Archive for August, 2011

Forum Theatre and Puppetry

August 10, 2011 1 comment

Today’s Warm-up Strategy: Captioning

Mo Willems has great books with captioning (Pigeon series, Elephant and Piggy series). You can take out the original text and have students put in their own text then act it out! Tons of fun to do and results can be quite hilarious.



Forum theatre (Augusto Boal)

So we revisited forum theatre since we did mostly image theatre with Sarah. A lot of forum theatre can of course be built on image theatre. It is usually unscripted which takes pressure off actors to memorize lines. Audience can come and replace both the oppressed or the oppressor.

Ideas for Forum Theatre: Have a Box of Compliments and Complaints. Students add to it throughout the year anonymously. The teacher picks out an issue (students will know their concern will be shared but anonymously) perhaps one a week to use with Forum Theatre. Alternate between compliments and complaints.  Once the Box has been introduce and explained, students can at any point, write their thoughts and put in box. You might want to start off with just discussing issues and not use forum theatre. For  younger students that can’t write yet, they can ask adult/teacher to write it with them. Or they may try their best to write it on their own and it’s alright if some of them you won’t be able to read. Sometimes its just about voicing concerns for students- that they have an avenue to express their feelings even if they aren’t used for discussion or for theatre. Keep a chart with guiding sentences to help them write:

“I don’t like it when________b/c _________ .” or “It upsets me when__________b/c__________.”

Forum Theatre with class example: a student feels wronged when the teacher tells her she must stay after school. She was ill and was absent from school for a few days and did not know that a rule had been made: no students are allowed in cloak room area during seat work time- only right before, during, after break times.

How to:

  • Teacher directs, and establishes setting. eg. bell has rung, it’s morning seat work time
  • if you have time, actors can sit and talk about what happens in the scene then perform it once for the audience
  • next time, audience members can yell stop, and one person will choose to replace someone and tell the actors where they want to pick up
  • audience member can come in as new character but has to be realistic to the scene
  • teacher asks the oppressed individual “how did that (the change in the scene) make you feel?” That individual can share how the change makes him/her feel.

Limitations: Frustration for actors having to re-do scenes over and over, and requires a lot of improv- students can have hard time reacting to the changes in the scene and continue with what they did the first time even though something has changed in the scene. Another problem is nobody wants to stop the scene and jump in! (is this just because we are new and still uncomfortable?) Teacher might have to act as Joker and facilitate audience jumping in. Joker often asks incredulously when no one is stopping the scene Is there nothing you want to stop???? Might have to stare and challenge people…this might be even more uncomfortable for teacher and audience.  The younger the students (K or Gr.1), the shorter and more direct it needs to be. For example, in the above scenario, the scene could be just the very brief moment when she goes to the cloak room and teacher reprimands her when she comes back. That’s it!   Short, direct, and to the point. Teacher needs to direct much more and keep it very very small and manageable for younger students.

Benefits: really great for conflict resolution, but also great to integrate into curriculum. It does not have it be about issues in class because it requires high comfort level and is risky for students. It could simply be forum theatre about topics in social studies, science, or language arts (eg. explorers, pioneers). This is really engaging for many students, they have fun doing it so as uncomfortable I might be, I just have to believe and remember to have high expectations!!! The students CAN do it! But I have to try first!

Check out David Diamond’s Headline Theatre to see more of forum theatre in actions


Today’s task: with a group of 6, do a small scene using puppets it has to have somehting to do with math

Benefits: It’s completely hilarious when adults do this! but of course also fun for kids to do. It can easily be incorporated into story time/read alouds, or when doing chants, poems, songs. If you do the Daily 5, it can be used at Read to Self or Read to Someone- kids love to read to puppets! They are really good for students that are shy or who are uncomfortable with being in front of an audience; by having a puppet, they can allow the puppet to do the talking and worry less about eyes on themselves. Students really do respond to the characters. I have also seen drama used as a way for non-verbal students to communicate. Although these two students still didn’t speak, they made noises and sounds which was a HUGE step for them.

