Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Using Greek Togas to Prepare for the Theatre SLO

This year I have had to start giving the dreaded SLO's (nicknamed slows in our school). For those who haven't experienced an SLO yet let me give you a rundown. A SLO stands for Student Learning Objective. They are basically tests for the classes that aren't typically given state tests. Students are given a pre-test at the beginning of the year and then are expected to grow X % amount by the end. In my county these tests are all multiple choice. That means that students have to show growth not by their acting but by text analysis and their ability to answer questions on acting. I have mixed feelings on the SLOs which I will get into at a later date but for now I want to focus on how you engage and excite your students while covering the seemingly boring topics. I have a very very limited amount of time to get my students to show 35% growth (only 40 minutes a week = 27 hours total a year) that is a lot of growth per hour. So I try to pack a ton of punch into each lesson. For the next few weeks I am focusing on the following topics: theatre history, rehearsal process, script analysis, and character analysis. My plan is to start off with Greek theatre and then hit the highlights of other major history eras. Each week students will get a crash course in a new part of theatre history. They will learn a little about the time period then perform a scene or adaptation from the time. Hopefully threw performing in several types of plays, the students will learn a lot about the rehearsal process, script analysis and character analysis, and a little about theatre history. It is not a perfect plan but I have to work with what time I've got.

Greek History

For Greek history I had a few facts that I wanted students to know by the end of the lesson
- Greeks were the first people in western civilization to perform traditional plays
-Greeks invented the chorus. I also wanted them to be able to explain what a chorus was and how it was used by the Greeks.
-the first actor came from Greek plays- Thespis. They also made the connection of why our drama club is called the Young Thespians
-Greeks performed the plays for religious ceremonies. We also very very briefly touched on Greek Gods and Goddess, luckily they had already covered that in their ELA class.

King Midas and the Golden Touch

I lucked out something major this year with my 5th grade ELA teacher. She and I just happened to pick the same story to study in both of our classes. This doesn't happen very often but when it does it sure makes life easier. I am trying to be much more organized and actually plan out these happy coincidences but it is a slow process. She had previously taught King Midas and the Golden Touch, I just so happened to have a wonderful Readers Theatre adaptation of the same story, so my script analysis portion took very little time for this play.
Since the students had already read the story and new the basic plot we could move right into our rehearsal block. I cast the play being very mindful to cast people who weren't often my leads as main characters. This was a great way to force my tech students out of their shell. We rehearsed the play being very mindful of blocking and characterization for this play. After we had rehearsed the play twice (this play really only lasts about 4 minutes so it was great for my time frame), we took a break to discuss the characters. We also talked about the differences between the short story they read in class and our play. 

Then it was time to have fun, I had put on a Greek play a few years ago, so I had already purchased a ton of white bed sheets. If you don't have any, run to goodwill and get some. You will use them all the time. I gave each kid a sheet and taught them how to wrap a toga. The kids loved putting on costumes for the play. After they were dressed it was time for the Final Performance. Students were graded on their ability to follow the correct blocking, project their voice, act in character and follow the script. The students had a wonderful time and learned a ton. I am hoping that if I keep this same format up for several weeks they might just learn a thing or to?

SLO breakdown

For my SLO students must know the following information.

-Order of rehearsal process (audition, casting, read through, blocking, finishing rehearsal, final dress, performance). With this assignment the students were able to experience casting, read through, blocking, finishing and a final dress/performance).

- Character analysis: Use history to create character- This one is obvious, we talked about Greek performances and choruses then performed one.

-Character analysis: Internal/ External traits based on text- Each student had to describe their character and use the text to prove it. Being able to use textual support is a huge push on our new Common Core so my ELA teacher had already been covering this in class. The kids were great at reading the lines and proving their character choices "My character is a young girl because in the script she says "Daddy play with me" and that tells me she is still young enough to want to play with her parents"

-Acting/ Rehearsal: Blocking- I had students talk about stage pictures and how you avoid lines. We also talked about how since King Midas was the lead he would often be at the top of our "triangle"

-Theatre History: Students learned a ton about Greek history in this lesson. They were even able to give me the highlights in our exit slips!

