The Basics of Drama

My second last practicum day consisted of one of my favourite things in the world to do: drama. I taught the students a basic lesson on drama that began with a warm up in which  I helped the students get into proper drama stance. They learned about how to breathe from their diaphragm, how to find a dristy point, how to project and how to do a proper roll down. Then, I gave the students the low down on the most important thing for me – neutral. That has always been one of my biggest problems with drama education because neutral is so perfect. It is excellent for gaining focus, it looks professional to have everyone begin and end a scene the same way, and it is a way to indicate to your group members that the scene is over if you are improving. And it is also super easy, the students picked up on it quickly.

The core of my lesson was to teach the students about tableaux and how to make a good tableau. The students caught on to the concept quickly, and I introduced the core concepts I wanted them to understand.
A tableau should:

  1. Be Simple
  2. Have Three Levels (Low, Medium, High)
  3. Be Able to be Held for Long Periods of Time
  4. Have Eyes Focused on a Dristy Point

I gave each group a scenario of conflict, and they had to represent the conflict through their positions. The exercise went really well, especially because each group made a simple mistake that I was able to use as a starting point to teach about other drama techniques. For example, one group had students facing away from the audience, so I was able to introduce blocking.

Next class we move on to absurdism, which I am so excited to teach! I’m also a little sad, because it is our last field placement.

 

 

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Witty Title Invoking Thoughts of Both Revision and Lesson Plans

I have always like editing. It’s something that I find comfort in, the fact that I can make mistakes, that nothing is ever perfect, and so I can always go back, make adjustments, tweak a few problems here and there and something can be improved. I like editing in the writing sense, in the video sense, in the everything sense. Looking something over and trying to make it better. When I was in High School, we had a teacher who let us rewrite assignments to correct grammatical errors, and so I used to spend my English classes with a stack of fifteen or so papers from fellow classmates, just marking up their pages with a red pen and a song in my heart and I was happy, because I could see improvement happening, magic occurring, right before my eyes.

The only problem is, it is still work, and as such, I have no motivation to do any real work when I could be going to watch the 30th anniversary showing of The Breakfast Club instead.

But I have put away some time now to look at my first lesson plan, look at what I did originally and how it was received. I have had the opportunity to do some more editing of my own, and I have revised my first lesson into LESSON 2.0, so much better, so much improvement, so much wow.

I have made changes that I think, have greatly streamlined the lesson and made it easier to adapt. And I added assessment, which is a pretty big deal, cough. Originally, I had the students writing out notes that they copied from the board. Through notes from my co-op teacher, I have decided to adapt the idea of the notes a little bit, and turn them in to a graphic organizer for the students to fill out. The reason for this choice is that it gives students more guidance and more of an idea of what the lesson is going to cover without giving away the information I want the students to come up with on their own. The original idea of the lesson, leading the students to discovery, is still intact, but is more structured and more linear to work with.

I also added a section on Treaty Ed, which was actually quite easy to incorporate. I was already talking about the history and honouring of one culture, so it was simple to connect the African American’s honouring their ancestors during Apartheid through gumboot/step dancing with the Aboriginal peoples using dances to honour their religion and their culture. In a later lesson, I did go into more detail with that concept, but it was still useful to bring in the concept earlier, because it makes the lesson more applicable to the students, because the students know and understand more about the Aboriginal people of Canada than they do about the people of Africa and Apartheid.

Another section added was assessment, which is really important, and it is kind of terrible to have missed it the first time around. The assessment is in the form of an exit slip, although I allowed for differentiation and the students can also give me responses orally if they prefer, an idea that I decided on due to the particular learners I have in my field placement, and the adaptations that are made for them. The exit slip allows for a more complex level of learning, hitting on a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and having the students make connections. The students are now analyzing the data they are given, and asking themselves why it is significant that different religions and cultures dance.

I believe that the lesson is improved. Does it still need work? Yes, I think that anyone could take what I’ve created and add many improvements based on their own knowledge and abilities. But using my abilities and knowledge? I think that I have made changes that make sense to me, and have made the lesson better. Without destroying the integrity of the original lesson, because I was honestly quite proud of the overarching theme of my lesson and I’m happy that the lesson now reflects what I was trying to teach better.

Sarah

Drum Circles and Space PowerPoints

We had pretty much I think the best time we’ve ever had at our school last school day because of many factors. Most of which weren’t even involved with our teaching specifically, but with what we observed while at the school.

The first amazing thing that happened was that our co-op teacher came into the room with this giant box of books that he set down for us. While the students were doing their spelling test, we went out into the hallway and picked through the large box and were told that we could take any of the books we wanted. Every single one of the books was about Treaty Education, how to teach it, specific books about history to learn more, individual curriculum guides for grades two to seven, I believe and so much more. We took the whole box because they were going to recycle the books anyway because the teacher that they belonged to no longer was in need of them.

