Lesson Lovenotes: Improvisation Using Theatresports

So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone in this post.

  1. I’ll share with you some tried and tested ways of improvising in the drama classroom;
  2. Test out my skills at movie-making using Xtranormal;

That’s not asking too much of myself now is it? No… *rolls eyes* ūüôā

Honestly though, the reason I’m doing all this is because I’m trying to improve how enaging my posts are for readers as well as trying to experiment with some of the new tools I’ve been reading about through my Twitter feed and on various other blogs. There’s a lot available out there and sometimes it seems like I’ll never get round to trying all of it out! Also, like I mentioned the other day, I’m trying to build readership and navigating the world of blogging is a little tricky. I only set up Hootsuite I few months ago as part of the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge and it’s a pretty detailed little website that I’m still learning all the in’s and out’s of.

But first what is Improvisation?

I used this an opportunity to test out Xtranormal and it is a pretty nifty site.Once you’ve created an account you can choose from a range of styles and characters. In mine I chose robots but there are super heroes, gangsters and all kinds of things. The most you can use is two actors per film but the ability to control shot choice, music and sound effects is really simple and all of it can be done on the one screen. You can watch your film back at any time and you can save it and work on it later if you have to go away and do something else. You can also create “Series” folders to put your movies into. I created a “Teaching and Learning in the Drama Room” folder in case I decide to create any more films that are Drama related. Once saved, the videos become available for people to watch on the Xtranormal site or you can publish them to YouTube as well if you prefer.

The only difficulties I had were embedding the clip into my blog from the Xtranormal viewing page. I then uploaded it to my YouTube Channel (which is a whole other post in itself) and embedded it directly from there. If you want to make your own Xtranormal clip, use these instructions.

Here’s the clip that Lionel mentioned in the video about the brain and how it works when improvising.

OK, what exactly is Theatre Sports?

Google Theatre Sports in Australia and you’ll be amazed at what you will find. There are so many groups out there that provide opportunities for people to participate in Theatre Sports. I currently have an Intermediate Team of four Year 9 students preparing to enter the School’s Theatre Sports Challenge in a couple of weeks. We have been preparing by doing extra rehearsals in the holidays to ensure we have a strategy, know all the games and communicate together as a team. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to see what they are capable of as actors and to see what other school student’s are doing in their local area. I am feeling like we have a pretty good chance.

Why Play Theatre Sports?

Improvisation and in particular, Theatre Sports as a tool for improvisation is great for student actors for a number of reasons. It allows them to learn to think quickly and sponatenously, adapt to situations and problem solve, work with student’s they may not be familiar with, create a range of characters and use a variety of voice, facial and physically expressive techniques.

How should I structure my Improvisation unit using Theatre Sports?

There are two ways I feel Theatre Sports can be used in the classroom:

  1. As a unique mini-unit on it’s own or
  2. As a series of warm-ups that link to a larger concept being explored in the lesson.

That’s the great thing about Theatre Sports. Whilst you can make a whole mini-unit out of them, there are so many games that the possibility to incorporate them into other areas and units of work is very easy. You really have such a huge arsenal of games that can be adapted to any area of drama.

I personally incorporate Theatre Sports into my introductory study of Drama at the beginning of Year 9. We learn about the elements of drama and use Theatre Sports games to help us understand some of these concepts.

I also hold an In-School’s Theatre Sports Competition at my school as an extra-curricular activity. Anyone from Year 7-12 is invited to make a team. I hold workshops after school to show the teams how to play each of the games. I invite other teacher’s to judge and score each team and I award certificates at the end of the competition to all team members and winners.

Have a look at my Picasa Web Album here of my recent competition.

So, how does it work?

I model my unit and my In School Theatre Sports Competition on Impro Australia’s School’s Theatresports Challenge.

