Curtain Call on Another Amazing Year

It is hard to believe it is already the last day of school. I wanted to thank all of the students and parents of our Avoca family. Every day, I wake up feeling lucky to teach drama and create stories with your children. Truly, I can’t think of a better job. Here our some highlights from our final weeks of class.

Have an fun and relaxing summer. See you all in August.

Warmly,

Mrs. Bowman

Exploring Sound in Drama

In the new Illinois Theater standards, there is a greater emphasis on how students use the technical elements (set, props, costumes, lights, sound) to help act out a story. Different grade levels have been exploring how to use musical instruments as sound effects to create environments and dramatic moments in story.

In second grade, students created a storm using drums, a rain stick, the classroom lights, and fabric.

In one of my absolute favorite new units, third graders studied the Native American story Arrow to the Sun. Groups were assigned to create a scene that used instruments (along with characters, setting, and a narrator) to represent the kivas that tested the main character. Students chose between guiros, hand drums, maracas, tambourines, and cow bells and explained why that instrument best fit their scene.

Spring Conference Time!

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Parent teacher conferences are coming!If you have questions about drama or your child’s progress, please email me. I have time available both Wednesday and Thursday to schedule conferences. Let me know a day and time that would work with your appointment with your child’s teacher. I would love to meet with you.

2nd Grade Folk Night

Last week, 2nd grade students and their parents came together for Folk Night. Parents had an opportunity to participate in drama, music/dance, and Spanish activities with their children to experience what students are learning in these classes. The idea arose from the intersection of folktales and folk dance that grew out of our curricula. It also came from a desire to share the joy and playfulness students experience through arts and language.

In drama, families sent in folktales from their own cultures as inspiration for our exploration of folktales from around the world. Our drama activities primarily focused on a Russian story “Kolobok” sent by a family in Mrs. Greenberg’s class. Many students in other classes were delighted to realize they knew this story as well (from Macedonia and Belarus). Others discovered this runaway food story has many similarities to “The Gingerbread Man.” Some classes enacted the original story. Others created an adaptation (“The Runaway Donut” and “The Runaway Waffle of Baderville”). Below are some pictures of families acting together.

Thank you to all of the families who attended, the students who shared their learning, and all of the Avoca teachers and staff who made the evening possible.

Families planning their scenes.

Practicing Kolobok

Transforming into setting

More setting transformation!

Creating Mood – “And that’s a ________ day”

In the month of January, my first rotation of fifth graders (Ms. Stefan & Mrs. Weiszcholek’s classes) were working as actors, writers, and designers to learn with how emotions are used to create a mood in a dramatic story. Groups began by choosing a color to inspire their storytelling. Then they collaborated to plan a mood that matched their color and could be expressed through a dramatic story.

For example, one group created a “black day” that was dark and mysterious, involving sirens and a school bully. Another group created a “blue day” about a girl whose day started out exciting and slowly turned miserable as more bad luck happened to her. For many groups, gray represented gloominess and each group told a unique story to reflect this mood.

In Ms. Stefan’s, I experimented with teaching some of the technical aspects of drama/theater. Students created a backdrop to enhance their setting and mood by selecting and manipulating images. Below is a gallery of student work throughout the process.

My next rotation (Ms. Cross & Ms. Marinacci’s classes), will begin this project next week.

Our unit aligned beautifully with student’s study of color in music. Students were making connections about how artists in different disciplines communicate a feeling through sound, visual elements, and performance.

Report Card Time!

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I love this quote because it captures my belief that drama is for everyone. Each child is a unique artist. My task is to guide them in mastering skills, processes, and vocabulary that allow them to find their own voices and thoughtfully view the work of others. It is my hope that this learning and self-expressiveness will both bring joy and enhance whatever their life’s work will be.

As report cards come home, you may wonder how drama is assessed and graded. When observing student development, I take into account how they are mastering listening and audience etiquette, contribution and cooperation with groups, and drama skills (as evidenced through warm-ups, full class playing, rehearsal, and/or sharing/performing). My goal is for students to become independent and confident in these skills and habits. For each project, students use rubrics or checklists to guide their work. These same tools guide my assessment. A “secure” student has developed independence. At developing and beginning, students need more teacher or peer support.

If students are missing from drama a significant amount of time for lessons or interventions, they may receive an NA for some drama standards.

Please take a look at the Assessment & Grading page to learn more. Feel free to contact me at any time with concerns or questions.

Problem Solving and Creating Characters

Third grade has been working hard on collaboration and characterization skills. These are things we began working on last year which are becoming more challenging as the stories we dramatize become more complex.

Our first challenge was to tell the myth “How the Earth was Formed on Turtle’s Back.” In groups, students designed the settings – Skyland and water. 

Then students figured out how to create these settings physically.

There were many other problems to solve as students planned out to enact the entire story (a woman falling from the sky, characters diving down into the ocean, earth suddenly emerging from a lump of dirt placed on turtle’s back). All of the solutions were uniquely creative.

 

 

 

 

Our most recent unit focused on characterization and how we can personify animal characters to show their internal and external traits. Students tackled a story about Rabbit, Elephant, and Whale. We analyzed the character traits and brought them to life through warm-ups and rehearsal. The big challenge in this story was how to create a tug of war between Whale and Elephant. This story is a favorite. Ask your child to share it with you. 

 

When we return from break we will continue to study character with an emphasis on emotions.

Wishing you a happy holidays and restful break!

Telling Exciting Stories in a Tiny Space

In fourth grade, we have been working on creating exciting stories in tiny spaces. Our artistic focus has been to make physical choices that communicate character, setting, and action. The “tiny space” focus comes from the reality of having limited rehearsal space and encouraging students to problem solve and make choices that work within those limitations.

Last year, I was also lucky enough to be in a workshop with some artists from Theater Unspeakable who take the “tiny space” mission to new levels. Early in our process, we watched this trailer for Theater Unspeakable’s production of The American Revolution. Together we unpacked how this group of actors used physical and vocal choices to tell a story with limited space and materials.

Then students worked in groups to create chase scenes in a limited space that could show character, changes in scenery, clear actions. After mapping their chases and physical choices, students revised and refined their work through rehearsal. We also worked on strategies for brainstorming and collaboration while planning, practicing, and problem solving.

As usual, students’ creativity exceeded expectations. In four classes, I don’t think I saw the same chase twice. Here is a video showcasing students in process.

We are launching a new unit this week with a focus on character.

Imagining with the 5 Senses

It’s been a busy beginning of the year in 1st grade drama. For the first several weeks, we played games and acted stories to develop foundational skills like concentration, listening, and personal space. Now we are in the midst of a unit on imagining with the 5 senses which will help us vividly experience stories. It also encourages students draw on memory and experience when visualizing a story (which is a great skill for literacy, as well).

We began by exploring some mystery bags and discussed which of the senses helped us discover the mystery items. Then we went on a magic carpet ride to imagine a variety of settings. Students contributed ideas for the voyage as it is important that students take ownership over the creative process. (I was so into the journey that I didn’t get many pictures – sorry.) Every few weeks, students have time to journal about what they did in class.

Next, we will be focusing on hearing and sound and creating a story with sound effects.