-Technical Theatre: Costumes- Students learned how to create a toga, while creating a toga isn't necessarily on the SLO it is always great to remind students about "historically accurate"  costuming. I know these togas aren't actually historically accurate but we were working with the time and money we had. :)

How do you all teach theatre history? Have you found Readers Theatre to be a great way to engage your students in reading and text analysis?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3 Free Theatre Arts Integration Strategies that Work

My school is great! My principal has really embraced the idea of arts integration throughout our entire building. She really wants to make sure that all teachers have the tools they need to be able to integrate the fine arts into the core Curriculum. She has even brought in professional artists in each area to give professional development. It's great. What's not so great, the advice i always hear from the theatre pd. For some reason every professional development i attend that talks about integrating theatre into classroom falls back on one vocab word: tableaux.

I hate tableaux! There I said it. For those that don't know a tableaux is a frozen stage picture. Students can create a picture of anything, a scene from a play, the food chain, a land-form, a story, a moment in history. It's all very helpful, but I am one of the few theatre teachers who cannot stand tableaux. I realize that if you are a core teacher, making the kids freeze is a lot less scary then letting them move. But really isn't moving part of the fun?

Since I hate tableaux so much, it makes me so sad to see professional development that only encourages teachers to have the students freeze. I decided I had to do something about it. So I now present to you: 

3 Theatre Arts Integration Strategies that Work

Story Time Freeze

This is for the teacher that loves tableaux, who is scared to let the students move much. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Whether that story is a moment in History or the food chain. Have students create a frozen picture of the beginning middle and end of their story. This not only gets students thinking about the order of a story but also has them work on transitions and how characters and things change throughout en event.


If you don't like noise, but don't mind a little chaos, pantomime is for you! Pantomime or mime is when you act without words. Having students try to convey a topic without using their voice takes a lot of creativity. For example, how could you act out the signing of the deceleration of independence without words, how could you show the parts of a cell and their jobs without words? This activity is great. You can always have the students explain their performance afterward (or they could write about it). I love pantomime as a well to demonstrate knowledge.

Press Conference

This is a great differentiation strategy. Choose a few of your advanced students to be your character (parts of a plant, planets, members of parliament). These students will answers all the questions in character. All of your other students will be the reporters that interview your guests. You can either have the students submit their questions or let them ad-lib their questions. Your interviewers should ask their questions. You can then have them write a newspaper article about the interview. 

Download my free lesson plan guide with more information on these strategies. Don't forget to follow my blog and TeachersPayTeachers site for more awesome freebies.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Stage directions battleship

So for the week before spring break, which always happens to be crazy, I decided to adapt a game I saw on Pinterest for theatre. The original game was a musical note battle ship Check it out here!. It looked like so much fun that I thought my students could benefit from it as well. The kids loved it and it was great to play a game right before the break!

Set up

For each board you need two Manila folders and eight tokens (2  of four colors). Once I had the boards made I reused them for each class but you could have them create their own to take home.

First staple the two folders together so that one side can stand while the other side is flat on the ground (see picture). Then you or the students need to label the parts of the stage. This is a great time to talk about the difference between stage directions and house directions.

Rules of the game.

Player one goes first. Player one places four tokens (one from each color) anywhere on the board. The only rule is you can only have one token per space. Player two must then use stage directions to guess  how the director arranged the stage. 
"Is the red token down stage right"
"Is the blue token center stage?" 

When player two correctly guesses where a token is placed, player two places the corresponding token on his board (blue center stage) 

Player two continues to guess until they figure out player one's stage picture. Once the stages match, they game flips and it becomes player two's turn to direct and design the stage picture.

Advanced play

No horizontal or vertical lines (talk about how directors try to avoid straight lines on stage so they can't have straight lines on the board)
Two per square (allow two people to share the same space)
Script based (stage picture must be based off a script)


I feel like there is a way to play this same game and teach foot positions (profile, full front etc) I am working on it!

This spring break I am going to try and create a cute board and standing people to use with the game to make it more realistic. Check back later to see the final result!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Five Ways to Recover from a Bad Rehearsal

Well it is the month of the Middle School Production. I have discovered that blogging and tech week don't mix. I think for the month of the show I am only going to be able to write one post a week, so I will try to make it a good one.

We all have had it happen. You go to in to rehearse and everything goes wrong. The kids haven't memorized their lines, half the group has forgotten their choreography, the prop crew forgets a scene change, and the lights crew misses several cues. Everything seems to go wrong. How do you recover and refocus your cast? How do you ensure that this rehearsal doesn't affect your final performance?

1. Have a "Come to Theatre" meeting

I am from the South. In the South the little old church ladies will often have a "Come to Jesus" meeting. At this meeting, the ladies find a group and tell them all the things they are doing wrong and how they can solve all their problems by coming to Jesus. 