So needless to say, I now have a big box of happiness in my ‘printer room’ which is really just a hallway that leads to nowhere, but don’t tell anyone. I am excited to see what sort of information is available in the books and what will be useful in my future. I’ve always wanted to teach treaty education respectfully and with the emphasis that it deserves, but I’ve always been afraid that I would not know how to accomplish that when the time was right. But now I have so much help in the matter that I’m actually excited to do some research, which is pretty much unheard of for me.

The second amazing thing was one of the PowerPoints we watched our students present. The students were joking around with my teaching partner, because her jaw literally dropped when she saw their PowerPoint. There was music, animation, full sentences, and pretty good grammar for Grade Six. The pictures used were all high definition, and the students had added orange accents to the pictures to create a  flow to the presentation. It was so visually impressive – I don’t think I’ve ever done a PowerPoint that good in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed, actually.

My teaching that I did was about drum circles. I specifically focused on the way that the drums are used in the dances and how integral the beat is to the music and to the dancers. I also tied the lesson with the gumboot dancing that we learned earlier in the semester by bringing up the religious and spiritual significance of the Cree Chicken Dance and relating it to how African American dancers now use the step dance as a way to honour the historical significance of the dance. The students were actually super involved in the lesson and I had many students volunteering to answer questions, and some students that I have struggled to focus before were incredibly polite and engaged. I was really pleased with the outcome, especially because my target this week was classroom management, and specifically making sure that the students were not being silly or not paying attention, and were instead giving the lesson the respect it deserved because it was about a very significant culture.

All in all, I had so much fun, and next week we are teaching drama! So it should also prove to be, at least, an interesting time!

Sarah

Field Trips

At our fifth practicum visit, we were told that we would be going to see a speaker, so we got to go on a little field trip!

The presentation took pretty much the entire time that we were at our school, but it was still an interesting time, nonetheless. We got to ride on a bus – which is always a fun time, not headache inducing at all with many, many students – and we got to see another school, which was where the presentation took place. The bus ride had one impressive thing, and that was the fact that all of the students thanked the bus driver when they were leaving the bus, and the way they filed out was the front to the back method. It doesn’t seem like much, but when I was in school, we implemented the “get off the bus as fast as possible, and step on anyone you can to get out faster” method, which is slightly less effective.  The school we went to had many murals on the outside of the building, which were drawn by students, and had many tiles in the school painted with cartoon characters and other colourful items that had been designed by the graduating classes of many years. It was cool to see another school, and get to see a presentation that had so many awesome photos to look at.

When we got back to the school, we only had about 15 minutes, so I taught a quick lesson to the five/six class, while my practicum partner moved to the seven/eight class and taught. The lesson was the one I had done last week with the seven/eights, just a condensed version.

The teaching was interesting. The students were all extremely wired from having had a field trip, and they were going to be going home shortly, so attention levels were not the best. My target for this week was to make sure I was calling on students equally, and I did extremely well with that, thanks to the students. Even though they were pretty easily distracted, they stayed focused enough to have all but one of the students volunteer to answer questions, and most answers were serious, although the class was getting a little silly after sitting for so long. I was proud of the lesson, even though I did have one big issue, I thought I handled it well.

The last part of the lesson required the students to take out a piece of paper and write down a story that was inspired by the song I played for the students, just like last week. All but one of the students took out a piece of paper, and when I asked the student if they would please get out paper, they refused, and said they didn’t want to. I didn’t want to run into a conflict, so I just started the music, and let the other students being working. And I went over to the individual and I asked him to tell me his story about the song, instead. He told me a story that was about 50% ridiculous things because he was uninterested, but the other 50% was actual insight. I count it as an accomplishment, because I still got a response, without antagonizing a student when it wouldn’t have accomplished anything anyway.

Next week we get to move on from dance, and try our hand at music, which we decided to mix with some Treaty Ed and give the students some insight into drum circles.

Musical Explorations

I painted my nails today. They are a beautiful purple colour, with some weird red-pinkish style accents on my thumbs. So now as I type, I can’t stop staring at their impeccable beauty. And thinking about how cool I will look next week when I teach my next lesson in my field.

This week, a curve ball was thrown at me in the form of teaching the Grade Seven and Eight class instead of my usual Five/Six class. Luckily, I had a lesson prepared that required little adaptation, so away I went. It was scary to go into a classroom I had only been in once before and teach to a group of students that I didn’t even get to talk to the last time I saw them, but overall it went pretty well.

