Welcome back everybody! It has been an amazing summer and a wonderful first week of school. I am so excited to get the year going full steam. There is a lot go know about what Ravenswood Drama has in store so hold on to your hats.
First of all, I would like to cordially invite anyone who can come to our new playground opening on September 14th. From what I understand, it is going to be quite a spectacle. The newly constructed playground has plenty to show off just by itself. From softer turf covering more of the space than before, to really tempting climbing structures and even an amazingly eco-friendly water run-off and re-use system. However, the main attraction (in my opinion) is the stunning new outdoor amphitheater embedded in the playground itself.
I can't wait for spring to do some Greek plays with the 5th graders. It will also make an excellent outdoor classroom when I have to leave my drama space and travel from class to class as the students take a computer based test three times a year.
In other news, the year has begun and things are off to a great start! I couldn't be happier with our middle school electives schedule. For three of the four quarters, the arts team and I teach specific classes to a mixed middle school group. The middle schoolers get to choose their courses for the year on the first day of class. My first quarter class is going to produce, rehearse and perform this year's fall play! The hope with this is to allow some of the students that have very busy after school schedules a chance to participate in the play. It also gives us a chance to have more consistent rehearsals in the mornings four days a week. I think it will work out great and I have to admit that I have an amazing group of students. The next two quarters will be: Intro to Design (Costume and Set) and the Puppetry. Have I mentioned how excited I am for this year?
I also have a DonorsChoose going right now to help drama get some chromebooks to use for research, online portfolio making, and much more. I frequently use Edmodo with the older classes to help us keep track of assignments, journal, and collaborate. I love it. As I mentioned above, I also travel from class to class for about two weeks, three times a year because I share a space with the computer lab and I'm sure the students taking their tests wouldn't be able to do their best with a loud playreading or drama game going on 20 feet away. It is certainly not the ideal situation for anyone, as it is tricky to move all of my materials around, but we do what we must until a better option comes around. The chromebooks would help during these times by giving me a mobile station that I can bring to the classrooms loaded with resources for our lessons. If you have a chance, click the DonorsChoose link above and check out my page!
Ravenswood also welcomes our new Dance teacher, Ms. Christine Reed into the arts team. I have been able to see her teach a few times and I couldn't imagine a better teacher to join our team. The students are going love her classes and she will help bring Ravenswood to a whole new level. It is also incredibly exciting to see how many teachers have embraced the notion of integrating their curriculum with Ms. Reed. As a school that focus on arts integration in general, we strive to make sure that the arts are a part of each student's learning process. The art teacher, new dance teacher, and myself work tirelessly to create academically connected experiences in our classes, while at the same time, the classroom teachers work to create artistically connected experiences in their rooms. Having such an amazing staff that is ready and willing to collaborate with the arts team is amazing.
Lastly, I wanted to give a brief description of what a drama class looks like at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of every year, the main focus for my (and I'm sure other) drama class is to create a sense of ensemble. After the students know where I keep the markers and how to appropriately ask to go the restroom or line up, we work extensively on creating an environment in which the students feel safe (emotional, psychologically, and physically) , creative, and collaborative. In Theatre we call this an ensemble. This is the ground work that makes a classroom a team and without it,there can be no authentic process or production.
So, how do we create that sense of ensemble? Well, sometimes we put sticks on our heads.
I promise this is completely pedagogically sound. In this activity, the students are given the task walk around the room while connected to another student with a meter stick. The goal is to talk to their partner to keep each other from running into anyone or anything. The best part for me is watching the students become so comfortable communicating that they are able to maneuver under other students meter-stick-bridge. After a few minutes, we stop and discuss the challenges and connections of the activity, then the students must repeat the activity without using the meter stick but still keeping the same distance between them and their partner. It is an entire different feeling to have no physical contact but try to maintain a connection! After a brief discussion again, we then create more distance, going from one meter to two, then four, the EIGHT (guesstimated of course). The activity is for experiencing, the reflection is understanding.
There are many books with many more activities devoted to the same purpose, and we spend the first few weeks doing as many as I think it will take to create a cohesive group that can collaborate throughout the year. Once the students are effective collaborators, there is really no limit to what we can achieve. In the words of Sir Isaac Newton, "I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Together, we make each other giants.