Puppets are also great to integrate the visual arts with drama. There are lots of different kinds of puppets, but they can get expensive if you’re buying them all. Finger puppets are surprisingly pricey! One solution is to make puppets with the students. They can be more labour intensive like paper mache and fabric puppets or less arduous ones like sock puppets. they can also be super simple stick puppets using paper and popsicle sticks or paper bag puppets. Stuffed animals are also a great alternative, and I have loads of those sitting in my parents’ house that I couldn’t bear to part with but would happily take to school. Now only if I had my own classroom…..

Challenges: students can get quite attached to the puppets’s characters and be disappointed when they don’t come out….it can hard for teachers to constantly keep the character of the puppet and maintain the voice and mannerisms that have been created. Sometimes, it can be distracting  rather than adding to the delivery of the lesson.




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Assessment of Drama

August 10, 2011 1 comment

Ok, so today we discussed a topic that was a little more dry. No, perhaps that’s not fair, because we know assessment is so, so, so very important, BUT ….it never seems to be any fun! Why does it always seem to be just a lot of work?? Is assessment ever easy?

SO… was the reading for today’s topic:

Fels & Belliveau- Assessment

….. and Notes from Assessment presentation by Dennis Murphy Odo:

  • Alternative assessments: portfolio, self assessment, peer, journaling, conference checklist, rubric, anecdotal
  • Defining characteristics: process and product focused, student centred/student input, involves critical thinking/higher level thinking and problem solving. real world contexts or simulation, Students must perform create, produce, or do, it’s non intrusive (part of classroom routine), Students are assessed on regular classroom activity, students develop meta-cognitive thinking,  self reflection
  • Relationship between practicality, reliability, and washback /authenticity (Washback= how can I use this info to put back into future teaching)
  • Traditional tests tend to be more practical and reliable, whereas alternative assessment are better with giving washback and more authentic but less practical (journal/portfolios take a lot of time)
  • AIM: make alternative assessment more practical and reliable
  • Examples of Performance assessments: Oral Report/presentation, Writing sample, Individual /group project, Demonstration (e.g. experiment), Simulation (role play)
  • Rubrics are usually used to evaluate performance.  But people can use a rubric and still have very different results….perhaps not as reliable as originally thought
  • How to make rubrics more reliable? Use it over and over again, so it’s not just a snapshot but several snapshots that can produce a more accurate picture of ability

I really agree with Dennis when he says all assessments are “good” for certain situations. There are no “bad” assessments- it’s finding the right kind for the right task/activity/project. I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with rubrics. They have served me and my students so well at times, yet other times, they have not guided students very well in their learning nor helped me in the marking. Probably a badly constructed rubric from the start? Yes, probably and that’s one of the main problems with them! They can be very difficult to produce. How specific should you be? Brigitte mentioned in class that rubrics literally put students in boxes. Do they prevent students from “thinking outside the box” and do they punish those who do? Students might produce the most amazing work, but don’t include anything specified in the rubric. So is it fair when you disregard the rubric for that one child?

A classmate raised a good point that we don’t necessarily assess the drama because it’s a learning and teaching strategy for other curricular content. Therefore, even if we are using role drama, or readers theatre, it’s their understanding of plants and the environment or reading fluency that we assess. But we are required to report one term per year on visual arts, music, and drama. I really struggled with the assessment of it. In the end, if the student participated, I considered them to be “Meeting Expectations”. I suppose the question then is how do you assess participation? Checklists, observations, and anecdotal notes often seem too informal on which to base a report card mark. I often feel this pressure to have something tangible to support the mark given, and i think that’s why I always end up using a rubric because it seems concrete, but then I stop and realize the rubric is for justification to parents and/or administrators. Students would benefit much more by journalling about their experiences or even putting together an album/portfolio of their learning. I really liked Amanda’s idea of equipping every student with a disposable camera so they could take pictures of each other engaging in the drama activities. Reading the Fels & Belliveau chapter was a good reminder to try and incorporate other kinds of assessments into my practice. I realized this last year, I relied on criteria lists and rubrics way too much and didn’t do nearly enough of alternative assessments. Perhaps being in a job-share situation also hinders this because finding the time for conferencing and debriefing circles and portfolios is already so difficult, that when you’re only in the classroom with your students twice a week, it’s so easy to give up on these forms of assessment.



