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.

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HSC Drama: Individual Project (Poster & Promotion) Checklist

Below is another checklist I give any student who is completing the Poster & Promotion project. This list is designed specifically for a student who is studying War Crimes by Angela Betzien. Hopefully you can use or adapt this to suit your students. If you have students completing a project on Scriptwriting or Performance you can see some checklists for those projects here and here respectively.

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.

LOOK AT EXAMPLES OF OLD PROJECTS & LOGBOOKS – There are a selection of projects and examples in the Resource Room. Write a logbook entry. Date it. Start collecting examples of work that you might like to model your designs on.

RESEARCH – Find information on the following: ·

  • The desecration of war memorials
  • The role Australia played in the War on Terror
  • Living in a regional town as a young person – constraints, opportunities etc.
  • Refugees moving to remote towns – the difficulty of living in two cultures.
  • The ANZAC “hero”

Write a logbook entry that considers how the research that you have done has stimulated your own ideas and how you might like to incorporatethe ideas you have had so far. Create a vision board of images that could be used for your poster/program/flyer.

THEMES– Write an explanation of the storyline and action in about ten lines. Next write a list of the themes that are in the play. Re-write your explanation focusing on the themes and how they are developed in the story. Find/create an image that best represents each of them.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS – From your research and your own interpretation write a short paragraph describing the characters in the play and their journey. What links them together? Condense these down into one word that describes each of them. Find images that best represent them.

THE WORLD OF THE PLAY/FINDING A KEY IMAGE – Look online for past productions of the play and how they have staged/promoted the show. Look at the cover of the play for inspiration. What clues does it give the reader about mood/atmosphere? Decide on a stage spacethat you would use if you were to direct this play. Consider a particular theatre company and the space that would best suit the world of the play. Look at their promotional material as well as their company vision/target audience to see how they have recently promoted shows. Compile a vision board of set and costume ideas for your characters. Find pictures of lighting, images, symbols, music, colours, motifs that you might like to use throughout your play, particularly when transitioning between space and time. Write a paragraph that describes the world of the play as the audience would see it for the first time at the beginning of the play. Do the same for any other key moments in the play. Draft some key images that you might like to use for the poster.

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

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.

INITIAL DESIGNS – At the direction of your teacher, begin sketching the layout for your poster and in particular the main image. Show this to your teacher and analyse how well it:

  • Incorporates all the elements of a poster (i.e. name of play, playwright, theatre company, sponsor logos (if any), cast (if used), booking & info details)
  • Communicates this information clearly to the audience
  • Reveals the mood/atmosphere/dramatic tension/interpretation of the play

What are some activities you get your students to complete as part of their project? Share them below.

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HSC Drama: Individual Performance (Scriptwriting) Checklist

I’ve been posting a series of checklists that can be used to get students focused on completing their Individual Project. You can check the one I use for the first term here and the Performance checklist here.

Similar to what I mentioned in my post the other day, this list below for scriptwriting follows on from the one from Term 1. So if there is anything from Term 1 that the student hasn’t completed, get them to complete those things first before moving on to the next list.

It’s taken me a long time to feel as though I have refined my scaffolding of scriptwriting tasks into something that is both helpful to the student as well as myself. Writing is such a unique process for every writer so sometimes I find it difficult to have a one size fits all approach. Often I have this list but may jumble up the order in which things are completed. In the end everything on the list will need to be done. As long as the student gets there in the end that’s all that matters. How that happens is all part of the process. Flexibility as a teacher with this project is also one of the per-requisites of getting through it!

Hopefully, you find this list helpful. I’m keen to know what other strategies are being used to help students who do a scriptwriting project or unit of work. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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.

LOOK AT EXAMPLES OF OLD PROJECTS & LOGBOOKS – There are a selection of projects and examples in the Resource Room. Write a logbook entry. Date it. Start collecting examples of work that you might like to model your script on.

RESEARCH – Find information on the following:

·         The issues, themes, ideas that you want to explore in your play.

·         The style of play (realism, absurdist, musical etc.)

·         Plays that use that particular performance style or themes, issues, ideas and how are they shown on stage.

