Online Learning Planner – Theatre: Acting and Ensemble

In February of last year, my planning took on a constant ‘catch-up’ approach as figuring out new protocols, new methods and new approaches to teaching in an inline environment. To be honest, at the end of that year I was glad it was over and looked forward to the time when I could return to Beijing and begin teaching closer to a format that I was accustomed to. I was really and truly looking forward to being back in Beijing, back in the classroom, back in person. There – that said, I’ll dwell on that no more.

This year is going to force me to re-examine the components of a theatre education and a theatre education that is dependent on an online or shared “instructional partnership” approach. It will be challenging to design a class in this format since a major component of a theatre course is the personal connection – the visceral nature of the drama room. It will be hard to replicate in a digital world. I’m willing to give it a try.

It’s going to be extremely important that I have listed out the scope and sequence of each class. The 8 day schedule, the tasks that they should complete each class and what that will all look like in this hybrid environment.

In terms of the 5Cs, I’m really going to focus on “captivate” and “clarify”. It’s going to b difficult to capture the attention of students who take this class because it’s an “on your feet, hands on” class exploring different forms of expression when I can’t be there in the room with everyone. As a department of one, I will need to seek out the resources I need from colleagues around the globe – and I have a fantastic network of friends that I can approach and borrow from. I’d also like to really focus on “clarify” as the communication model will be tricky.

I’ve been looking at visible thinking routines and working with a resident expert to develop some that would work well with a creative class. Since I haven’t used these before, this individual is able to provide me some guidance and support as I figure out how to implement them while retaining the integrity of the course and the ability to ‘captivate’.

Not sure I’ll need to approach the OOL for much assistance, but they can always help me sort out the new model and structure.

I believe that last year, although difficult and not ideal, gave me a real insight into HOW I can approach this model of teaching more effectively.

Consolidated steps.

Just wrapped up the visit my Matthew Godfrey with the HS Theatre classes. he did several lessons on Red Nose Clowning.

Considering consolidation, I looked at an exercise that I like to do after a new topic or unit – it goes by different names, but I call it the “Brain Dump”. It’s similar to the “See, Think, Wonder” and any number of other Making Thinking Visible routines, but for whatever reason I gave it my own title and topics – it works the same way. Once we get the chart paper filled up with information, we start to summarize or synthesize everyone’s comments. And can even add new ones as we talk.

It takes time, but it is valuable a valuable routine in certain classes due to the wide range of topics, practitioners or theories they encounter. It’s hard to keep them all straight.

Once we wrap up the discussion, the students snap a picture and then post it to their blog with their final comments. In theatre they can keep them in this digital theatre journal for years – and refer back to it when they take IB theatre or in year 2 when they are working on their assessments.

I always keep the sheets in a folder and periodically bring them out.

I haven’t done this with the stagecraft class – the survey class – but maybe I should. The tricky thing is that we don’t have neat and contained units like some of the other classes. The final product or the big learning doesn’t come until the performance. Ah, I’ll give it a try – see if I can make it work in Stagecraft.

Survey Results

Email came with the survey results yesterday. I was waiting for them since Patrick’s email. I’ve done my own surveys since it was required at our first international teaching post. At that school, we had to make the results available to our principal. Come to think of it, I think the results came to them. I hated the process, but that’s another story.

I was quite pleased with the results. At initial glance it looks fairly positive – a lot of green, but then I realized the flower page is all green. It’s more the length of the petal that matters. Still, it was quite pleasing to see all the green.

Satisfaction comes in many ways and being satisfied with being ‘medium’ is one of them. To quote the character Bill McNeill (played by the lost too soon Phil Hartman) from the classic sit com “News Radio”, “I revel in my adequacy”. All joking aside, it’s nice to few unfavorables.

Consolidation turned up as an area of attention (although with the sample size it was 2 students; only one reported it unfavorable 1), specifically in the area of #2: “My teacher takes the time to summarize what we learn each day.” I thought back to my classes and tried to think about the ways I ‘consolidate’. While I feel as if some of the consolidation in theatre comes in the final product, I could pay more attention to summarizing the day – or the work session.

It’s tricky – for students new to the discipline, it can be hard to see here it is all headed or how it all fits together until other pieces of the puzzle are made clear. For example: you cannot understand why we used a painting technique on the flat until you see it onstage or you don’t see why fading is important until you hear it in action from an audiences perspective. That said, I need to be more aware that some kids need understanding and connection in much shorter chunks in order to stay motived – a lack of understanding or being unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel for too lang can be hard.

I was also struck by the statement from Clarify: We get helpful comments to let us know what we did wrong on assignments.” Again, I could sit here and justify why I feel that the statement is a loaded question because it assumes that A) you did something wrong and B) feedback only comes in one way. As theatre is new learning for most students, they are doing a LOT wrong. AND THAT IS OK. They’re still getting the concepts and with more experience they will get better – It’s OK. I Give them a lot of feedback directly as they are working and we make corrections on the fly – but I think that the terminology we use with students leads them to interpret feedback as ‘written feedback’ designed to improve. For this one, I think we can be better as educators at making students aware when they are getting feedback. Me walking around looking at flat building techniques and saying “Nice work here, but next time you’ll want to close that gap in the wood before screwing down” is feedback. And important feedback at that!

For that reason, I’m sticking with the consolidate goal.


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