Try something like this:

  • Choose a series of games for a number of rounds. About six is sufficient.
  • Each game in each round should vary in length. You should try to make them get longer and the games a little bit more challenging each round.
  • Score each team after each game on things like a) how well do they follow the rules?,¬† b) does it make sense? and c) are they entertaining?
  • Teams can create a team name and team costume. Maybe even chants for their team.
  • Choose a time to preview and “advertise” what the student’s are doing either through a school assembly, newsletter, noticeboards, posters, You Tube clip, Edmodo. Whatever will get them in.

Web Resources

Book Resources

I would also strongly recommend Improvisation: A Guide by Lyn Pierse. It’s my bible and can be ordered here.

Video Resources

What’s your experience with Theatre Sports? Do you have any other ideas, suggestions or feedback? Let me know in the comments.

Image Credits:

Thank God You’re Here, from Thank God You’re Here Official Site, Copyright ¬© 2011 Yahoo!7


Fantastic Find: SchoolTube

Recently a colleague of mine, who manages our school’s website, created a YouTube channel. One such time our web guru utilised the channel was for Multicultural Day. I thought this was such a brilliant idea. With drama being such a visual subject and people preferring to watch rather than read I really liked the idea of this being the way in which we as educators communicate with parents and the wider community. I also feel it would be a great place for student’s to show off their work and what they’re doing in class.

The difficulty with YouTube for student’s at our school is that with the DER laptops, YouTube is blocked ūüė¶

That is, however, until a colleague shared a link with us this week. It’s called SchoolTube also known as SkoolToob.¬† There is also another site specifically designed for school’s to post footage. It is called Schoolstube .

They both work under a similar premise. You can either watch videos that are approved by a moderator and/or upload your own videos. You can also create a free channel for your school. Other student’s and educator’s can search for videos using the tags, categories and channel topics. There are contests to enter and a video of the day feature.

What I loved was the sharing feature. Not only can you share on all the usual places like Facebook and Twitter but they also have a specific feature to share on Edmodo.

There are premium packages are available. They are quite pricey but may be worthwhile if your school is tech-friendly.

Is it any better than YouTube? Not really. There’s just less rubbish to sift through which suits the filters nazi’s just fine.

I had a bit of a search around and I found a really great initiative that a school in that States is doing. I’m a huge fan of musicals and you can’t go past West Side Story, so take a look at this!


Fantastic Find: How to Keep All Those Great YouTube Clips!

The classroom environment has certainly changed now that technology is ever present in our lives. The relationship between the teacher and the student is such a different one now. The shift in a lesson between teacher as leader and student as leader is always changing. Especially when using technology.

What amazes me is the wealth of knowledge students have about what is available on the Internet to make things easier for us. I’m not that old but I don’t have a lot of time to sit around on the Internet and look for resources. Thanks to the Edublogs Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge I’ve recently discovered ways of gathering a lot of resources in a few simple locations so I’m keeping up to date with things a lot better. Things like Twitter and Google Reader and Email Subscriptions. I recently had an experience¬†where I felt like I was the student¬†and I’m all the better for it.

I’d been struggling to get my YouTube clips to play because I couldn’t update Adobe Flash Player. The¬†DER laptops we have been given do not allow us to update to the latest Flash Player software (the issues with this I could¬†save for another post!)¬† I told my students this and one of them promptly piped up with¬†a website¬†suggestion,¬†took over downloading it for me¬†and then watched over my shoulder¬†as I showed him how to download a second video in the way that he had taught me!

The gem of a website one of my little darlings showed me this week was a website called KeepVid.com

Simply copy and paste the¬†URL of the video you wish to download, select the file type (preferably MP4 according to¬†my star pupil) and ta-da! It downloads it, saving it wherever you’ve requested it to be saved.¬†I now have a permanent folder full of YouTube resources that I can use over and over again without ever¬†having to go onto the site! Easy.

Have you had a student-teacher moment in reverse? Share in the comments below.

In Bed with Media

It’s late on Friday night. I’m in bed. I¬†have just survived¬†the first day back at school for teachers and I’m exhausted from:

a) having to wake up before the sun does,

b) dealing with the abhorration that is starting my working week on a Friday and

c) listening intently to an avalanche of information about the expectations for the new school year.

