Saturday, July 07, 2007

Voice work

For ten years I taught Communication Applications, a required one-semester course with no advanced level or follow-up class. I had a group of kids for an 18-week semester (or a 12-week trimester at my last school) and then I never saw them again. Now I find myself faced with the situation of seeing my students every day for the whole school year, and the possibility of having the same students in various classes of mine for three years.

Honestly, I'm a little worried about finding enough stuff to do. A whole year with the same group without repeating stuff? I'm trying to figure out how to spend the class time each day. I was considering the possibility of doing Bob Davis-style voice and body work once a week. Maybe Mondays would always be the day where we put the projects and assignments on hold and just work on the basic fundamentals of Linklater voice and body.

The upside is that I would be training them to be higher-quality performers later in their educational careers. The downside is I think middle school kids might hate breathing silently on the floor once a week.

What do you think? Will it hold their interest, or will it make them dread Mondays?


At 11:41 AM, Blogger deb said...

I don't teach acting. I teach Shakespeare in a lit class. My small experience with middle school students tells me that they will love Mondays--or Fridays when they are already restless--if you make these active learning days: Movement lessons, fencing lessons, other things that let them use their already raging energies. I think they would hate breathing on the floor, yes! But you have the germ of a great idea here! Take a look at the DVD "Shakespeare Behind Bars," I think parts of it might give you some ideas. The movements they do are large and just about right for middle schoolers. I got my copy on, but it is also available frequently on ebay.


At 11:04 AM, Blogger deb said...

I thought about what I wrote above a little more, and it occurred to me that if you are teaching Speech rather than theater that my answer was lacking something. If that is the case, I think you would want to integrate vocal exercises into the more physical training that I suggested above. Can they learn to do dialogue correctly even while dancing? or while doing complicated fight choreography?
I'm still thinking... hope some of this gives you food for thought as well --deb

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

I had kids I taught every year, all year for 6 years, taking them from 6th and 7th grade to 11th and 12th, and they still talk to me, so apparently it's possible to do this and not repeat too much! I think with middle schoolers, rather than do anything hard-core Linklater-y in terms of activities, you want to do stuff which gets at the heart of the Linklater theory: that voice, body and breath are connected. You don't own a body and a voice, you ARE your body and voice. All the games that allow kids to make a sound and movement in conjunction (the plow/hoe game, pass the sound, sound/movement machines) are really effective with this age. They also like tongue twisters and the consonant bdgbdg ptkptk repetitions. When I had kids for multiple years, I focused on the buy-in and fun of moving and making sound first, and then as they matured explained in more complex terms the physiology and theory. I'm not sure I'm explaining this correctly, but remember, you should ought tell or ask them to tell you constantly how what they are doing connects back to the basics of theater--one group communicating a story to another. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: They'll buy in if they understand the relevance of any activity to building clearer theatrical communication. your job is to find a way to make it clearly relevant to the mind of the middle schooler.
You will be great!

At 11:42 PM, Blogger deb said...

Super Comment from Meg O'C.
I just stumbled across this website and blog, and you folks are really interesting people. I teach a course called "Writing about Shakespeare" at the college level, but I don't think we have as much fun as you do!

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Holbrook said...

Thanks for the input. I think I'll try it in my advanced class for the first semester, and if it works then I'll do it with all my classes in the second semester.


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