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. 

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.

Monologue Must Share: Orson The Beetleslayer

For those who are embarking on the HSC this term and will be in the process of trying to look for some good monologues for their students to perform, may I suggest taking a look at the Suggestions to Monologues page (click on the link in the left hand tool bar). There are some great suggestions there. Also, I suggest reading the comments as other people offer their suggestions.

I thought I’d also share a clip I was watching the other day that I thought would make a really great monologue. It’s from Game of Thrones. Whilst a good majority of Game of Thrones content is unusable I did find this scene between Tyrion and Jaime to be quite a lovely scene. Performers could create their own character and adapt the dialogue to fit its circumstances. Anyway, I thought it was quite a sensitive moment amidst all the blood and gore on that show.

You can watch the clip HERE.

Theatre of the Absurd Workshop Series

Since my honest post a couple of months ago I have been very grateful for the many positive comments and messages of support for the blog. So, thank you very much. I am timidly returning to regular blogging and share this with you today.

I often receive emails of support, encouragement and requests for resources.

One of the most viewed sections on the blog is the lesson ideas for teaching the Theatre of the Absurd. It’s a tricky theatrical style to break down and teach. Over the years I’ve scaffolded and scaffolded so that finally I have a workshop series that seems to capture the essence of Absurdism. I often end up emailing this to various people who message me with resource requests which is quite often. So, to make it a little easier on me and you, I’ve added it to this blog post today or you can find it on my Resources page (click on the link in the left hand tool bar). It should be used in conjunction with these suggested teaching strategies: Absurdism 1 and Absurdism 2.

I’ve recorded a short video to explain how to read the table. You can check it out below but it is also available at my YouTube channel.

Here is the Workshop Series – The Theatre of the Absurd PDF referenced in the instructional video.

A little reminder: These resources are not designed for assignments or assessments for University students. If you wish to use these resources for this purpose please send me an email requesting permission.