The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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I HEART THEATRE

Something I am finding hugely rewarding about getting into drama teaching is that I have an opportunity just waiting to be seized to get back into reading plays. The year 11s at my host school have been reading Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett as they begin to look at Absurdism. I adore this play – I think it’s hilarious, moving and poignant. My sister, on the other hand, loathed the play when she studied it in High School, and couldn’t hear the word “Godot” without it sending a shiver down her spine.

I heard that Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were in a production of WFG last year, but it’s only now that I am beginning to realise what I’ve missed out on by not going to see them! I found the following taster clip on YouTube:

I DIE.


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Teaching Greek Comedy – Lysistrata

When it comes to Ancient Greek Theatre – the Tragedians were all over it. Poor ol’ Aristophanes has kind of been left in their wake! Many teaching resources are the same, I have found. When I started planning for a couple of lessons on Greek Comedy for my year 10 class, I really struggled to find activities and resources that I could use – and that they would find remotely interesting!

One resource, however, which must surely have been sent by Dionysus himself were the National Theatre Discover clips on Greek Theatre. Above is a 5 minute clip looking at Comedy and Satyr drama. I was hesitant at first, showing this to a bunch of 15 year olds (who seem to laugh at everything!) as those of us in the know will realise that the Satyrs have some rather splendid appendages on display – as is their wont. But truly, these clips are so succinct and well put together that I couldn’t censor it for them. A quick “I trust you’ll be mature about it” was said, and then I did not even hear a peep. I don’t even know if they realised to be honest!

What I love about the clips is that they are interspersed with stills from the NT’s shows of Greek Theatre, which give students some modern-day context, but on top of that, providing you have the technology handy in the room, these can be shown as part of a lesson, and you need not lose a whole hour to watching a film. Students will still have time to move around in drama.

Having struggled to find suitable activities in books or online, I decided to go free-range and make one up myself. I did not have an abridged version of Lysistrata, and the class aren’t looking at this text any further after my two lessons, so I made do with a detailed synopsis. We read this in class, then read through the structure of a Greek Comedy, which I summarised as thus:

Prologue: An introductory scene between two characters, giving context and back story to the play (the same as in Tragedies).

Parode: An entrance ode by the Chorus, where they take a position either for or against the hero of the tale.

Agon (Contest): Two speakers debate the key issue of the drama, and the first speaker loses. Choral songs sometimes occur towards the end.

Parabasis: Also known as the ‘coming forward’, after the other characters leave the state, the chorus members remove their masks and step out of character to address the audience.

Episode: As in tragedies, these are short scenes of action within the story. In a comedy, these often deal with the outcome of the Agon.

Exode: The exit song sung by the Chorus. These often have a mood of celebration, with riotous revelling, joyous marriage, or both!

I had found an Agon from Lysistrata, and building on the girl/boy competition already in the class, separated the class in two, and got them to practice as their Chorus of Old Women and Chorus of Old Men. I took turns reading the alternate lines for each group so that they could practice.

I told them that I wanted a whole group tableau for the start and end of their scenes. Unfortunately in my lessons I didn’t have enough time to really go through exactly what I was looking for, but I think if the students had more practice, these tableaux would be a great way for them to get into character. As it stands….well, let’s just say the tableaux were somewhat…wobbly!

I got them to rehearse in the next lesson, and we finished by journal writing three dot points about something they found interesting, something they like (or hate!) about Greek Comedy. I got people to share if they were comfortable doing so, and this lead to a nice discussion, which calmed them all down for the end of the lesson.

If I had the lesson again, I don’t think I would change much. I’d love to cover Comedy in more detail, but not enough time seems to be the standard these days!

If you have taught Greek Theatre before, I’d be delighted if you would share with me – every resource helps!


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Shaped Like Disaster

Annie and Sandy

Image Source

Well I guess it was bound to happen – my first lesson today was a massive failure, and so I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to pick myself up and dust myself off, but I fear I’m in dire need of a weekend transfusion, and a maybe a prescription for an attitude adjustment to boot.

It didn’t start out well – I have been so wiped out this week that I thought an extra ten  minutes in bed was in order, I mean I could always get the next train and still be on time. NO SAM. YOU WILL NOT BE ON TIME. Our friendly neighbourhood transport system had other plans, evidently, and the next train was cancelled, followed by an express that didn’t stop, followed by a ten minute late train so crammed full of commuters that the windows were completely obscured by morning breath condensation. YAY.

So I was twenty minutes late for school, and just made it through the door for form time. I absolutely hate being late, and this is because I am usually late and always embarrassed. Especially on prac too, I am trying to demonstrate that I am reliable, and will make a good teacher, and I really don’t think tardiness adds any of that. So I was feeling a little down.