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Role Drama/Mantle of the Expert

August 10, 2011 1 comment

Mantle of the expert/process drama/role drama:

Cecily O’neil, Brian Way,  Dorothy heathcote, Gavin Bolton

  • Used to explore a problem or theme through the use of drama and other artistic means
  • Students and teachers are working in and out of role
  • Students take on roles from different perspectives

-Mantle of the Expert: students become the expert in the role they’re playing. Eg. Environmental issue:  Logging- students become expert loggers or expert environmentalists

-Usually without script but can have script

-Be clear when you are OUT of role, Say “I’m stepping out of role”

Amanda’s role drama about youth homelessness:

  • Student read about underage safe houses (in comparison of adult shelters and foster homes)so they have some background knowledge
  • Students bring in 3 artifacts that represent youth homelessness
  • Starts off with Amanda in role calling town hall meeting about opening youth homeless shelter
  • Mapping activity : purpose is to create a real environment, to give them a sense of place in this imaginary setting
  • Tableau:
  • Journal Writing about activity
  • Students would rotate through activities

Mantle of the Expert Task sheet for youth homelessness

  Activity :How does the water get from its natural source to bottling?

1.Town hall meeting- village leader calls a meeting to discuss with its residents the possibility of selling its water

2. Company meeting- Board of “Refreshing Water Company” decides to put together a research team of geologists

3. News Station- journalists discover that company is going to take water from village, reporters decide to go talk to villagers

4. Water way drawing

5. Mapping activity: villagers draw where they live in this community (include paths to water source from home etc) How do each of you get to the village? Students must choose their  profession- what do you do in the village? What does the water mean to your profession?

5.  Role drama: Day in the Life of the Village- Reporters/company geologists/community members

6. Town hall meeting

Water way drawing

Challenges: To be a good facilitator, the teacher must be very comfortable in role, and must be patient because it could take a lot of prodding with students who don’t say anything. It requires a lot of commitment to stay in role. I also think this would require a LOT of background knowledge or a lot of research so that students felt comfortable taking on a role. Even as adults, with all the life experiences, education, and background knowledge that we’ve acquired, I still felt uncomfortable with taking on a role- I felt like I was making stuff up. When you’re unsure, you feel less committed to the role which I think would take away from the effectiveness of this teaching and learning strategy. The students are, after all, suppose to feel empowered as experts. Benefits: I think if this role drama was used after a considerable amount of research/discussion and learning around the topic or issue had already taken place, then students might feel more comfortable working in role and this can be quite engaging for them. One good thing about it is that you do not have to have a conclusion to your process drama. Just the experience of being in a role and trying to understand another point of view is enriching enough.

From the clouds to the mountain snow and glacier

down into rivers and streams

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Image Theatre with Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud

August 10, 2011 1 comment

Today, Sarah Wolfman Robichaud showed us several practical activities and strategies that we could try implementing right into our classroom practice.

(Sarah’s e-folio can be found here with a link to a Process Drama lesson Plan. See Post on “Standard 6: Subject Areas”)

Finger Point

This activity is to show students the power of the mind to control/push the body to do what it envisions. Have the students spread out and make sure they have enough room (their arm span) to move their arm without hitting anyone. Students can use either arm, but with younger children or if doing for the first time, have  everyone use their right arm. Ask them to raise their arm out in front of them so it’s about 90 degrees to their body. Focus on their fingers outstretched (they can use one or two fingers or whole hand). Tell them to move their arm to their right, twisting their upper body as they do so, but feet stay put. When they can’t move their arm anymore, ask them to make a mental note of where their arm is, using a point on the wall to remember. Return to original position. Next, ask them to close their eyes and imagine going further this time. When they are ready, have them try. See how many  were able to go further. Next, have them again imagine going further yet again, but without opening eyes attempt it again for a third time. Have them open their eyes and see where their arm is. Many will find they have gone further. this idea is great concentration game, and allows students to focus. Might be useful when trying to calm a class after lunch, or get everyone focused and paying attention.


