• Shannon Stoddard

Rising to the Challenge

One of the newest challenges I've taken on this semester is teaching a class of high school students a Drama class at The Future School of Fort Smith. I've realized that the majority of my high school/ junior high experience has been strictly in directing and not teaching -- but this is a new challenge I'm excited to take on! I wasn't positive what kind of students I would get nor what kind of theatre they'd be interested in. I wrote out a course description and even created a tentative outline for the entire semester before heading into Day One of class.

Ironically enough my class title of "Drama" had been changed to "Improvisational Theatre" which has been almost the theme of my class at this point. The students admitted they were more interested in Drama in general and not specifically "Improv" so I continued with my set lesson plan. I had grad ideas of using our Lion King Experience curriculum as a starting board and then going from there to create their own scenes. Day One went decently -- although it took the students longer to understand and complete activities than I had expected so we didn't get through my whole lesson -- but still we had a good class. I decided to continue from there for our next class.

I begin class on Day Two and one of the students admits to me that they are not interested in The Lion King and don't want to work on it. This created a moment of panic in my brain because now I had to think on my toes. But what was also going through my head was OH MY GOSH THEY HATE MY CLASS! So I told them we'd have to do the Lion King activity that day because I had nothing else planned; but that i would re-do our lesson plans over the weekend. I took the last 10-minutes of class to talk with the class and decide what THEY wanted to focus on over the course of the semester. They shared shows, movies, TV shows and video games they were interested in -- as well as the areas of theatre which they found intriguing - including acting, directing, sound design, play-writing, etc. I felt motivated from there to create a new curriculum and decided not to let this set-back get me down.

Over the weekend I created a brand-new curriculum -- and decided to take it all on a week-to-week basis. Day Three included more new students in the class-- so I sat down and spoke through the syllabus and decided to utilize Google Classrooms to help with our Journal prompts. I also shared with them my idea to utilize the idea from Descendants and have the students create scenes based on Villains. I asked the students to write down their top 5 favorite with a short explanation why. The students seemed thrilled about this idea and immediately logged onto Google Classroom to write their responses.

For the rest of Day Three we played several Improvisation games -- including low focus with Creating a Picture -- to a little more focused with Park Bench. These activities seemed to go well -- although not everyone was participating. Improvisation can be really stressful for students so I am trying to remain aware of that for the students and not push them too hard. I don't want them to end up hating Drama nor do I want them to feel unwilling to try something new.

Day Four we created scenes based on Art Work which the students had created themselves. The students divided themselves up into small groups of their own choosing and then chose an Art Work to create their scene from. We discussed story structure while playing a round of "Story Circle" and discussed how stories need a clear beginning, middle and end, strong characters, strong settings, and a strong conflict and resolution. The students then created their own scenes and although I asked them only to focus on tableaux of the beginning, middle and end -- they immediately created their scenes with dialogue and wanted to go ahead and showcase them. I had intended for this lesson to last longer -- but I was okay finishing it in a day.

I'm intrigued to see where next week takes us. I have some students in the class who are really thriving and some that I think are trying; but too apprehensive to get out of their comfort zone. I also have a few students who I think are making a joke of the class -- but I am hoping for the best and trying to rise above to make sure that they too can have a good experience.

Stay tuned to hear more on this new challenge!

*Photo credit to April Oden at The Future School