For some teachers it’s the most dreaded time of year, but I love love love it when production time rolls around!! On a purely selfish level, I love the opportunity to express my own creativity, flex my writing muscles, make the abstract reality. However I also genuinely believe performing on stage is a much under appreciated experience for children. So as I lie on my sofa, all energy zapped, at the end of “Show Week”, I want to reflect on how the production we have just wrapped up has affected our learners, and consider the skills and learnings that I have witnessed.
There they are. All 88 of them. That’s right, 88! At what other point in the year will children ever have the opportunity to collaborate on such a massive scale? To know that the lines they recited, the notes that they sang, the steps that they danced all affected the final product. They were all fundamental in making the show a success. They all got to feel rightly proud of their efforts and contribution.
And within that huge collaboration, they were many smaller ones – maybe learning a dance routine with about 20 others, or practising lines in a group of 6 or 7. Working as a team to ensure different sections of the show came together, and ran smoothly. Helping each other remember lines, suggesting actions and movements, working on their timing to tease a laugh from the audience. The group pictured below worked tirelessly (and mainly independently) putting this scene together, working with energy, enthusiasm, and plenty of laughter!
Another thing that is wonderful to witness is the confidence that bursts through from the most unexpected of places. Every child had at least a line to say. Some think this unnecessary but it’s something I always strive to include. Anyone who wishes to have a speaking part can have one. In 10 years of doing primary school productions, I’ve never had a learner say they didn’t want to do it. And even those who maybe squeak out their line, or hide their face a little as they speak, are still immensely proud of themselves afterwards. This time around, I ran into one of my first problems with casting. An extremely confident child, an excellent reader with wonderful diction and expression did not want the large speaking part assigned. Despite her outward bravado, she was incredibly nervous about being onstage. She was, however, willing to try a smaller part. I watched her closely on our first performance day, and she read her lines clearly and confidently and I really hope this gives her the confidence to try something bigger next time. And speaking to her afterwards, she was so happy to have taken a step towards getting over her fear.
The development of empathy in children is a huge thing for me. I genuinely believe that if you want the children of today to change the world for the better, empathy is the key. In any show, actors literally step in another’s shoes. They take on that character, experiencing their joys and sorrows, pondering their problems and reflecting on their successes. They get to see the world in a different way, maybe to explore a point of view they would never have considered. The important thing is, they start to understand that not everyone experiences the world in the same way that they do, and they start to consider the reasons behind the actions of others. They begin to see that ideas, opinions, and actions are not black and white, and hopefully take time to really look at a situation from all angles before reaching a conclusion.
Oh so many practical skills I’m not sure where to start! In music, they worked on playing hand drums and rhythmic instruments, harmonising, following musical direction, and use of tone and volume. In PE, they learned to follow choreography, to put different steps together, to use height for effect, to move in different ways, and to follow a steady beat. In art, they used printmaking to create castle walls, and discussed ways these could then be adapted to represent different locations in the story. Then when working on their acting, they developed their memory skills, learned the importance of expression, practised voice projection, and worked on their facial expressions. And of course you have the general reading skills. With this show, I had a reluctant reader who really wanted a big part. We discussed the challenges he would have to face and agreed it would be too much for him right now, however this has been a massive motivating force for him to improve. I’ve probably forgotten many more, but these were the first few that sprang to mind.
Messages within the show
The theme, content and plot of the show itself also play a big part in the learning experience. This year, I had thought a lot about things we would be covering in the classroom at the point in the school year when we would perform, to try and make authentic links to the learning. We were looking at fairy tales, and I thought it would be fun to put some different fairy tales into the same place. But how to do this authentically and with purpose? I started to consider the IB learner profile, and some of the attitudes we hope to develop, considering which fairy tales I could link these to…and eventually a tale came together!
A tale of a wicked queen (Grimhilde from Snow White) who, on hearing there is someone fairer than she, heads into the forest to seek her out, poisoned apple in hand. The first beauty she hears of is a girl trapped in a tower – Rapunzel. She watches as the Prince gathers a team of people to help him rescue her, helping her learn about collaboration. But Rapunzel is not the beauty she seeks. Next up is a girl who has been captured by a hideous beast – Beauty and the Beast. As she sees Belle treat the beast with kindness, she learns about empathy. Thirdly, she hears about an evil queen who can freeze people’s hearts – The Snow Queen. And through following Gerda on her journey to rescue Kai she learns about commitment. But none of these are the beauty she is looking for. Until she finally stumbles upon the cottage of the Seven Dwarves and discovers Snow White. However she is amazed to see Snow White is distinctly average looking! After some soul searching, she realises it’s Snow White’s generous nature and kind heart which make her a true beauty. And the apple is discarded as they become friends. Through performing in the show, I really hope the learners will pick up on the attributes extolled, and strive to be more like the characters in the story.
And now it’s time for everyone involved to have a restful weekend…or maybe I’ll start thinking about what we can do next year!