“Cover the Space!” Students are atoms that move about the classroom, covering as much space as possible so as not to bunch up, or walk in circles, but to really spread out and use all of the physical space in the room. Teacher/Leader calls out a number and students must form groups of whatever number has been called. The teacher will also call out a letter/shape/object and students must use their bodies to represent the number/letter/object. Emphasize there is no wrong way to do this! Get the students to be creative as possible! You can adapt with restrictions. For example: no talking allowed, or they must form groups with brand new people. Teacher can use this with just about any curricular topic (learning about shapes in geometry, letters of the alphabet, counting) or simply as an activity for a movement break or DPA. Older students can even try doing more abstract things such as concepts and feelings, or they might create scenes from a novel they’re studying in LA. It gets students moving, working cooperatively, and thinking about different ways to show their understanding of a topic.

Weightless (aka Bar Room Brawl) 

Students will pair up, one will be leader, the other follows. Without touching, the leader will try to move their partner by trying to communicate with arm gestures, hands, eyes etc. Have students take 2 steps back and continue trying to move their partner this way. Try moving even further away. Switch roles. Adaptation/Extension: Have the whole class move and each time students make eye contact with another person, then can move them then continue circulating the room.

Challenges: many students feel like they are mirroring in order to communicate how they want their partner to move. Suggestions: Leaders should try playing with level. For example, in order to move their foot, get down low to the ground to indicate what body part you want moved. Also use eye contact to signal what body part you are trying to move. Kids might understand this better if we called it “Puppets” and have them imagine they are on string controlled by the Leader. Also, discuss with the class what the difficulties were and what would make it easier. The students can collaboratively come up with ideas on how to improve their communication. Always remember to start small: move just fingers, feet, or try just the eyes. Lastly, ask students what they liked better. Leader or follower? Why?

Image Theatre

  • Pick a theme example: exclusion
  • Have groups of students create a tableau
  • Vote on one tableau to animate
  • Chosen group gets into tableau
  • Teacher/Leader taps each person in the group and asks “What do you want?” They each say “I want_________”. Make sure they respond with what they want and not what they want other to do.
  • Teacher/Leader taps each person in the group and asks “What is your secret wish?” Each person in tableau responds
  • Invite audience members to go stand with someone in the tableau that they identify with
  • Teacher/Leader taps individuals and each time they make a sound  (these can be very quiet and subtle sounds or loud)
  • Teacher/Leader asks the audience to leave the tableau
  • Teacher/Leader asks the people in the tableau to move one step closer to what they want and Freeze, repeat
  • Teacher/Leader taps into thoughts one last time and asks “What are you thinking?”
  • Students can be silly, especially younger ones, so when you do Tap into Thoughts, remind them it must be connected to the theme, otherwise you’ll get  a lot of silly ideas like “I’m hungry”.
  • This particular method isn’t always popular or fair because you have to vote for one tableau to animate, but other groups could go in subsequent lessons?
  • What do you want? and What is your secret wish? can get muddled
  • can be adapted and used for any curricular topic
  • very effective with conflict resolution
  • less intimidating than role drama as it requires less improvisation
  • tapping into thoughts really helps students with inferencing skills
Life Map Activity
 Have students think of 4-5 really important events in their life (eg being born, first haircut, losing first tooth, immigrating). They make a symbol for each of these events, and arrange these symbols/pictures on a piece of construction paper in any way they like. Then they take one of these events/symbols and do image theatre (either individually, or if older, other students can be other characters, help make a scene come to life).
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Selera and the Temple of Zoom!

August 10, 2011 1 comment


Selera and the Temple of Zoom! is a children’s show presented by Burnaby Summer Theatre and has been touring various locations around the Lower Mainland as well as showing at the Burnaby Village Museum every Thursday since July.  The play is directed by Sean McQuillan, and features students from Studio 58’s Theatre Program.


The play tells the story of a girl, Selera, who must go in search of the antidote to cure her mother who has been poisoned by a Gorlinga spider. Her mother will turn into a spider herself unless Selera can return fast enough with the antidote. Luckily, Selera has a special skill- she can run faster than anything! And thus she sets out on an adventure to strange lands where she meets a few unsavoury characters that try to harm her as well as a couple who help her in her quest.


