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. 

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

Free Resources

So, it’s that time of year when many of you are preparing for your classes next year.

There is a lot of programming and resourcing happening.

I always like this time of year for that reason. The anticipation of a new year, new group of students and a chance to try teaching things in a way that you haven’t before.

A couple of times on the blog I’ve offered my programs and resources. I’m more than happy to do it but now I’ve found a more efficient way to do it. So many people were asking for copies of my programs and such and I was emailing so many different people at different times I was becoming confused as to who I had or had not sent things to!

So now, there is one central place where you can find PDF’s of the resources, programs, scope & sequences I have created and used. Just check out the Resources tab at the top of the blog. My first addition is my Stage 6 Approaches to Acting program that I wrote about a little while ago. I’ll keep adding things over time. Also, let me know if the viewing/printing quality isn’t too crash hot. From the test I did it was looking a little pixelated.

I hope you find it useful. Enjoy the last few weeks of term.

Mentoring Pre-Service Teachers: Why It’s Important

This year I decided to take on the responsibility of mentoring pre-service teachers for the first time. I’d thought for a long time that this is something I would like to do as a result of my own early teaching experience.

During my pracs I was placed in two fabulous schools. The children sat and behaved, completed their work and participated in classroom activities. All in all it was a fantastic prac to learn that a) I new my content and b) that I could teach it. Awesome! I’m going to be a fabulous teacher.

Or so I thought.

When I landed in my current school for the first time it was a “baptism of fire” to borrow a phrase from my current prac student.

Most of the student’s did not like school and were not interested in learning. My ideas of changing lives and imparting amazing wisdom was seriously tested as I attempted to survive each day using some of the strategies I’d learnt in my behaviour management lecture. Yes, the one lecture I’d actually had.

It was a difficult time. I wasn’t sure if I could continue being a teacher anymore. Some days it all just felt too hard. I often thought about my prac days and thought “would I still have been a teacher if I’d known this then?”

I often felt like I hadn’t utilised my prac enough to get resources either as I came into my school with virtually nothing that could help me with my teaching. It was a real struggle in those first few years to effectively develop programs and resources and feel like I could manage a class without it falling apart.

It was during this time that I really felt I needed to make sure the anxieties I experienced as a pre-service teacher were eased slightly for other pre-service teachers so that a) pre-service teachers were adequately resourced and b) they had some idea of the range of  abilities and expectations of students.

Now, looking through the teaching lens with different glasses on I can see that my school has a fabulous range of student’s and abilities which is perfect for pre-service teachers needing to get a taste of the whole gamut of potential classes they may face in their first year. It doesn’t necessarily mean the first year will be any easier but there is a little more awareness of the potentially difficult classes and behaviours teachers will face.

To me it is so very important that they see potentially how difficult some classes can be and the range of reasons for this but also how great some classes can be and to appreciate how refreshing this is.

Here are 5 things I’ve learnt are important whenn mentoring pre-service teachers:

1. Read Their Lesson Plans – Yes, their uni is making them write them but many of them are also committing a stack of time to getting them “just right”. I also believe they are so vitally important. Mostly, however, out of respect for the student, spend a significant amount of time the day before each lesson is to be taught going through each step of the lesson to make sure the sequence is effective as well as the timing. You know the student’s better than they do so you need to be active in your suggestion of better teaching and learning strategies if you think the class is going to need it.

2. Don’t Interrupt the Lesson – Unless the class is running completely riot try your very best to refrain from stepping in when handling management situations. It is important that the pre-service teacher gets practice on managing this.

3. Ask Them to Give Feedback on Their Lesson First – Often I think pre-service teachers are waiting for a barrage of negative criticism from their mentor teacher. I think it’s better to hear the pro’s and con’s from them first because often they will address most of what you’re thinking anyway and at least this way they are being self-reflective. Use what they have said to support any feedback you’re going to give them.

4. Choose Focus Areas of Pedagogy –Often pre-service teachers are so focused on getting through the content that they forget that their prac is also about learning the finer points of teaching pedagogy such as behaviour management, questioning technique and trialling different teaching and learning strategies and group structures. To ensure you can effectively assess the pre-service teacher in all areas of their practicum make sure you focus on a different aspect of their feedback form at least once throughout the course of their practical block. Many universities are now basing their feedback form on the NSW Institute of Teacher’s Teaching Standards.

5. Be Positive About the Teaching Profession – The pre-service teacher is going to have good days and bad days. It is important that you remain positive and upbeat about the need to keep persevering when things get tough and to seek support when they are stuck.

I believe mentoring is important because essentially these student’s are the future of education and teaching. They are the future of Arts Education more importantly. As such, it is important that we instill in them quality teaching practices with integrity and passion for our subject. A generosity of your time dedicated to them now, will serve all our student’s in the long-term.

All, in all, mentoring has been a fantastically rewarding, self-reflective experience that I encourage all teacher’s to try at some point in their careers.

I also did a bit of a surf around and found a really great set of videos on Pre-Service Teacher Mentoring from the Queensland University of Technology. They can be viewed here.

Have you been a mentor for a pre-service teacher? What was your experience like and what advice can you offer for other mentors?

Image Credits: Apple Planet, leoncillo sabino, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Reflections on TeachMeet Sydney

I did something spontaneous recently. I signed up to the TeachMeet Sydney wiki and signed myself up to attend TeachMeet Sydney on Tuesday 6th September.

