Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oh, the drama

Tee hee, that's a double entendre, see, because today we just barely began our drama unit.

Ha ha, I'm so funny.

We began with a free write so they could get their own ideas out and I could suss out their existing knowledge. They already knew a lot, so we came up with a paragraph describing and defining what a play is and has and involves. I taught them the word "playwright." Well, I told them that the person who writes a play is called a playwright. Not sure if that counts as "teaching," but whatever. None of them knew that before, so there's that.

After the defining, I asked them about their own experiences seeing and being in plays. They brought up memorizing lines and acting like what you're supposed to be. So then I got to play. I asked, "Okay, so watch me, I'm a good actor, look, I memorized my line. 'I'm so angry.'" (while standing with a slight slouch and a dead face and a quiet voice)

The kids were all, "No way! Boo!"

I said, "What? I knew my line!" More amused cries of protest. "Okay, okay, so what do I need to do for you to believe me?"

"You have to change your face!"

"Aha! Facial expression is really important in acting. If I say "I'm so angry" like this (happy face), does that make sense?" Hysterical laughter. "Everyone make an angry face." (they growl and grimace and scowl)(which is funny, because I bet you five bucks they don't know those last two words AT ALL even though they can do them)

"Okay, so now, do you believe me? 'I'm so angry.'" (now with an angry face but still with a slack posture and dead voice)


"So what else do I need to do?"

"Make your voice angry!"

"Right--intonation! Make your voice sound like what you're feeling. Also, you have to be able to project your voice--stand up straight and use your diaphragm to use all your breath (I'm such an awesome bullshitter!). All right, so now how's this? 'I'm so angry.' (now with scowl and deep, angry voice) Is there anything else I need to do so you believe me?"

"You've got to move your arms or something!"

"Okay--body language! If I say 'I'm so angry' while moving like this (growling and hopping about like a happy leprechaun), does it match?"

More hysterical laughter.

"Of course not! I have to show the audience that I mean what I say, since maybe they can't see my face, and move like an angry person would. So how's this? 'I'm so angry!'" (finally with the voice, the face, and the body)


I like to play with my classes like this. I did more when we reviewed our verbs. In fact, and I meant to write about this last weekend, we had a good time doing verbs on Friday. For the warm up, they had to replace the boring verbs in "I walked to school" "I ran home" and "I got out of bed."

After a couple minutes, I told them, "Okay, we're going to share what you came up with, but in a different way. You'll come up here to this makeshift catwalk, and act out your verb, then the class will guess what verb you're using."

I demonstrated with a stomp, a tiptoe, a skip, and later a trudge (because they don't know that word and it's such an evocative one). And I totally exaggerated my face during each, asking them to tell me what mood I was in based on what I was doing. Explained that interesting verbs not only tell you how the person moved but also can tell you how they might be feeling.

Then it was their turn. They were so excited that a couple students wanted to go again. A couple were shy at first, but then completed their run. Many students couldn't help themselves calling out their guesses, and then a couple students did their verb and SAID what they did. Sillies.

After a litte bit of that, we got into the text and looked at action verbs versus linking verbs. Today we (tried to) review it, and I asked them for sentence examples. For each, I asked them, "And is it something I can do?" jogging exaggeratedly across the front of the room. The kids rolled their eyes but mostly seemed to get it. In fact, they even seem to mostly understand the purpose of linking verbs, which is so exciting and relieving for me. This kind of stuff is where I know I am TEACHING and they are LEARNING.

Do you know, because I keep harping on the parts of speech, bringing it up every couple months and throwing them onto poetry quizzes, just about all the students can name seven or all eight? Not necessarily define them, and they definitely can't identify them (I put application tasks on the quizzes too--identify the part of speech of each word in this sentence--they did very poorly). But! Knowledge comes first, it is the basis of everything else. I am thrilled that they are making improvements in at least this. After tomorrow we will tackle adjectives and adverbs, and that will be tricky. And actually, based on those quizzes, we'll need to do more pronoun review. Ack. Not enough time!

Anyway, back to drama. My next activity for introduction is to have them discover the elements of a script. I've done this all three years, actually. I have a class set of an old play anthology, and they work in partners to examine one of the plays and see what's there. Today each class only had like five minutes to start on that, so we'll continue more tomorrow, and they'll need heavy guidance and note-taking. The good news is that the longish play we're all supposed to read in the lit anthology (by the way, this is the ONLY sanctioned activity we can officially do with the anthologies) also makes note of these structural elements, so we can reinforce it with another example.

School's over in one month from tomorrow. Our two-day trip is next WEEK. JUNE is on FRIDAY. Holy crap! We may not have time for performing and writing and performing skits, but I'd much rather run out of time than be scrambling. Regardless, how in the world has the time gone so fast? And how in the world will we all make it for another month, since the students and teachers will just get more squirrelly from here?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I have been reading your blog for awhile. It interests me because I am a future high school English teacher. I am wondering, why does your school continue until the June? Thanks.