I went to see the play at the Burnaby Village Museum and it is staged outdoors on the Museum’s “Meadows”, a large grassy field next to the Village’s replica tram station. The station was a little wooden covered building and the audience sat on the building steps or the grass to view the performance. There wasn’t an actual stage as the actors performed right on the grass and there was nothing other than two black stools for props and a small painted backdrop. The set consisted of several painted tarps hung up on a standing rod. Actors went behind the tarp for costume changes.


One of the things that struck me most about this performance was the simplicity yet effectiveness of the set, props, and costumes.  I was immediately reminded of Valerie Farlette’s advice on keeping things simple but making sure to use bright, bold, colours so that characters really “pop” out to the eye.  Indeed, the costumes were uncomplicated but fantastic. Selera wore a bright pink dress, a yellow backpack and shiny high top sneakers. Her mother wore pink pajama pants with a bright plaid top and large plastic blue-rimmed eyeglasses. The animals, too, had creative but simple costumes: black-painted crutches and black tubing were used for the spider’s legs; a red construction helmet with glued-on eyes and red boxing gloves for Hermit Crab; Vulture was dressed completely in black with a feather boa, cape, and red paper mask and beak. The Princess wore a pink satin gown and tea cosy on her head, while the Troll wore a velour robe, batman mask and wig.  Even the narrator wore bold colour clothing that appeared costume-like rather than everyday clothes.

Selera and Mother



As mentioned, the set was also very simple-probably due to the nature that the show tours around the city and having few props means easy transport and set-up. The backdrops appeared to be large sheets of plastic tarp and were painted for the various places in Selera’s adventure including the forest, the desert, the Island of Gorlinga, and the Temple of Zoom. For scene changes, the narrator and another actor would just flip the tarps over to reveal the new location. I thought the set design was quite clever as it made scene changes very quick. This might be easily adapted to the school on a smaller scale with the chart paper stands that most classrooms have. If pushed together, the chart paper stands could be the backdrop with painted tarps or shower curtains that could be turned over or pulled back.

Stage and Set at Burnaby Village Museum


Since the show was developed for children, it was created with audience interaction in mind. The actors would, from time to time, ask the audience questions, react to their suggestions, and acknowledge their applause. (There was the typical chase scene in which the “bad” character asks, “Where did she go?”). The Princess also comes and sits amongst the audience in the grass and interjects the scene on “stage” at times and encourages the audience to cheer Selera when she’s losing faith and when she’s battling the Gorlinga Spider.  It’s really remarkable how much children love to become part of the show and how much fun it is for them to be involved.


It was difficult to find a play created specifically for an elementary audience during the summer, so I was very pleased to find out about Selera and the Temple of Zoom! And an added bonus was that it was free! During the school year, many local theatre companies create shows targeted for the primary audience and therefore have strong curricular connections. This play does not have any strong links to classroom curriculum, but it does touch on some universal themes.


The most obvious theme would be that of learning to overcome your fears (Selera is terribly afraid of spiders, but must confront the Galinga Spider to obtain the antidote). There’s also the theme of working together to accomplish a goal (Selera is aided by the Hermit Crab and the Princess and she also needs the audience to help her with confronting her fear). We might even draw connections to the theme of discovering your strength and using it to accomplish a goal (Selera can run faster than anything!). The play also touches lightly on the topic of bullying behavior; we find out at the end the troll is mean and tries to marry the princess only because he thinks he will then have friends.


Unfortunately, the play was quite short – only 30 minutes- and just touches on these issues, some rather superficially. It didn’t quite have enough material or time to explore them in-depth. It would, therefore, be beneficial to discuss these topics further in class after the performance, especially if these same themes were part of a Language Arts novel or Social Responsibility Unit.


A drama activity that we’ve learned in class and that might be suitable for a debriefing activity is the Conscience Alley.  Since the most salient theme of the play was overcoming fear, we might have the students think about their own fears and discuss why they are afraid of something. Other students can think of reasons why we should not be afraid or simply words of encouragement. We might start off with Selera’s fear of spiders. What does the scared part of her mind say? And what does the brave part of her say? What do her friends and mother say?  We might repeat this with the Troll’s conscience to help us understand and explain why he acted the way he did. This would be a great activity to gauge students’ understanding of characters’ intentions and motivations in both the play and novel/story being studied in class.