Write a logbook entry that considers how the research that you have done has stimulated your own ideas and how you might like to incorporate them into your script to develop your idea. How might some of this be incorporated in your characters?

SYNOPSIS – Write an explanation of the storyline and action in about ten lines . If you have several synopsis ideas do the same for those. Discuss these ideas with your teacher and redraft your synopsis if necessary.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS – Using the guide given to you by your teacher, complete all the questions as though you are in role. Condense this down into one short paragraph of key information. Condense this down further into a single sentence.

CREATE A FRAMEWORK – Using the guide given to you by your teacher, map out a rough scene/act guide for your play. Write a single sentence explaining the main objective of each scene for each of the characters. You might like to give each scene a title or simply number them.

THE WORLD OF THE PLAY – Decide on a stage spacethat you are going to use. Consider a particular theatre company and the space that would best suit the world of the play. Compile a vision board of set and costume ideas for your characters. Find pictures of lighting, images, symbols, music, colours, motifs that you might like to use throughout your play, particularly when transitioning between space and time. Consider the practicality of the space for the play’s purpose: how will scene and costume changes happen, entrances and exits etc. Write a paragraph that describes the world of the play as the audience would see itfor the first time at the beginning of the play. Do the same for any other key moments in the play.

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

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. Provide a working title for your script. 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.

WRITING DIALOGUE & BEGINNING TO DRAFT – At the direction of your teacher, begin writing dialogue for the opening scene. Show this to your teacher and analyse how well it:

·         Moves the story forward

·         Communicates information to the audience

·         Reveals character and relationships

·         Reveals the emotional states of the characters

·         Comment on the action

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HSC Drama: Individual Project Checklist

Mini Trees or Giant Tracks?

Right now, most of us have hit the pause button.

That’s what the holidays often feel like for me as a school teacher. Of course it’s a time of rest and recuperation. Yet, things do stay on hold, frozen, until the term starts up again. You prepare things in the background and it all waits in the wings but you don’t really know how it’s going to go until the term starts. You might get a feeling…then we all hit the ground running.

I think about my Year 12 students who have this 5 week…hmm…gift? void? procrastination period?…to get some work done on their Individual Project. It’s a long block of time and a potentially beneficial one, particularly for those little cherubs who may in fact be quite behind (i.e. haven’t started) or decided in the second last week before Christmas that changing their whole project now was a good idea. Better now than later I always say.

I say that because something I’ve learnt as a teacher is that our students genuinely have no concept of time. Of what it feels like to really have lots of it! To be able to use it!

The IP is a tricky project to manage because time is not actually allocated to part of the syllabus so it, more often than not, takes up a lot of a teachers spare time.

I haven’t really written much about the Individual Project so I thought I’d share a little strategy that has worked for me over the last few years that keeps kids on track throughout the term and gives them something to work towards in the holidays.

It’s quite a specific checklist of what they must complete and include in their logbook. They are marked on what they have completed and to what depth as part of their progress mark across three terms.

I like it for a couple of reasons:

  • It gives the students clear expectations, accountability and direction;
  • It gives me clear direction and helps me re-emphasise my expectations to the class;
  • It is a transparent, consistent way to assess progress across all the projects;
  • It promotes success because most of the activities students should be able to do.

I believe strongly that the HSC should not be a guessing game. Make clear exactly what you want from your students. Promote success and achievement. It is our kids who are on struggle street, who couldn’t find their timetable in their bag if they tried that I think most need explicit support structures. I know it can be hard as a new teachers to know how specific to be and what exactly you should be asking for so hopefully this may help.

Just remember. Break. It. Down. Be prescriptive. Be overly prescriptive and then cut back from there if you need to.

I start with a common checklist in Term 1 of Year 12 that everyone must complete and then break off into project specific checklists in Terms 1 & 2. I will share those in a separate post. I’ve written the list below as though I’m talking to my students. I’ll make side notes in italics.

TITLE PAGE – Include your Student No., Project, Project Title (if applicable), Text Choice.

INSPIRATIONS PAGE – A double page spread of visual ideas of things you would like to do as part of your project. What movies, books, images inspire you?

