it involves and try to steer them towards a few key things: focus, facial expressions (they often will use the word “emotions” so I ask them “how do we show this”), body language (they often forget about this one), team work, improvisation. Then I base the activities on these things.

3. We play 21 to work on our focus. They usually don’t even get close to 10 but it’s fun. This game is listed under the Warm Up Games tab on the blog.

4. We play Knots to focus on team work. We also make letters of the alphabet in larger groups (say splitting a group of about 20 in half). This game is also listed under the Warm Up Games tab on the blog.

5. I play Dollars and Cents to get them into smaller groups (why not whack in a bit of numeracy?) after this. Everyone is either a 5 or 10 cent piece and they have to make dollar amounts. For example if I call out “20cents!” 4 five cent pieces need to huddle together to form a group. They then use these groups to complete the next activity which is building inanimate objects with their bodies. I always do the Harbour Bridge because I love it (no other reason). Others I’ve asked them to create include a desktop computer, car, lawn mower.

6. For facial expressions we play Me, You. We start with the face but then of course the kids realise that it comes through in their walk and their voice. I talk about “turning up the volume” so we exaggerate our actions so they are big and silly.

7. Finally, this leads into very basic improvisation with the game “What are you doing?”

8. If there is time I extend on this with lengthier improvs and A LOT of side coaching.

9. I have also done Object Spitfire to a song as a further intro to improvisation. I think I did Uptown Funk last year. It was relevant to the kids so they loved it .

I’ve found that all this gets me through about a 45 minute lesson but after doing it a couple of times round (we have a rotational system so you might see 4-5 groups of 20 in a day) you get quite quick so maybe have a couple of things up your sleeve just in case you have a bit of time left.

Any other ideas that have worked for you? Please share in the comments below. 

Requests for Resources

I often receive a lot of comments and emails requesting copies of my programs and resource notes.

One in particular that I am often asked about is my Approaches to Acting program and the associated resources.

I have a section on the blog called “Resources.”I have uploaded some resources there including the program I wrote for Approaches to Acting.

The resources connected to the Approaches program, particularly to the Meyerhold section of the program have page references to the textbook I used and created notes from. You can buy the textbook from Amazon at this link.

I would upload my notes however I had an unfortunate USB accident some time back and a lot of the stuff was lost and I now only have my original hard copies. When I prioritise some time I  may take photos of them and upload however essentially it was me making a written summary of the chapters I’d read from the textbook.

The Boal resources were a mish mash of photocopies I found and had when I first started teaching. This was almost 10 years ago when not everything was digital yet.

I also get requests for the PowerPoint that links with the Year 10 Oscars “just cause” lessons. I would also share this but it is so huge because of the amount of video clips in it, the computer has a hissy fit every time I try to.

I just thought I’d post this as a little reminder to check there first before messaging or commenting for a copy of the program because it’s already there for you to use with your class.

Please also be mindful of copyright and creative licence and ensure you make all the necessary acknowledgements if sharing this with others. These programs are for classroom use only and are not to be used for university assignments without express written permission. I have expressed my opinion on this before.

 

I Think I’ve Found a Solution to My Gripe with the Logbook

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.

I apologise.

I’ve been grappling with my creativity and the direction of the blog for some time. You can read about my seemingly never ending writer’s block here.

Also, prioritising time for writing is something I’ve not been good at making lately either. A couple of times I’ve grappled with actually deleting the blog altogether but I know many of you find it useful and there is a large community of us on the Facebook page now and through the followers of the blog posts which I greatly appreciate.

I guess I just care about making quality content and I tend to um and ah over it rather than just getting into it and starting. I try to keep up with a lot of the requests I receive but I apologise if I am a little on the slow side.

I’m starting a little side project to inspire me to get blogging again. Completely un-Drama related but I’ll let you know about it in a few days.

I think I’m also set on a series of posts that I’d like to get out to you all over the course of the next term. Baby steps in order to recommit to blogging and to supporting drama teachers. They have a literacy focus but also have helped me to overcome my long held gripe with the drama logbook.

I look forward to sharing it with you.

K.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog. I always like to share this with my readers so as to thank you for your readership throughout 2015. I’d also like to wish you a happy, healthy and safe 2016. I look forward to your continued readership this year.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 810,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 35 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

World Teachers' Day

It’s October 5th here in Australia so I’m getting in early and wishing you:

HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY!

Thank you for all that you do each and every day in the classroom.

The kids we teach are very lucky.