Although there is a difference between plays for children and plays by children, I think there were some useful aspects of the performance that one could take away and incorporate into a school production. I really enjoyed the interactive aspect of the show, but I do think that young students might have difficulty doing this themselves, as it requires a high level of improvisational skill- the input from the audience can be unpredictable. However, the set and costume design demonstrated how a show could be done effectively with very little and careful selection of prop and costume pieces.


The characters’ movements also struck me. Students could think about how our bodies move- and cannot move- in order to portray a character. Spider, Hermit Crab, Vulture, and Troll moved in very different manner which added to their character. For a class play, I would really want to focus on movement exercises that help children to “find” their character more completely. We might go outside for a nature walk and watch how different birds, squirrels, or dogs walk, move their heads, smell something, pick up an object, eat etc.  Or we might think about a character’s physical and/or personality traits and see how that changes the way he would walk, run, play, talk etc.


Despite being a short play with few obvious curriculum connections, I still took away some performance and production strategies and ideas. I could see how engaging it was for young children and even the adults in the audience- me included.







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Spoken Word and Poetry with Kedrick James

August 9, 2011 1 comment

Today started out with an amazing clip of spoken word artist Sarah Kay for a little inspiration.

Next, Kedrick James ,instructor in the Language and Literacy Education Department at UBC and spoken word artist came to do a short workshop on what he calls “Conversation Symphony” 

  • Start with just non-words/sounds
  • Start with just vowels A E I O U, play with pitch – low to high, high to low
  • Make sounds, try to represent them as words on a staff eg. Beat box sound as poosh tse????
  • Have groups perform this
  • Then think of a word, have students just say their one word over a 4/4 beat to create a conversation symphony
This is what the class produced. Have a listen: 

Benefits: nice link to vocabulary, great way to explore voice projection, enunciation, wonderful way to show how words take on “life”

Limitations: I know spoken word does not require a music background yet I was somewhat intimidated with James presentation because I felt like he was using language that people with musical training could understand better than I could. Just the idea of using a staff and different beats made me feel like I couldn’t confidently use this in my classroom!

Adaptations: I might not deliver this quite the way James did, but I would consider playing around with pitch and have students listen and produce low and high pitch sounds, as well as playing around with elongating vowel sounds to help with awareness of enunciation. What James did with the group of volunteers reminded me or a round or canon, and in my experience this is really difficult for children! I would try having the whole class work on the same words just simply keeping a steady beat. I’ve never really liked poetry myself, but I tend to teach it just by going through various genres and styles. I know this can be boring, so perhaps we could add a performance aspect to the poetry unit. It might be fun to have kids share their own original and selected poems from other poets and in a kind of poetry cafe where parents could be invited and there would be goodies and tea. I thought it was really neat how Sarah Kay went to all these venues where spoken word was happening and was inspired, encouraged, and welcomed into this community of poets and artists. What an amazing story.

On a side note, here’s an activity that Amanda used with for discussing the Sharon Grady reading. I don’t usually post about the strategies as other people have done such a great job explaining them thoroughly (see WARM UP ACTIVITIES Page), but I  have never heard or seen this one before and thought it was quite powerful. It is called “Corridor of Voices” or “Alley of Voices”. Start off by numbering off the class into 1’s and 2s. Form two circles, with 1s inside facing the 2s on the outside. (Alternatively, pair up 1s and 2s with their backs to each other; this may be more comfortable for some people and gets them to really use their listening skills. Ask the class to Think-pair-share (might tell them to prepare that they will present one idea their partner said). Next pairs form a  group of four with another pair. Each person shares something their partner said. Then half the class will choose one idea/comment from the discussion that resonated with them. It might be a word or short phrase or sentence.  Then each person whispers their one idea/thought while the other half of the class walks through the alley to hear the ideas. One definite benefit to this exercise is that people can share without being put on the spot. It is a safe way of talking about a highly controversial topic such as the Grady Reading. There will be times that topics come up in class that students feel very heated about and this might be the forum to share their feelings without being confrontational. One limitation, however, is that not everyone gets to hear all the ideas, or the one phrase that is whispered in the alley doesn’t capture the whole meaning of someone’s thought. On the other hand, too long of a phrase or sentence means people don’t hear the whole thing as they’re moving through the alley! Perhaps, this could be the initial activity to a more in-depth discussion. Perhaps students could jot down thoughts/feelings/ reactions in journals then have them re-visit the next day?

