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?