The come to theatre meeting is very similar. Call your cast together and talk about your goals for the show. This is not a time to yell cry or make a scene, but this is a time to be brutally honest. Let the students know exactly what they are doing wrong and what they can do to fix it. I would be careful about who you call out by name but if you think it would be effective you can. Make sure you talk about how you all want the show to be successful and how they should take pride in their performance. I also like to throw in a bit about ensemble and how we are only as good as our weakest player. I once had a director tell us to go home and think about their performance and if they would have a job if this was a professional theatre. I also like to give the students concrete things to work on. Go memorize lines with a friend, sing to the cd three times. Etc.

2. Team Huddle

After you are done with your meeting, it is often a good idea to huddle the team. The kids are going to feel a little downtrodden and unsure about their upcoming show. You want to leave on a positive note. You want them to know that you believe in them and know they can succeed. If you have a group or class cheer you might want to do that. Team huddle is all about being positive and re-energizing the cast.

3. Student Leaders

On every cast there are a few students who are your leaders. Hopefully you have a good relationship with a few of these leaders. Pull these leaders aside individually and talk to them about they can help the success of the show. Maybe they can mentor some of then lead roles to help prepare. Maybe they can help the students focus backstage. Maybe they can reteach some choreography or songs. Use your student leaders to your advantage. If you can get them refocused and re-enrgized the battle will be so much easier.

4. Set the Kids up for Success.

At the start of the next rehearsal you want to start off on a really good note. You want the kids to get their confidence back. Pick a scene song or dance that you know your kids can nail and have them start off with that. You want to up the students' confidence level before you start working on the hard stuff. When you are done with the scene. Praise the kids, let them know how great they did. You want their confidence up for the start of the rehearsal. 

5. Trust the Process

Bad rehearsals happen. Our school has a superstition that if you don't have a bad rehearsal at least once the week before the show, the show will fail. You and your students have worked so hard for the production. You all have done everything you can to prepare for the show. The kids want to do well. The audience wants to see the kids succeed. The show will be great. No one will know if students miss a few lines or misstep on a dance. Most kids are "show kids" they drive us crazy in the rehearsal process but pull it out for the show. If you have all done the work the show will be great. Be positive and try not to worry.

I hope these tips help you when you are faced with a bad rehearsal right before a show. What else have you done to recover from a bad rehearsal? How to do you refocus your kids? Do bad rehearsals happen to anyone else or is it just me :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brain Break: Silly Suspect


The premise of the game is simple. A police officer is interviewing a suspect about an unknown crime(let the kids make it up). The suspect is very silly though and can only say one word. This game results in hilarious conversations between the officer and suspect. 


Police officer can only ask classroom appropriate questions. The suspect can only answer using the silly word. Encourage your suspect to use nonverbal communication and vocal inflection to communicate the answers while only saying the one word.

Twist: have a competition between your two actors, the first one to giggle or break character looses.

Students should try to ask silly questions that make the answer seem even more outrageous.


Before the game write out several silly words on index cards (see silly words below). 
For each round choose two students to perform. Try to pick a quieter student for the suspect. This makes it easier since they already know what they are going to say. It also helps students build confidence in front of an audience and sets the student up for success. Pick a confident or gifted student as your police person. This will push those students to develop their creativity and improvisation skills.

Suggested words

You can really use any silly word you want for this game,but here are a few suggestions.
Baby doll
Puppy dog
Blah blah blah
Hocus locus

Monday, February 2, 2015

Five fantastic fundraising ideas

Everyone has to do it. No one particularly likes to do it, but everyone has to do it... FUNDRAISING. Fundraising can be one of the hardest parts of any school job, especially a theatre teacher who is needing money to fund the next school production or competition. As a theatre teacher, my biggest fundraiser each year is my Musical Production.

This year I set a new high by raising $10,000 with my production! Say what!

If you read my posts on Thursday you know I am doing a weekly step by step guide to how to put on a productions. Productions are not easy and they require a ton of prep-work and expense. So while I love using a production as a fundraiser, it is often good to have a few easy fundraisers as well. These are also great because they work well for the entire school or a club (we have actually used these to help raise money for Relay for Life and other charities as well). These  fundraisers also take very little prep time and expense.