Since participating in the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge back in January as part of the free Professional Learning Edublogs provides users, I have connected with many teachers through Twitter. I was unaware at that point that they actually have TeachMeets all around NSW! TeachMeet Sydney was an opportunity to meet many of the people I had connected with over Twitter for the first time…

…and I’m so glad I did 🙂

TeachMeet has a really great format: two blocks of three 7 minute presentations and two 2 minute presentations about anything teaching related. The presentations are streamed over the internet and can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #tmsydney.

These presentations aim to connect participants with new ideas to use in their classroom. The great part is that at the end of the presentations there is an informal time in which participants can just connect and chat with each other about their schools and their ideas.

I was a little apprehensive at first I must admit but I have to say I’ve not met a more welcoming bunch of people in such a long time. The best part about it is putting faces to the names and tweets you see each night online. It was kind of like meeting long lost friends who are just incredibly accepting and supportive of what you do.

Since creating a PLN and connecting with other teachers worldwide on Twitter I have felt better supported and positive about the work that I do in the classroom each day. It stimulates my creativity, gives me hope and makes me feel valued.

If you’re feeling isolated in your school or are simply looking for a network of teachers to connect with I strongly recommend Twitter and attending a TeachMeet meeting near you.

Go HERE to find out more about TeachMeet in your local area.

For some fabulous educators to connect with, try some of these great people I met on Tuesday: @EduSum, @townesy77, @7Mrsjames, @whartonag, @Poska, @cpaterso, @henriettaMi, @betchaboy, @ajep, @mylescarrick, @FionaR_B, @malynmawby

10 Textbooks No Drama Teacher Should Be Without

I was having a moment the other day. One of those out of body experiences where you watch the chaos around you in the classroom and think to yourself, “How crazy is this?”, “Is this for real?” and “What the hell is little Johnny doing?”, “What the hell am I doing?” I have them occasionally and it just reminds me how incredible teachers are. We seem to battle on through amidst the seeming chaos.

I guess those experiences also remind me how far I’ve come in my five years of teaching. That ability to watch what is happening in front of me and laugh and know that it’s not the end of the world and if I had to tell new, beginning teacher’s what to expect and how to react, reacting the way I did the other day (watching everything happen in slow motion and as though it’s something out of a B Grade movie), is perfectly healthy and necessary at times.

I would also tell my beginning Drama teacher’s: don’t ever be stuck for resources. Utilise your school library and make sure it stocks not only the best plays and resource material for student’s but also resource material for yourself. Make friends with your librarian 🙂

Utilise every possible Professional Development day you can. Work towards some goals. Be realistic about those goals and know that it’s not possible to achieve everything you want to in your first year and that in every school you work at for your entire career the goals and expectations you have will be different because every school is different. Perhaps in your first year your goal will be about managing behaviour. The following year it might be how you teach a particular theatrical style or play. By having a goal to work towards it will make it easier to choose a course to take for Professional Development.

Over the years I have made sure my library is up to date with all the play scripts that are on the prescribed text list and added a few extra text books just for extra reference for myself and the student’s. I like walking into the library and going over to the theatre section a lot. It inspires me. I don’t even have to open any of the books. It just telepathically fills me with ideas. It’s funny like that.

Here are my ten text books that I cannot live without:

1. Acting in Person and In Style Australia by Carol Wimmer – I use this book a lot when I am teaching monologues, duologues, acting skills (voice workshops). It is also brilliant for teaching a range of performance styles.

2. Dramawise by Brad Haseman – The bible full of exercises for explicitly teaching the elements of drama. I highly recommend this book as a starting point for beginning teachers.

3. You’re On by Rob Galbraith – Another fantastic text with exercises to teach students about performance elements as well as the roles of people behind the scenes. 

4. Living Drama by Bruce Burton – This is actually part of a three part series (Making Drama and Creating Drama are his titles for lower secondary drama students) and is best used with senior students. It looks at aspects of drama in a slightly more sophisticated way which is applicable to senior students and their essays.

5. Navigating Drama by Richard Baines and Mike O’Brien – A great text for students in Year 9-10 Drama. Some of the particularly helpful sections include the playbuiding chapter and the commedia dell arte chapter.

6. Navigating Senior Drama by Richard Baines and Mike O’Brien – I like this senior text because of its focus on the NSW Drama Syllabus. It has focus chapters on Australian Drama and Theatre which forms part of the theory component of the course as well as a section specifically devoted to some of the Studies in Drama and Theatre topics (Brecht, Greek Theatre and American Drama). It also has good chapters on the Group and Individual Performance units.

7. Centre Stage by Matthew Clausen –  Great teaching suggestions plus some really great templates for teaching the elements of production including costume design and lighting and sound plotting.

8. Lighting and Sound by Neil Fraser – everything you need to know about lighting and sound in a simple easy to understand way. Absolute gold.

9. Stage Design and Props by Michael Holt – As above. An absolute gem of a book if you want to learn about set design and making.

10. Costume and Make-Up by Michael Holt Ditto as above.

Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it before Improvisation: A Guide by Lyn Pierse. Absolutely excellent for anything Theatre Sports or improvisation related. Oh, oh, oh and if you’re teaching Publicity and Program Design try Stage Management and Theatre Administration by Pauline Menear and Terry Hawkins.

Have you got a text book that you swear by? Share it with us in the comments.

Image Credits: T’aiuto io, tassomanAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)