Period 2 was my smaller dance class. We’re looking at music theatre, and today was Annie! I have always loved that film, and even more so since playing an orphan in my Year 8 production. I knew it appeals to young teenagers, even if they pretend it doesn’t! But could I get the film to play? No. Could I connect to the internet to show a Youtube clip? No. Would another projector work? No. Lesson received loud and clear, O God of Technology! I should have made a sacrifice before the lesson. Lesson learned for sure.

The students behaved admirably, however, and so I am very grateful for that. I knew they didn’t want to get into it, but I think that our previous lessons have made them want to try a little bit for me. Thank you, blessed Year 9s. Never thought I’d say that!

After the lesson I had to throw myself on the mercy of the IT department. It sometimes feels as though nothing pleases them more than hearing you say something is “urgent”, just like the 25 other things that they’ve been asked to do. Happily, in this case Mr IT came through and I was up and running in no time. Just in time to teach the lesson all over again……thankfully it went a little better!


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Stretching Myself: Teaching Dance

BCC Dance Concert

Image Source – a dance concert at my old school!

Heading into a school to teach Drama this year has really stretched me. It’s been a great kind of stretch – the professional equivalent of restarting a yoga habit long since abandoned. My grasp of the content of a modern drama course is a little looser than I would like, but immersion is doing wonderful things – I find myself reading drama textbooks in bed, and looking forward to a rare free hour to read Beckett plays. I’m enjoying the ache of reusing old muscles.

A long, long time ago, however, in a galaxy that seems very far away, I used to be quite the little dancer. I managed to keep dancing even after puberty happened, and then when adolescence happened I found a dance teacher to whom I became absolutely devoted. The high pony-tailed wonder woman that was Mrs Stewart, the holistic dance teacher at my college. I adored her, and would have done anything for Mrs Stewart, but sadly, they didn’t offer TEE dance at my school, and so by year 11 and 12, my dancing was starting to slowly tail off.

It was a bit of a shock to find that even after a ten year absence, the only minor I was able to select for my Dip Ed was dance! To say that I was slightly….anxious about it was a bit of an understatement. The last time I attended regular dance classes was when Shakira was big in the charts. For real! I’ve struggled with the reality of it, but I guess that’s just it – the reality is that I will be a dance teacher. It’s a brain stretch that doesn’t feel quite so nice.

I am tremendously out of my comfort zone here. I am having to work hard to get my head around the content, and (something even more difficult) get my confidence up to a point where I’m not scared of a 13 year old saying “In my dance class we don’t do it like that…..”. I’ve decided to head back to dance classes myself – partly so that I can be the best darn dance teacher I can be (despite my initial reluctance), but maybe also a tiny to see whether dance is still a part of me. I have a feeling it might be, no matter how much of a stretch it is!

 


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I Taught a Class!

My very first drama lesson happened – a momentous occasion!

It was a lovely and actually quite talented Year 8 class, with whom I’ll be covering improvisation. The lesson went…..okay. I was nervous, and although I feel like I covered the nerves relatively well, my face was definitely a little red for most of the class! The warm-up did not start well. I chose The Clapping Circle (seen on The Drama Teacher’s Network), and not only did they not really get the concept, they thought it was boring and hurt their knees kneeling down! Sometimes you just can’t win. So I definitely didn’t pitch my warmup very well! I guess it happens…

The main exercises of the class were learning to accept offers, and then trying to block and offer, but provide an alternative and keep the improv moving along. They absolutely whizzed through the material, and I felt that I hadn’t planned enough. I then chucked in 3 rounds of Fortunately/Unfortunately to make up the time! They were hesitant, but eventually got into it, thank god!

Looking back though, I think I was more in control than I (and possibly some of the students) realised at the time! I felt as though I knew what I was doing, although my weakness was definitely not knowing how long certain tasks would take. I have a feeling I will become married to the clock in the drama room; by keeping a close eye on the time, I should be able to extend or shorten activities as necessary. I raced a bit this time, and as a result, felt a little bit stranded towards the end!

In a way, teaching drama to teenagers is not unlike being an actor myself. The lesson planning and preparation beforehand are akin to learning my lines; developing my character is working out what sort of classroom manager I will be: strict or permissive or some inexplicable combination of the two! Lastly, taking the actual lesson is like one bug improvisation in front of an audience. I’ve got to be flexible with whatever happens on stage, otherwise I’ll falter! The audience (depending on your class, I suppose), will either be alert, receptive and want to see you succeed with a great lesson, or they will want to see you crash and burn so that they can have fun with the wreckage. Sometimes those improv crowds are brutal 🙂

I’m happy to say that the class was mostly the former – they do want to learn, but they also want to test me to see how much they can get away with…in that respect I suspect I am more permissive than I should be!