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. 

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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.

 

How About This to Get Your Kids Writing in Their Journal…?

I’ve blogged before about my gripe with the logbook. That it can be a bit tokenistic sometimes. An add on at the end of class with little focus on using reflective and literacy skills. I say this only because that’s how I’ve felt when I’m in my classroom and using the logbook. I’m slowly refining the scaffolding of writing tasks but I feel like I still have a way to go.

With my seniors I’ve posted before about the checklist of work that I get them to do to show their process. As an add on to that I’ve started something called a Drama Panel. It’s an idea I got from my Head Teacher who set it up in a similar way for Art.

I set up the classroom as if it is a boardroom in a big office. One big long table with chairs around it. Each student must attend and their parents are also invited.  I ask my colleagues to act as panelists. The panel is scheduled at the same time over three terms and culminates with the final performance evening prior to their final exam.

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At the first panel meeting I survey the parents to gauge how much they actually know about the Individual Project. I will then survey them again at the end of the process. I plan to particularly focus on how they were best able to support their child when at home as a result of knowing what was going on in the classroom.

The students are asked to present their logbook and a statement of intention. I will write about this in a future post. In the second panel meeting which will occur this term they must present their draft director’s concept/rationale and their logbook once again. The third and final panel meeting before the showcase will involve the students showing their projects in workshop mode. Meaning, Performance projects may perform the opening of their piece, scriptwriters will workshop a scene from their script etc.

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After each panel, the logbook, statement of intention, rationale and/or project are collected and a progress mark is given. Overall I have made the internal assessment of the IP worth 20% but you could weight it whatever you like. I divide the weighting up in a 5-5-10 percent ratio. At the final panel meeting the students can take their logbook and project back to make any last minute changes before it is submitted prior to the showcase. This occurs early in Term 3.

The project should be 99.9% finished at this point leaving some room after the showcase to make any changes as is necessary. I put the pressure on to have it done by this time because the students go off on their Trials early in Term 3 and their focus is not back on their project until after this time and there isn’t much time left after that!

The students must write a series of questions to ask the panelists who provide verbal and written feedback on each project which the student then sticks in their logbook.

So far my first panel was really successful. I think it is a good strategy for a couple of reasons:

  • It makes the student accountable for their logbook and their process;
  • It involves parents in their child’s work which they may not have done previously because they weren’t familiar or confident with what the project requires or involves;
  • It encourages collaboration with other teachers. It is great PD for them and it is good for you as the teacher because 3-4 brains is much better than one. The ideas I have been getting are fantastic.

So, if you’re trying to up the quality of the logbook or motivate lazy students, particularly for your seniors, maybe give this a whirl.

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An Offer For You…

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to open my email and find a large number of notifications for new followers to the blog. I was overwhelmed and felt extremely grateful that many of you have felt this blog is a place that you can get information to support you with your teaching. From this gesture you have shown me, I feel very motivated to continue to deliver free content for teachers whenever I am able to. Thank you for this lovely reminder.

To all my followers, new and old, may I encourage you to also join the community over on Facebook. There are so many teachers who have a lot to share. I encourage you to look at the Posts to Page section.

I was also contacted recently by Andy from The National Theatre who has let me know about their upcoming Drama Teacher Conference. It sounds AWESOME. I wish I could go!

So. If you are in the UK, you are a follower of this blog and have also joined the Facebook group (see the link over at the right hand side of the page) AND you want to go on some fabulous PD (I mean, with guests like Alecky Blythe who wouldn’t?) you could enjoy a £50 discount on the cost of attending both days of the conference. For more information see the flyer below, check out the link that I mentioned above or contact Andy at apritchard@nationaltheatre.org.uk and let him know you are a member of this great community.

For those followers not in the UK, please enjoy this gift of inspiration from Alan Rickman 🙂

Alan Rickman

Have a lovely, restful weekend drama teachers.

The National Theatre Teacher Professional Development Flyer

Teaching – Sailing & Navigating Through Change

This year I began teaching at a new school. I have just finished my first term. This is the first time in my career as a teacher that I have moved on from a school. I wanted to use this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on this “transition” as I have called it.

Preparing to Set Sail

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I feel I have been living this transition for some months now. It was late last year that I had to make the decision to accept an offer of moving to a new school.

I was ready to move on. In terms of the goals I had set for myself, of which most were Drama orientated, I felt I had achieved all that I could. I’d started a Drama Club, put on several Drama productions, produced the first musical at the school in many years, entered the kids into Drama festivals, competitions, sent them off to camps and auditions and just generally improved the profile of Drama within the school to something that now resembled respect. There was a solid foundation that someone new could come in and do something with.

Admittedly I was also a little burnt out and really wanted to focus on my classroom practice. Yes, I had survived the tumultuous first three years of being a new teacher but so much of those first few years had seen me focus on things outside the classroom that I felt as though the quality of my teaching had suffered at times.

