I can collaborate to create a play based on an image or text:
At McDonogh City Park Academy, 4th graders used their imagination and honed their reading. writing, and observation skills within a theatre-integrated English Language Arts unit. To start the unit, students looked closely at an image and imagined the senses of one character in the image (see, smell, taste, feel, hear). Then, students wrote a six-line play with a partner imagining a conversation between those two characters. They learned to incorporate stage directions that showed character actions and feelings along with the dialogue.

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In the final eight weeks of the unit, students learned about natural disasters and firsthand/secondhand accounts. They read a passage from Dave Eggers’ book, Zeitoun, and then created a play imagining a conversation between Zeiton (firsthand) and a news reporter (secondhand). At this point in the unit, students were adept at incorporating voice/emotion stage directions into their scripts, but less so with physical stage directions, so we focused playwriting growth on using face/body expression.

Rehearsing to become performance-ready:
Because this unit focused on writing plays, performance skills were developed primarily in start-of-class, one-line performances. Rehearsal and performance skills became the learning goal in the final two weeks.

Teaching Artist Ms. Ferdinand provided simple steps for rehearsal that that included reading for fluency, picking up cues, and embodying stage directions. These steps ensured that actors would be comfortable with the dialogue and stage directions before getting in front of the audience.

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Steps of Rehearsal:
1st: Sit and read through script with partner two times. FOCUS ON UNDERSTANDING THE WORDS.
2nd: Stand behind desks with partners and read through two times. FOCUS ON VOICE/EMOTION AND FACE/BODY STAGE DIRECTIONS.
3rd: Rehearse with your full body and voice two times. FOCUS ON FULL FACE, BODY, VOICE EXPRESSION.

Teaching Artist Observations:
– Students spent more time in 1st Step of Rehearsal than 2nd and 3rd Steps. They may have needed more time to get comfortable with the words, especially since one person was the playwright and the other was reading it for the first time.
– In some partnerships, even when students rehearsed using the stage directions, they lost it in performance and defaulted to inexpressive reading, or one partner no longer wanted to perform.
– Most student post-performance feedback was centered on physical movement:
“I liked how Lamel was shivering while he was talking.” – Nigel
“Maybe next time y’all should try to move the microphone because if it was on a commercial, they probably wouldn’t be able to hear.” – John

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Teaching Artist Take-Aways:
– Incorporate more improv activities throughout unit to develop physical expression onstage.
– Provide multiple rehearsal opportunities throughout unit.
– Make connections between focused rehearsals and engaging performances.

Student Suggestions for Next Unit:
– Scripts for three characters
– Perform on the big stage rather than just in classroom
– Film or make movies of performances
– More rehearsal time
– More work on body movement

A Final Performance: