Using ALARM in the Drama Classroom

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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.

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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.

Photo Credit: oropeza via Compfight cc

HSC Drama: Individual Project (Performance) Checklist

I recently posted a checklist of items that I get my students to complete during the first term of working on their Individual Project. I mentioned in the post that I would blog separate lists for the activities that I gets students to complete for particular projects.

The most common project chosen is Performance so I will post about that first. I also have a to-do list for Scriptwriting and Poster & Promotion which seem to be the other projects that my students have commonly chosen over the years and will post those in future.

Remember that this carries on from the checklist in Term 1 so if there are particular items that weren’t finished from that list they can work on those over the holidays or complete those first before starting on this list. The list in this post is just for Term 2.  

CONSULTATION SCHEDULE – Stick this new schedule in for this term and ensure you are committing to your meeting time each week. After each consultation you should write a logbook entry. Date everything.

LOGBOOK CHECKLIST – Stick this in and tick off items when completed. Date and sign when each item is done.

READINGS – Read, highlight and annotate any readings about monologue preparation given to you by your teacher. If you have been reading monologues over the holidays, select your top three and present them to your teacher so that a discussion can be had as to which one should be performed for the exam. Ensure logbook entries are written after each monologue has been read and photocopies of each of the monologues is in your logbook. Write a logbook entry after a decision has been made about your monologue choice.

CHARACTER RESEARCH – Complete an investigation into the type of character you are playing or the themes and issues within your play. Look at other characters from film, TV, books or plays that capture some of these issues/themes. You may also consider conducting surveys, focus groups, journal readings, interviews. Use this to help you form an idea of who you think your character is. Write a short logbook entry describing them. Create a small (1/2 – 1 page) vision board of words and visuals that represent who they are to compliment your logbook entry.

EDIT YOUR SCRIPT – Read through your script and consider its length. Is it too long or too short? What parts need to be cut/added in order for it to make sense? What references need to be re-contextualised/modernised? Photocopy your script and make edits and cuts in pencil. Stick in various excerpts from sections of the script/book if necessary. Once you have decided on your final draft, type out your script into a Word document and stick it into your logbook. Ensure you save this as you will need it to complete the other activities on your checklist. Write a logbook entry explaining your process when completing this, any challenges you faced and how you addressed the problems.

SCORE YOUR SCRIPT – Using the guide provided by your teacher, begin your script analysis by identifying the super-objective, objective, beats and possible action/movement/gesture that is needed in each beat.

SUBTEXT EXERCISE – Using the guide provided by your teacher. Rewrite your monologue so that you are writing it as though you are inside the character’s head and speaking what they would honestly say/mean if they weren’t in conflict with themselves/others.

ROLE ANALYSIS – Using the guide provided by your teacher, complete all the questions as though you are in role. If you don’t know something, make it up so that it reflects what the character in their world would think/feel/do. I’ve written about how to do this in another post which you can read here.

DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER – Write down 3-5 words that describe your character at the beginning of the monologue. Write down 3-5 words that describe your character at the end of the monologue. Can you identify the main points in your character’s journey? What is the turning point for this character? When do they, if at all, begin to change?

DIRECTOR’S CONCEPT (DRAFT) – Using the scaffold provided, write a draft rationale/director’s concept of 300 words about your performance piece.

LOGBOOK CHECK – This will be in Week 7, 9 and 10. We will have a group feedback session at the beginning of our Thursday lesson (Wk 7A) in this week to tell each other what we have been doing.

DRAMA PANEL #2 – Present your draft rationale/director’s concept to the panel. Discuss any challenges faced and how they were overcome. Ask any questions of the panel as you see fit at this point in your project.

What do you get your students to complete at this point in the project? Share your thoughts below.

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Monologue Must Share: Calvin Candie, Django Unchained

I’ve got the 52 Plays in 52 Weeks Challenge but I’ve also had a little challenge going for a long while now that I haven’t talked about.

I’ve made myself a long list of films to get through in search of good monologues that students could adapt and perform for their Individual Performance in the HSC.