I’m also thinking:

a) did the holidays even happen? and

b) when am I going to find time to complete  the Edublogs Kick Start Activity 6 РEmbedding Media whilst attempting to apartment-hunt, do my laundry and grocery shop for the week?

I’m staring at my laptop across the dim¬†room thinking, “Maybe I¬†could just bring¬†it¬†into bed with me and I can be cosy and comfortable and do my activity that way…”

I’m sure many of you are feeling similarly conflicted about how to manage your working schedule with that of families and other commitments.¬†For me, it is something I’m quite eagerly in search of. Ways in which we can manage our lives and keep our minds calm. At the above thought I promptly said to myself, “Are you mad?¬†Why do I even have my laptop in the room?” One thing I certainly would never do is bring my laptop into bed with me. However, the temptation is there.¬†Some of you, unlike me, may have happily taken your laptop to bed with you. You may even think I’m barking mad because I’m not doing it more often.¬†Enjoying a wild romp in bed with media and technology.

Lying there, staring into the blackness, trying to calm my mind after the days chaos, this¬†laptop temptation¬†did also make me consider how our students may also feel. Particularly at the beginning of a new school year (think Year 7’s)¬†or around exam time . Many of our students are under similar pressures. Often these expectations can be trying¬†to maintain good academic¬†grades as well as play a team¬†sport, learn a¬†musical instrument, maybe maintain a part-time job, have some sort of social life (OK, a rather large social life)¬†oh and then, maybe eat¬†and at the very least sleep for at least 8 hours a day.

Both us as teachers and our students are making choices on what to prioritise in our lives and technology is certainly making the maintenance of our social lives a little easier, but it can become unhealthy. Students seem to be saturated by the availability and ease of technology and the need to use it and consume it at all hours of the day which in turn is affecting their physical social contact and contact of any other kind that requires them to leave their computer screens.

I’m not suggesting for a second that blogging or any other use of the computer¬†is anti-social or detrimental to your health. Quite the contrary. I believe it is tremendously rewarding and enjoyable to connect to people through common interests. I wouldn’t be doing this Challenge if I didn’t think so. Similarly, it is OK to chat to your mates on Facebook or tweet an update¬†about that cute guy on your favourite TV show. I’m not advocating for anything in particular other than balance.¬†I’m not here to¬†discuss¬†cybersafety.

I guess I just wanted to make this post not only about the media I have embedded into it but to remember that as teachers I feel we also have a responsibility to ensure our students are maintaining a balanced lifestyle with plenty of sleep, healthy eating and drinking, safe social habits online and when in physical human contact with others. I can’t really believe I have to distinguish the two!

The above video just reminds me that it is important for us as teachers to model the enthusiasm we feel when we meet up with friends, read a new book, go for a walk or discover something new. For us to encourage parents to ensure mobile phones and laptops stay out of their bedroom, that they talk with their kids about their day, not feeling like technology is alienating them from their son/daughter, that it is OK to embrace it and use it but to also  just connect with them daily, face to face and to really listen, share and care.

In reviewing the tools I have used for embedding, YouTube was very simple and easy to embed. I¬†became confused between¬†Wallwisher and Answer Garden because I thought Answer Garden¬†didn’t allow anyone to add a suggestion and was simply¬†a picture of suggestions made during a class and uploaded to Flickr. Alas, I was wrong and inserted a Wallwisher thinking this was the case but I think I’ll try Answer Garden in the future. The difficulty I had was inserting a poll. I think it would’ve worked better in the side bar above the links rather than in a post but I wasn’t sure how to do this and embedding the code into the theme page confused me. Does anyone know how to do this and would like to share?

Also, in what ways do you ensure your students are maintaing balance? What strategies do you have on a whole-school level? Do you feel we do enough as classroom teachers? Is it our responsibility at all? Share your thoughts in the comments or add to my Wallwisher.


Image Credits:

Photo “Basking in the Glow”¬†by pmarkham under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Video: “Is Technology Weakening Relationships?” by MsAshbrown, 2/9/2009.