The Grady reading was certainly disputable. Grady Chapter 2 How do we ensure stereotypes are not perpetuated in our classrooms? I think this is very very challenging. I think about improv and how we are expected to act immediately with whatever pops into our heads and often those are stereotypical understandings we have of others. We take on characters and use whatever knowledge we have about them, and though it may be unintentional, it’s still very harmful. With students, I always tread lightly when it comes to bringing attention to their racial/ethnic/cultural identity. When we bring explicit or implicit attention to a part of someone’s identity, we walk a very thin line between celebrating identity and imposing identity on others. I suppose there really is no right answer and the best practice is to try and know your students and help them discover and define what it is they value in themselves.

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Reader’s Theatre and Script Writing

August 9, 2011 1 comment

Reader’s Theatre? Readers’ Theatre? Readers Theatre? RT? They’re all right and used interchangeably. So what is the main difference between RT and performance theatre? RT has scripts and actors are not required to memorize lines. RT does not need audience; the performers are enough.

Last week when we did Staged Reading, we had already discussed some of the benefits of this drama activity in building fluency and comprehension. I think Amanda sums it up pretty well in her powerpoint too.

Benefits of Readers Theatre

Benefits for ELLs

Having done a not-so-good readers theatre “unit” with my students,  I now have a few ideas on how to improve it. One suggestion is that the students MUST  try and read different roles before deciding. Students should not pick roles until at least the third day/lesson. If students fight over roles, pick out of a hat. Even if you end up deciding roles for the students, it will still be better that they had read several parts. When I did RT with my Gr.2 class, I had students take the scripts, read it once then choose their roles. This was probably not the best way to do it. In fact, I’m sure amongst themselves, some groups had already chosen their roles before reading through the script.  One of the main problems  was students not knowing when/where their lines were and when it was their turn to speak. If they had read multiple parts, then they would know the script that much better. Many students just had their heads buried in their scripts with their papers covering their faces – some muffling their voices- that it really took away from the effectiveness of their reading. Again, perhaps for some students, scripts need to be enlarged so the font size is easier to track? Looking back, I realize now that they also just did not have enough time and practice with the scripts.  Amanda suggests a 5 day/lesson schedule, but in Anthony Fredericks Building Fluency with Reader’s Theatre, he suggested students new to RT should have 3 weeks before performing. Looking back, I was disappointed with the “results” of their RT performances, but really they just needed more time for repeated readings. I’m not even sure why we performed them when we did- partly because I thought they were tiring of them, but there was so much more they could have done. Amanda also suggests having the groups decide whether they will perform for an outside audience or just the class, but all group members should agree to be fair. One adaptation for younger students (K/1 or beginning readers) is to write scripts with symbols to facilitate reading. Full scripts might be too daunting for little ones, so choral reading of poems, chants, and songs might be more manageable but still build the same skills with expression and fluency.

Amanda's 5 day lesson plan

RT Schedule for Beginners (click to enlarge)

RT Schedule for students with Experience (click to Enlarge)

Script writing

Ultimate goal: students write their own script (independently if older, in groups if younger) and practice and perform the script as RT.

First time scripting with students: have them choose a book (picture book, doesn’t have to be at their grade level necessarily but easier for purpose of turning into script the first time, later have them write their own stories with dialogue then turn into script)

Turning stories into scripts

To write their own original script, have students choose a setting, then identify/come up with problem and solution, identify characters that will be in the story.

I had never thought to do script writing this way. In my mind, I always thought it required taking a story and turning narration into dialogue- a substantially harder task. I thought a script could not work if the narrators had too many lines because then it would be boring. I had never thought it was enough to just have them read fluently within their own group and that would be enough. This method takes the difficulty out of script writing because it’s literally copying the text as is, but assigning parts. Amanda suggests using Narrator___ during the writing until you’ve figured out just how many narrators are needed. There’s still some room for creativity however, because you can play around with parts that are read by all or by two/three/four for added emphasis or certain effect.

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