IP CONTRACT – Stuck on the inside cover of your book. Ensure it is signed by your teacher. The student makes an agreement with themselves and me as to what they want to achieve with this project. I give them some time to think about this because often they have to get into the groove of the project first. 

PROJECT STATEMENT/INITIAL LOGBOOK ENTRY – A short explanation of how you came to the decision to do the project you have chosen, what you are aiming to achieve and why. Focus on the decisions you have made. I give my students a scaffold to support them in writing this and this is the part I focus on in their progress assessment. I will write a post about this in future.

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

PROJECT REQUIREMENTS – Photocopy and stick in the requirements for your project from the HSC Assessment handbook you were given. If doing a project, stick in the text list. I make a text list summary with brief synopsis to give kids a bit of an idea as to what each play is about and I also photocopy the actual syllabus and refer back to it constantly.

CONSULTATION SCHEDULEI use my timetable and match my free periods to that of my students to meet individually with them for about 15 minutes each week. If necessary I see them before or after school or during lunch time. Each student gets a copy of the consult schedule and I also stick it up in the classroom. Another suggestion that I was given was to allocate one afternoon only to the IP and students come and go within that time period to present what they have done so far. Remember, there is no class time allocated to the IP by the syllabus. Stick this in and ensure you are committing to your meeting time each week. I then keep a record of what was discussed in my own logbook. There is a template that is downloadable from Schools Online. After each consultation you should write a logbook entry. Date everything.

BEGIN TO READ PLAYS – If doing a project, choose three off the list and read them. Ask yourself, is this text going to allow me to complete my project to the best of my ability and show off my skills in this area? Some texts lend themselves to certain projects more than others. After each reading write a logbook entry. Date it. Find some background information on each play and stick it in. If you get ideas, draw them or write them down. It doesn’t have to be long but write something!

WHAT ARE YOUR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES – What is the pre-production, production and post-production responsibilities of your particular project? How does an actor prepare for a role? Where should a scriptwriter start? You can use your notes from Yr 11 or the attached book list. I have a couple of books that specifically focus on this that I direct kids to find, borrow and photocopy from.

DECIDE ON YOUR PLAY (if doing a project) – This is to be done no later than Week 10, Term 4. Performers should have a selection of 4-5 monologues they are considering performing.

RESEARCH – Find information on the following:
• The playwright
• The play
• The issues, ideas, themes in the play
• Examples/clips from previous productions.
• Poster/Promotion people you will need to choose a theatre company also.
Stick all of this in your logbook and date it. Write a logbook entry about anything that stood out to you. If reading this gives you ideas or inspiration, stick these in, draw them and make a note of how they link to the text.

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

LOOK AT EXAMPLES OF OLD PROJECTS & LOGBOOKS – Keep a selection of past projects and examples. I collect programs and posters when I go to the theatre and a lot of the mail the gets sent to the schools about shows I also keep. Write a logbook entry about what they’ve seen. Date it. Start collecting other examples of work.

What do you do to manage the Individual Project? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Documenting Process in Drama

A significant part of the theory aspect of drama is the documenting of process. How did the students get from this point to this point? This is an essential part of creating drama because it requires the students to be reflective of the creative decisions they have made and the way they are going to move forward to deal with potential problems.

The way in which most drama teachers assess this is through a logbook.

I’ll be honest and say that I have always struggled with the logbook.

I see its validity and perhaps it is just my students but I find I’ve had to heavily scaffold the structure of responses and constantly nag my students to make sure that they are doing it.

At one point, I attempted to get them to do it at home for homework but this discipline could just not be instilled in them. I’ve allocated significant lesson time (between 15-20minutes) to writing reflections which takes away from the practical aspects of class, which, when you only see them twice a week, is valuable time lost. Allocating class time I have found works a lot better but I just am not sure if it is really achieving anything.

What I’m asking is, what makes a valid reflection? Does it need to be a whole written page, need it only be a class discussion, can it be in video format (this is something that I have tried of recent)?

As teachers, we do need solid, physical evidence that a student has produced their own work from go to woe. In needing that I have heavily scaffolded the teaching of the logbook to the point where I have given page by page specifics of what I want in the logbook.