This one, that I just had to share, is from the film Django Unchained. Now it is rated MA15+. It is violent. There is bad language. This YouTube clip is in serious breach of copyright.

In saying that however, I just had to share this moment from the film. How Leonardo Dicaprio has not won an Oscar I still do not understand.

I was completely glued to him during this scene. I can’t really describe it. You just have to watch it. Whilst watching it however,  I did wonder, could it be performed on stage? I don’t see why it couldn’t. With a few little tweaks (namely the knife cutting the skull as blades are not permitted in performances) it could be a really good piece for a strong male actor and I always seem to find it hard to find good male pieces. Or maybe I’m just completely mental for thinking this could work as a piece of performance.

What do you think?

You can find other monologue suggestions at the top of the page under the Suggestions for Monologues section.

52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 20

Falling Petals by Ben Ellis

I’d forgotten how full on this play is. The language, the action and the content itself.

Set in the fictional town of Hollow, a mysterious syndrome begins to plague the town affecting only the young. The town is quarantined, schools are closed and fences go up. Guards patrol new enforced borders, but amongst the townsfolk denial runs deep. Phil and Tania are determined to do their final exams, whilst Sally mourns for those that are dying feeling lost, stuck, yet loyal to her hometown with little support and love from her family and friends.

It’s a disturbing idea that some kind of disease, something in the swine flu vein, could plague an entire population. That part of the story makes the play somewhat futuristic and out of this world. Yet real because in recent times it has happened. The placement of a Japanese sakura tree as the central place the teens go to when studying, hanging out or escaping is a bittersweet image as the play progresses. It is very out of place in the Australian landscape, yet continues to live despite the drought. Each petal falling from the tree symbolises the death of another child. Whilst the children die, the adults are not particularly sympathetic and become selfish – every man for himself. Even when it comes to their own children. At the same time, when you look at how someone like Phil behaves throughout the play you can understand where those horrible Gen Y stereotypes come from. Or perhaps it is the youth of every generation we just forget as we get older about how it used to be?

I found it compelling to read yet disturbing. The visuals are what grabbed me with this play. The beautiful images contrasted with the harsh ones. I think this would be a great one to explore for any of the projects but I like the idea of it being used for  Poster/Promotion. It has lots of potential.

Photo Credit: arcreyes [-ratamahatta-] via Compfight cc

52 Plays in 52 Weeks: Week 19

The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray Smith

I know that the Board of Studies recently updated the Drama Prescribed Texts for 2015-2017 but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t re-read over some of the ones on the current list (for one more year at least) in order to help my students with their Individual Projects!

So I have had a bit of a binge read over the last few days (so much for one play a week!) and will be reading a couple of the plays on the current list as well as those on the new list. I’m reading the texts on the new list to help me make a decision as to what I will teach at the end of this year!

I’m a huge Joanna Murray Smith fan. I’m surprised this is the first play of hers I’ve written about in the challenge. It is a favourite so I’m glad it’s on the list.

The plot is loosely based on an incident whereby well known feminist Germaine Greer was held at gunpoint in her own home by a disturbed student. Margot, the main protagonist draws parallels with Greer and Molly with the disturbed student whose life has been affected by her mother’s beliefs that were so heavily influenced by Margot’s writing as well as Margot herself. Margot, stuck for what to write about in her new book, questions where her beliefs lie and what she will, in fact, write about. Molly meanwhile has had all of hers shattered and is stuck, lost, seeking retribution for what Margot has written. In comes Margot’s daughter Tess, exhausted by her responsibilities as a mother and unhappy in her marriage to further stir the pot.

Views on feminism and the role of feminism in our society today is the broader questions being asked in this play. Something I find compelling and relevant to all women. It is certainly thought provoking and the use of comedy to propel the dramatic questions makes it even more interesting to read. Well paced and highly engaging. Aside from being an HSC text there could be possibilities to adapt some of Margot’s dialogue into a short monologue.

Image Credit: The “Who Needs Feminism?” Tumblr  where the picture was sourced can be found here.

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.