My school was an absolute culture shock with its challenging students and constant loneliness due to my being the only Drama teacher in the school. I chose to swim rather than sink however, searching for every possible positive opportunity I could. I joined committees, became the Peer Mediation Co-ordinator and Year Adviser which, aside from every Drama thing I have achieved, is probably my biggest achievement and the most rewarding thing I have done as a teacher to date. I learnt about PLN’s and the power of Twitter and blogging and from there my teaching world opened and it was time to look for a new experience. I wasn’t an island any more. I had built a small raft and I wanted to try it out.

I had grown personally as well, outgrowing some things and growing into others. I became much more confident and comfortable in myself and who I was, no longer anxious, stressed and flighty.

Life however, takes you on its own path. Most things are beyond your control so I wasn’t sure when or what my next opportunity was going to be. I put a tentative plan into place and was happily working towards that. Of course, that is when life throws you its curve balls and forces you to make difficult decisions.

It was the most difficult decision I had had to make in some time due to, what seemed at the time, as really crummy timing.

To a degree there is still a part of me that feels enormous guilt at leaving some of my students behind, particularly my year group. I’m an emotional person. I became incredibly attached to them. Honestly, I felt somewhat mother-like and I had never experienced such appreciation from people whom I had shown genuine care for who weren’t my family or friends. It was overwhelming. My final term was bittersweet and very emotional for everyone, staff and students. Some of my most treasured memories that I will hold dear will certainly be from that time. I went from hating this school to struggling to leave. I never would have expected that in a million years when I started.

Sailing the High Seas

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I was familiar with my new school, having gotten to know some of the staff from the faculty through TeachMeet’s. One is now a very dear friend. Having a person to support me through this time made it a lot easier but also I was just much more confident in general because I now had experience under my belt. I knew what questions to ask, I knew that it would take time to get settled so I was patient with myself. Starting at the beginning of the year was also a massive plus! It’s amazing how much more structured school orientation programs for new staff have become.

I was most nervous about my senior classes. Having been in the school system a long time, they knew how to push buttons and also to let you know, very honestly I might add, as to what they expected from you. They wouldn’t let up until they thought I had earnt it either!

It was difficult not to make comparisons early on, something I was very conscious of, and still am because I didn’t want it to seem that my previous school was any better or worse than where I was now.

Treading Water

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I still feel as though I am settling. The transition is ongoing and will be for a while yet. I am in a bit of a lull on my raft. It doesn’t quite know which direction to go in because the wind hasn’t picked up yet. This does frustrate me because I am quite “gung-ho” when it comes to my work. I like to get in there and get my teeth stuck into things. I’d say my job forms a significant part of my identity and that without it I am lost.

In saying that too though, it has been good to reflect and to take time to think about where I want to go with things in terms of my teaching.

To be honest, I really don’t know. To a degree I don’t miss all the extra responsibilities and absolutely love being able to focus solely on my classroom practice. In the same breath, I do get bored easily.  It also seems, although most teachers won’t say it openly, it is expected that you take on something additional to that of your classroom responsibilities which I don’t mind doing, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done because I’ve done it. If you catch my drift.

The vastness of the ocean in front of me with no markers, no islands in sight, makes me uneasy. What do I look out for? Or do I just wait for the wind to carry me where ever? Part of the latter intrigues me but my controlling nature makes me want to have a larger degree of influence on my raft’s direction.

Yet, that’s life isn’t it? I don’t know where I am going with this whole teaching thing but I’m on my way to a new island and the unknown adventure is a little exciting but mostly completely nerve-racking. Everyone wants a little certainty right? At this stage I feel certain of nothing but I’m learning to sit quietly on my raft with that uncertainty by my side, getting better acquainted and trying to navigate this vast ocean together.

Photo Credit: Fiji 2014 by karlao

The World’s Biggest Theatre Ensemble’s Debut!

I’ve posted about the World Theatre Video and the World Theatre Day projects before (here and here) and today I wanted to share with you our first video for the project. Performers were given one of the hardest monologues in the English language – Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” monologue from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Already I can see huge improvements from our initial video back in March in terms of performance quality and cinematography. All the performers have done a tremendous job.

I have been presenting at a number of TeachMeets in Sydney spruiking our project in the hope of getting more schools involved. It’s definitely getting a lot of positive feedback so hopefully more young performers will get involved.

This month, November, we are looking at Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven. It is another challenging piece so the more schools we have involved, the more we can share the challenge of performing each of the stanzas.

For more details please visit worldtheatrevideo.com

You can also share and use the Slide Share presentation I have been taking round to schools to promote our project.

Enjoy the video.

We’re Now on Facebook

Stage Door

I finally created  a space for posts from the DTN to be made available in your News Feed on Facebook.

If you would like to keep track of all your Drama related stuff through here, please like us.

https://www.facebook.com/dramateachersnetwork

Thank you for your support of the blog.

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