I guess the next thing I’m asking is, am I right to be teaching the logbook so explicitly? Am I right to be teaching how to be reflective at the end of all tasks?

I’m interested to know how you mark your logbooks, what you ask your students to include. If you don’t use a logbook, what do you get your students to do in order to document process? I recently tried video diaries with mixed success. I’m looking for other ways to make this part of my teaching a little bit more inspiring and a little less of a chore.

Suggestions?

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Simple Ways to Integrate ICT and the Drama Logbook

The use of technology in Drama is a tricky one in my opinion. When you think of technology in Drama most people think, “oh, using a video camera.”

Drama is all about the making and performing of a work and especially in class, you become so caught up in the “doing” that you miss the “reflecting” part. Or the “documenting of the process” part. My kids are reluctant to write anything at the best of times and it has still been challenging getting them to write using their laptops but it is because of them that they are a little less reluctant to write 🙂

The NSW syllabus like many others, has three key areas: making, performing, appreciating. The logbook has been an essential part of the “appreciating” section of the syllabus for years. It is vital during the HSC in which student’s must show their process in creating their group performance work and their individual project.

Now, I’m really going to put my opinions out there and say that I am certain that in a few years, the logbook will become digital. Just like the written exam. Not just in Drama. I’m sure in many other subjects as well.

I think this opens up enormous possibilities for the Drama logbook and how dynamic and interesting it could be in showing the theatre making process.

As such, as teachers it is not only our responsibility to be integrating technology in our lessons but making it meaningful and a tool for preparing them for the HSC and the effective documentation of process in a logbook.

So, here are a couple of suggestions to get you started in turning the logbook digital:

1.Type in Microsoft Word: It’s basic and it’s boring but it’s also familiar. I’ll probably be crucified for suggesting this but if you’re apprehensive about getting your student’s to create a digital logbook start with something that most of us these days actually knows how to use. It’s tried and tested and it’s a good way to get student’s into the habit of writing their thoughts on screen rather than paper. Trust me, they’ll be just as apprehensive. They’ve been taught for years to write everything with a pen and paper. This will be weird for them.

2. Use OneNote: This is another really simple start to creating a digital logbook with a few cool features. Most of the DER laptops have OneNote. It is like a paper ring binder sans the paper. It has tabs to organise your work, an endless page and an automatic saving function. You can copy and paste images into notebook and it copies the source link with it. You can also freely move things around your page. Here’s a really brief intro to it:

3. Start a Blog: This is my latest favourite.The great thing about a blog is that it is like a personalised web page. Student’s can customise them, connect with student’s from around the world, embed video, links, sound clips, photographs (all of which are technology in themselves). They’re dynamic and they broaden the scope of their work. They are public pages so it is a great way to teach student’s about digital citizenship, the appropriate use of language, editing and spelling. Here is an example of one from one of my student’s. I provide student’s with a very structured template with which to base each of their entries on. Starting off with a class blog first might also be a great way to take a dip into technology.

4. Create a Digital Portfolio: This is a great idea for mini-assignments as well but you could get student’s to create an interactive Powerpoint that includes links, video, sound clips and photos for each week of their project. Have them create a slide that looks at the problems they faced in their group and how they solved each problem. Make sure student’s submit everything (video etc.) to you in one folder. Missing parts means the portfolio’s interactive bits won’t work.

Finally, it’s important to remember that these are just some simple ways to move away from the traditional book and pen scenario. Some people can be really turned off by technology because they think it is all bells and whistles and the truth is it is. Another thing I’ll probably be crucified for.

I think some teacher’s feel they are becoming redundant because the teaching is being done by technology. This is when I would say that is, absolutely, 100% not true. Student’s will not know how to write well and skillfully without your guidance. They way student’s create their blogs, portfolios or whatever is dependent on what you show them is the best way to do it. You are still the most important tool in creating critically reflective, appreciative writing in Drama. Don’t forget that 😉

Have you tried anything that is working well in your class? Please share them in the comments.

Image Credits:Moleskine Retro PDA Part1 / Stephen Ticehurst / CC BY-NC 2.0