Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm dripping with...

I got an e-mail last week from a new theatre company looking to expand its education department. I interviewed last Friday with the artisitic director, and she e-mailed me this morning and asked if I could start teaching classes next Tuesday evening. For the first time in many years, I'm going to actually be a theatre teacher. There's just one catch.

I'll be teaching ten-year-olds.

I've never taught ten-year-olds. I know nothing about ten-year-olds. If a ten-year-old was in my presence, I wouldn't know what to do with him. Is he still in diapers? Does he feel feelings? What do he eat???

I'll be teaching two classes a week, an A and a B class. The B students aren't necessarily more advanced, they've just taken the A class already. Each class meets once a week for 90 minutes. Each class will end the semester with a simple recital for their parents, where they present whatever it is I have them do for the next twelve weeks.

The thing is, I can't even play a lot of theatre games with them because the classes are so small (ever heard a teacher complain about that before?). The A class has four students, and the B class has three students. All are girls.

Have any of you worked with tiny humans before? I could really use any ideas, advice, and materials you have.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger educat said...

Back when I was a real live Theatre teacher, I read a lot of Viola Spolin (if I can dig those books up, I will loan them to you when I come see you in October!!! Sorry, end of ecstatic gloat). She talks about how young children really shouldn't do scripted work until they are older. It always posed a problem to me.

The numbers issue is a big problem for such a small group. There's some big term for why this is difficult. I had it in Comm Theory. It escapes me now.

What about Shakespeare cuts? I get the idea from a really weird clip of a 5th grade Macbeth I saw on YouTube. It might look weird to an audience, but your goal might not be to have a brilliant performance. If the girls are learning, you've done something. Right??

I am hashing this out in my head and anyone is more than welcome to argue against this, but it's something I have wondered about for a while (I had a similar offer once and turned it down because I couldn't answer these questions).

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Holbrook said...

I saw that same Macbeth clip on You Tube! That pint-size Lady Macbeth was a beeyotch, huh?

I don't think I could do any kind of cutting with only four kids in a class. I could mabe do some Shakespeare duets, but I'll have to see where they're at, skill-wise.

I was thinking of trying Amanda's communal hand gesture stuff, for R+J prologue and Juliet's speech. Think kids would get into that? Hey Amanda, how long does it take to teach kids how to do that?

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Emily said...

My first experience teaching was with fifth graders. Play with characters-animals, stuff like that. A lot of movement work is a good idea at that age. We even taught them tango once!

I also had a very successful time working with the students on dramatizing historical events they were learning about in school. We improvised a slave ship, where each student took the role of slave (the entire class cramped into a very small area of the stage) and slave driver (three at a time). It was amazing how seriously they took it and how affected they were by the experience.

We also mini dramas about the Boston Tea Party and ... something else that I don't remember. They developed the stories, I gave them shape. We had a script, but it was more of a guideline--like a scenario in commedia dell'arte.

This age group is generally very eager to please. They haven't decided to be cool yet. The number one thing is to be POSITIVE in everything you do with them, and they will love you and walk to the ends of the earth for you.

I would be happy to share any of my experiences or ideas on this age group. I'm working with sixth graders now, so alot of it is fresh.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger chitarita said...

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! Hurrah and such! I'm so glad for you, my friend.

The R&J gesturing works really well - I've done it with that age group (and younger), and they'll get into it. Typically, I spend about 20 minutes going through it the first time (building with repetition - go through about 2 lines, then repeat from the beginning).

Once we've worked through it, I then go through the entire play with them. I use hats/props for the different characters, condense the plot and combine parts (watch "Reduced Shakespeare Company's Compleat Works of Wlm Shaksp" if you want ideas on this part). The students act of the motions as I narrate/feed them the major lines.

Once we've gone through the plot, we go back to the prologue and break it down - with some vocab prompting, the students are usually surprised at how much sense Shakespeare makes when you get the hang of it.

That full lesson plan usually takes me 90-120 minutes. With three-four students, I bet you could do this in one class session.

I'm so excited for you!

Okay, other ideas. Emily's right- lots of movement. I taught theater summer school for k-12 students - for this age, we adapted Shel Silverstein poems. The students did choral recitations and took turns miming/acting them out.

These sizes are just right for scenes, too. Let them choose their own from movies they know and love - Disney, etc. Above all, try to find an audience to perform for - younger students (all students?) do so much better with a performance for a motivation.

I'll email you if I think of more ideas. Check out too for improv games. A lot of Spolin's have been posted there, from what I can see.

SO happy for you!


At 12:43 AM, Blogger Sharon Aiuvalasit said...

Congratulations!!! I am sure that you are going to have an absolute blast with this. As I have never actually taught theater per say, I don't have a lot of exercises to suggest, but I have speant extensive hours in my life babysitting and being a counselor for ten year old kids. My biggest piece of advice is not to underestimate them. Ten year olds are very smart and very capable and they can pick up on most anything that you give them. I agree with the active stuff and I bet that they will be more than capable of writing their own skits/plays as well if you want to give it a shot. Can't wait to hear your tales, teach!



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