Monday, April 4, 2011

#engchat: Out of the Desk & Into the Text: Using Performance Pedagogy in ELA

I teach speech as well as English. I'm also certified to teach drama, but I lost my way until I found the Folger Shakespeare Library and the wonderful folks there. Many of the resources I'm sharing are based on the Folger materials and lessons I acquired at the mini workshop I attended at the University of Tulsa the summer of 2007 and the Folger Teaching Shakespeare Institute in Washington D.C. the summer of 2008. The next TSI is 2012.

I learned to use Photo Story at TSI and now use it w/ poetry and short stories. This document is an assignment I use w/ a unit on the Southern Gothic short story.

Interactive Summaries work well w/ any text. I'm sharing the assignment and an example from Chaucer.

Silent Scenes: Here's the Dumb Show from Hamlet.  I have students practice w/ this scene, using props and sparse costuming, before writing their own. Any text will work, particularly heroic tales such as Beowulf.  I've identified the scenes I allow students to use for their silent scenes.

Line Tossing: Put lines from any text on note cards and distribute to students. Students mill around the room and say the lines to one another. Then have them switch cards. Next, have students create skits w/ two or three people. Don't add any words to the lines but split and reorder the lines in any way desired. You can incorporate these lines into an interactive summary or have students predict action in the plot, talk about new vocabulary, name the characters, etc. I use these lines for The Importance of Being Earnest. I shared this activity at a faculty meeting. It works in other subjects, too.

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Pic: Final Student performance from The Importance of Being Earnest.

I have used line tossing to introduce British poetry to students. Again, students mill around, say lines to one another, and follow up w/ skits. I think it would be fun to have students get in random groups and create chants or some other type of "poetry performance" w/ their groups lines.

Shoe Box Staging: The shoe box becomes a stage on which students move and manipulate the characters in a scene. They must plan stage directions and movement, entrances and exits, a summary of the action. They must know why characters do what they do. This performance task works well w/ The Crucible as well as w/ any Shakespearean work.

Tone is one of the most difficult literary concepts for my students to understand. I give students the DIDLS Tone list and ask them to show me what a specific tone "looks like." This can be done in a milling fashion so that no student feels put on the spot. You can also try incorporating tone into tableaux lessons. That is, students create tableaux that show a specific tone or one specific to a passage in a text. The tableaux tutorial at the Shakespeare In American Life website is invaluable.

For teaching the nonfiction selections in British literature, I've had students collaborate on a Google Doc in which they first write a news story. We review the elements of a lead: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then the group records the story using my Flip camera. This essentially is a news broadcast.

Awards Speeches: I have students in speech present awards speeches to one another, but this assignment can work for characters too. The student interviews a "character," decides on an award based on the interview, creates the award, plans a presentation, and delivers a 2-3 minute speech in which s/he presents the award.  Garrett is receiving the "Heavy Lifter" award from Shylo in the picture below:

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At the invitation of the Folger Shakespeare Library, I presented at NCTE 2010 on the value of including performance pedagogy in teacher training programs. Here is the Prezi I used in my presentation.

The Folger Teaching Shakespeare Institute activities included many performance opportunities. This document was prepared and shared by an amazing professor at American University, Calleen Jennings.

Thank you for joining me for #engchat. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Shush!" You're Not Suppose to Talk about the Naughty Students

I'm pretty lucky. I encounter very minor behavior problems in my school. I'm sure I'm a bit naive about what goes on in classrooms elsewhere. Still, the silencing of teachers who speak out about student behavior scares me.

Today's Huffpost addresses the New Jersey first grade teacher who was suspended for comparing her job to that of a warden and for characterizing her students as "future criminals in comments she made on Facebook. The teacher certainly exercised poor judgment in posting such a critique publicly.

However, with first grade the second year of formal education (after Kindergarten), the behavior of six-year-olds may say more about their experiences before entering school than those of their formal education. That just won't do in the era of "Blame the Teacher."

Still, I cringe whenever I see teachers disparage students or their work on Facebook or in other public forums.

Yet in a system that discourages teachers from voicing their concerns about student behavior and interruptions to the learning of other students, some push back in public. Should they?

School board president Theodore Best explains the reason for the first grade teacher's suspension:  "The reason why she was suspended was because the incident created serious problems at the school that impeded the functioning of the building." That's because parents complained. 

Does anyone else see the irony here? Who was concerned about student behavior that "impeded the functioning" of the classroom? Who listens to teachers' concerns about student behavior and bullying? 

A second grade teacher was suspended for reporting bullying. She had the temerity to step outside the school's reporting track when she perceived no action against the bully would occur, as Anderson Cooper reports. 

Dealing with classroom behavior and management often offers teachers a lose/lose proposition, particularly for those whose supervisors define quality teaching by the absence of discipline referrals and parental complaints.

Should we reach a time when teachers no longer comment on student behavior, remember silence communicates much. Parents, teachers, supervisors, and critics should listen to what's not said.