I had a student who was very musical which was very useful in the discussions we had about the different styles of music I played for the class. The students were all very engaged, I found. I had a lot of volunteers to speak, and they seemed to enjoy the lesson, even though none of us were really expecting it. For the end of the lesson, I asked the students to listen to two songs I had, Strange Games and Break the Sword of Justice, and pick one to write a story for. While I was playing all of the songs I had for the students, they were dancing, and smiling, and joking around with each other about the music. My co-op partner even said that the lesson wouldn’t have been as effective or successful if I hadn’t picked such good music. So, I guess that is a plus for me, although that isn’t any of my skill, the composers of the songs get to take all the credit.

When a song was finished, they wanted me to tell them the name of the song, and where it was from, so I felt really happy that the students were curious enough to know about the songs.

At the end of the lesson, the students handed in their descriptions of the stories they had made up about the music, and, let me tell you, they were very inspiring. All of the students had very diverse ideas and were extremely creative. Some were sad they would not be able to act out the glory that was in their heads for me. I told them that maybe someday I would teach them again and they could dance. It was a very special moment in our lives.

Teaching

The last class we had for EMath was mostly a work period, but I do have one thing that I would like to discuss quickly. And that is the note that stuck with me the most from our attempted lesson plans last week. I really liked the point that was made about what we teach, and how we decide what the class needs to know.

During our lessons, I felt bad for those of us who had to go up to the front and attempt to engage our class in a lesson on math. Our class was noisy, we were rowdy, we were having too much fun. And a lot of that came from the fact that we had all taken the math lessons being taught before. We already knew the lesson, we already knew the material, and we already knew the next step to take in the next feasible lesson in the unit. As such, we were intensely distracted. Now, I know that there were other factors that were in play with our lack of focus, but it was an interesting lesson that can be brought into a classroom.

What do we teach? What do we omit from our lesson? A lot of our lesson planning should come from the skills of the students. What do the students need to know? What do they already know? If you have an advanced class that is all ahead of the game, you should not expect your students to sit silently and listen to you explain concepts that they already grasp themselves. If you have a class that is struggling with math, you cannot force them to truck on ahead because they will simply not keep up. This is another big reason that I am pro adaptation in the classroom, and strongly believe in improvisation being a key skill that every teacher needs. There is that one chart that illustrates the research of Vygotsky and his Zone of Proximal Development:

ZPD

That tells us that students should be met with an equal level of challenge to their competence in an area. If we do not recognize the level our students are at, we cannot effectively teach them. This is why we cannot always rely on the same lesson plans and the same lessons to teach to every class. There is no be all, end all way to explain derivatives. There is no secret method of factoring that will be useful to every student. This is why problem solving is so effective in a classroom. It plays to the strengths of the students. Good problem solving challenges students while giving them reasons to explore without the looming threat of failure if a question is not completed in the ‘correct’ way.

For myself, I am excited to go into a math classroom someday and actually teach math. I want to see the way students learn. I want to challenge myself, learn new things. Find new ways of teaching that would never have worked for me as a student, but are immensely effective for others.

Technology

It’s not that I have a problem with technology. I love technology in fact. I love how it makes life easier, that it streamlines much of what we have to do, it provides essential information in seconds. Technology makes education and teaching easier. So it’s kind of difficult to be technology adverse when all it seems to accomplish is to make everything better. So no, I don’t hate technology, I don’t have any problem with it. My only issue with technology is that so few teachers seem to know how to use it properly.

My biggest problem with technology in the classroom is that teachers always seems to use it poorly. Technology is finicky on the best of days, and my teachers never seemed to know the tricks of the trade that helped to lessen the problems that arose when using computers or watching a video on YouTube. And I think that becoming more efficient and adept with technology is one of the first steps to being a good teacher. My reasoning is that all of our future students are growing up with this technology. They have been using it and excelling at it their entire lives. If we can’t grasp the concept of maximizing a window when we’re showing a video or know the correct terminology when we’re talking about social media, then there is an extra barrier between students and teachers that doesn’t need to exist.

I think that the issue with teachers not understanding technology is that they try to use something before becoming completely familiar with it themselves. We don’t teach a lesson in class if we don’t understand what we are teaching (well, hopefully, sometimes you do get that one French sub, though), so we shouldn’t expect ourselves to excel at a skill without familiarizing ourselves with it before trying to use it in a classroom.

Technology is essential, like I said, but it is also, in my opinion, them most colossal failure of them all if it does not work as planned. I have been in many lesson where our teacher could not get something to work as intended, and so the lesson was over, we all had to sit there and wait for the teacher to figure out what had happened, all the while silently (or not silently) making fun of them for being technologically illiterate.

So always have a backup plan. If the internet goes kaput, know where the required material is in a textbook. If you can’t get the videos to load, skip it and come back later. A teacher who is good with technology is one who is not afraid to learn all there is to know about the app or calculator, etc, and is able to teach a lesson without the technology if the need arises.