Tuesday, May 28, 2019

End of the Year Class Performance....Tips and Fails

How to FAIL at hosting a class play
For many, the end of the school year is fast approaching, and mine is no different! As my school is getting ready to wrap up the year there are so many festivities going on! We've already had Spring Break, an art festival, and a Mother's Day celebration. So, why not add more to the chaos? 

My class is performing an end of year play.

That's right, a play. At the very end of the school year. As things are more chaotic than ever.

I knew it was coming, so I ordered the play ahead of time. I researched all of the options and finally settled on "Character Matters." I chose this play because it includes fairy tale characters that my students will know and also seemed to fit the age group that I teach.

I had grand plans for how this play would go off. We would read it through a few times and the the students would go home and memorize their lines and we'd only have to do a formal rehearsal the week before the play.

Nothing could go wrong, right? I mean, I had a plan in place!

Part of our play backdrop.
Let me just tell you how wrong I was!

Not only did I not account for the fact that not all of my first graders can read, but I also didn't expect my more outgoing students to be so shy when it came to performing on stage. 

Before you ask why some of my first graders can't read -- I teach at Montessori school where reading expectations and pedagogy are slightly (sometimes dramatically) different than in your standard elementary school system. This includes reading. And, my class is actually a first, second, third grade combined class!

We ended up reading the play at least 5 times before we even settled on parts. Then we had to buddy up poor readers with strong readers. Once we had decided on roles and began to practice I saw how little I had accounted for regarding the actual "acting" part of putting on a play.

So, we got down to basics.

We practiced facial expressions, how to make big movements, how to walk on a stage and what a microphone is.

After spending several days of acting lessons, we were ready for our first play practice.

I use the word "practice" loosely because what it really looked like was a bunch of cats 

running around the stage, bumping into each other, screaming into a microphone, and yelling at each other for forgetting lines.

Back to basics we go.

My teaching assistant took time out of her already busy schedule to practice with students in groups and help them to feel more comfortable speaking, singing, and acting on stage. We perfected their skills in small groups. By now, surely, they were ready for the big stage!

Nope, nevermind.

This time students decided that they would add their own lines (without even saying their actual lines) and it became a free for all on stage.

I tend to be pretty easy going with many things, but when my class performs.....it's on. I'm a perfectionist when we do something collectively, and you should have seen my face.

Four weeks of practice and we're still running around like caffeinated crazies, sometimes standing too far away from the microphone and sometimes putting the whole thing in our mouths.

After some stern warnings and more practicing the basics we decided to try one more time on the big stage.

This time we invited some audience members hoping that would give some extra motivation.

My students got up on stage and sang their little hearts out, acted like professionals, and nailed their lines.

The mishap this time? Totally my fault. I decided to save money and buy only the physical music cd to go with our play and, of course, it started skipping -- I guess that's what happens when you play a CD over and over approximately 2 million times ,but it happened at the worst possible moment! 

Luckily, Bad Wolf Press (where I purchased the play) is amazing and I was able to purchase and download the digital version right away. 

Lesson learned -- buy both the digital and physical copy of your play music!

We're now one week out from our big performance. I've gone from seriously regretting my decision to take this class play on to I can't wait for parents to see it! I know the kids will be amazing and the parents will be thrilled!

Two dress rehearsals this week, lines all memorized, costumes in order, and our backdrop is made! We'll be sharing pictures on Instagram after the play -- the kids haven't seen it yet and it's a big surprise!

All in all, I'd definitely do a class play again, but in this situation, the teacher became a student too. I learned that acting is not intuitive and I could have saved myself time and anguish by starting our play preparations with basic lessons on acting, composure, and expectations.

More of the play backdrop.
Our final performance is this Thursday, and I can't wait to see the parents faces when they see their little ones belt out a solo or nail their lines. I know I'm going to cry too -- I always do when I see my students succeed after working hard.

So after about 500 hours of play practice, 100 hours of acting lessons and many "reminders" we're finally ready for our big day!

I think this is a great way to end our year on a positive note and it definitely taught my students (and myself) that when you work hard you can conquer your fears and be successful!

What are your experiences with class plays and end of year projects? Drop us a comment and let us know!

Big City, Small Chickens – BOOK REVIEW: City Chickens by Christine Heppermann

Big City, Small Chickens – BOOK REVIEW: City Chickens by Christine Heppermann
Please note: This book review is cross posted at Caffeinated While Reading.

Title: City Chickens
Author: Christine Heppermann
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year published: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-51830-5
Genre: non-fiction; children’s literature; agriculture; lifestyle

Cluck, cluck, cluck!!!! That’s the sound of the lady chickens in that urban backyard you just walked past.
Wait, what? Chickens in the city?

YES! Urban chickens and urban homesteading are becoming more and more common, but that doesn’t mean life is always clucks and feathers for chickens. City Chickens by Christine Heppermann is all about the plight of many chickens in urban areas, but more specifically in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She traces the story of a husband and wife in the city who have devoted their lives to rescuing chickens (among other animals) and finding them new homes.

The book is part biography, part fun and informative story, and part social awareness. 

This is a great, but very honest and real, look at what happens to many chickens and how their lives are improved by kind rescuers. I highly encourage you to read this book with your kids or in your classroom, but be forewarned that there are a couple of disturbing photos of chickens who have been used in cockfighting and who are kept in chicken cages. These disturbing situations are described as well, but not in too much detail, in order to bring awareness to how chickens are abused and how they should be treated instead. The book is mostly about how great chickens are and how fun they can be to keep and care for when rescued and taken care of properly. 

In addition to profiling the owners of Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, the author also profiles a adolescent Abigail and her rescued chicken, Billiam, as well as other chickens and their rescuers. I think young readers in particular will like that there is a profile of a young person and that other children are also featured in the book. The very back of the book also offers a list of resources for learning more about chickens, including how to include lessons about chickens and life cycles without hatching chicks in the classroom – a large reason why many chicks are abandoned. 

City Chickens also talks about keeping chickens healthy and some of the health problems that abandoned chicks often suffer. The author notes that if you keep urban chickens, it is important to find a veterinarian that is able to provide proper chicken care which may not always be easy to find in an urban area. 

I loved this little book, and I think you should pick it up to read with your kids or in your classroom. My son and I are planning our own little homestead and urban oasis (we’re moving from the country back to the city!) and want to raise chickens for their eggs, as pets, and also as insect control in our garden (all of which are noted as options in City Chickens), so I headed to the library to find books about chickens. Most of what I was found was far beyond what I was looking for which brought me to the children’s section and City Chickens

As with many of the books I review, I found City Chickens Christine Heppermann at my local library. However, you can also find it on Amazon HERE.

Do you raise chickens? Have your kids participated in chicken hatching projects at school? Drop a comment and let us know!
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