Penny wars

This is one of my favorite fundraisers. All you need are some teams and a big jar per team. In school, teams are easy. You can either have grade levels compete against each other, boys vs. girls or club vs. club.  What ever works. You then need to have large jars somewhere. (We were a little worried about the jars running off so we drilled milk-jugs to a large wooden plank and placed the plan in the library_ much harder to run off with a huge plank).  The rules are simple.  For every penny that is put in your team jar, your team gets a point. For every denomination that is not a penny, your team looses that many points. The team with the most points wins!

For example if we are having a boys vs girls penny war. One girl  puts 50 pennies in the girl jar. The girls now have 50 points! Then a boy comes and trows a quarter in the girl jar. The girls now loose 25 points (quarter= 25 pennies). The girls now only have 25 points!

This is a great game because kids get the change to sabotage the other teams. It also is great because it helps reinforce money concepts which our students struggle with. This game can be played for any amount of time you want. I once knew a school that played all year, but declared a winner each month! For the winning team you can choose any number of prizes: Free dance party during specials, pride, a sign over their hallway declaring them the winners. Try to think of something cheep but fun that the kids would love.

Flock of flamingos

 Flock of flamingos is a great fundraiser but you must have a very awesome staff and administration to pull it off. The whole concept is that students can pay money to send a flock of flamingos to different teacher's rooms. This fundraiser is hilarious but if your staff is not amused with the flock it wont work. To prepare for this fundraiser all you need to do is cut out a ton of flamingos from pink paper.  Or if you staff is really awesome_ go buy a few plastic flamingos at the dollar store/ goodwill. I would pick one week that was "Flamingo Week" during this week students can pay (see suggested prices below) to flamingo someone's classroom/class door. Teachers then either have to live with the flamingos all week or can get flamingo insurance to have the flamingos removed from their door at the end of each day.  Once the week is over, all the flamingos fly on and life returns to normal.

Suggested pricing:
1 flamingo is $1.00
1/2 flock (6 flamingos) is $5.00
Full Flock (12 flamingos) is $10.00
Flamingo insurance is $10.00

If you are using the plastic flamingos you might want to change the number of flamingos in a flock. If you are using paper you could increase the flock size. Also remember that if you want, more than one flock can go to a teacher's door (and even if they buy the insurance, the flock will still land for one day).

Jar of shame

You also need an awesome staff to pull off this fundraiser. Find a few awesome teachers who don't mind embarrassing themselves for a great cause. Have them each declare one embarrassing thing they will do if they win (or loose depending on how you look at it). Use the same jars as from the penny wars. Take pictures of each teacher are put a picture and their embarrassing stunt of the jar. The teacher who has raised the most money by the end of the week, must perform the embarrassing task. Everyone loves this fundraiser, it is fun and the kids get a kick out of watching teachers humiliate themselves. The only warning I would give is make sure the teachers are comfortable performing their tasks. You don't want someone to pack out at the last minuet.

Shameful ideas :)
dye you hair a funny color for the day
shave your head
eat a bug/worm
kiss a pig
get duck-taped to a wall
dress like a _______(something silly)____ all day
eat some weird food
do a crazy dance

Pay to wear

If your school has a strict uniform this is always a great option. On special days, allow students to pay money to break uniform. This fundraiser is great because it takes no effort on your part and you make some super easy money. We have had hat day, pajama day, sports day, silly day, book character day.  Any type of day you can think of is a great theme for this type of fundraiser. Make sure you get permission from your administration before hosting this event (some school systems wont let you pay to wear). Also make sure you have a plan for those kids who wear but do not pay. Do they have to call home and get a change of clothes or are you just going to ignore it. This fundraiser is no prep and no cost so if you are allowed you should definitely add it in to your rotation.

Face painting/ temporary tattoos

This fundraiser costs a little more on the front end, but all the kids love it. First invest in some face paints or temporary tattoos that you can sell.  Then on any day you get approval, sell face paint and temporary tattoos. You can make a ton of profit from this type of fundraiser. There 144 tattoos in a pack @ $5.00 a pack. If you sell the pack for even $0.25 each you will make $31.00 a pack (you can make $62 if you sell at $0.50 a tattoo). This is a great easy fundraiser for a club. You really need several people helping you sell/paint faces. If you have a ton of talented kids in your group let them paint faces one day. It is amazing how much money you can make for such a simply process.

Well these are just a few of my ideas on how to help raise money for your school, club, or class. Did any of these ideas work for you? Were you able to make any money off of them? Also what other fundraisers have you tried that have been very successful? Leave me a message I would love to hear from you!