Open Forum

Lesson plans

  • 1.  Lesson plans

    Posted 11-02-2019 08:23
    Yesterday was another awful day in middle school land.  I have 24 seventh graders in a classroom with 23 desks. I know it was the day after Halloween but.... My plan included a game of one word story....took five minutes to set up and we got through half of the class before it became inappropriate and the students were not listening to the words.  Next up was a game of greetings your majesty which sort of worked but many students did not want to get up and be the speaker.  Next I had an activity designed to create a fractured fairy tale. As soon as I handed out paper some threw it on the floor, others made get the picture. A core group of tenish worked on the project. The plan was to show fractured fairy tale videos after they shared theirs.  We have three rules each dealing with respect, which I reminded them of.  I showed the video but again about five or ten students were talking and being disrespectful.  At the end of the class I pointed out we were going to be together for 17 classes.....we meet every other day for 68 minutes.  I asked them to think about what they would like to learn about Effective Speaking or theatre....I know some don't care but I am hoping some will have some ideas so there will be some buy in.  This is a new class, an impossible class according to everyone which has been allowed to behave pretty much anyway they like. I am thinking that if all else fails....they will be watching videos of different kinds of speeches and writing/ critiquing them so they can get a grade. I am a 36 veteran teacher  and I am really frustrated.  I also teach high school and do not have these issues there. Thank you for listening and any help would be much appreciated.

    Cathy Archer
    Rutland VT

  • 2.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-02-2019 14:23
    Sounds very frustrated - totally feel your pain.  I have a class of 33 of immature high school students who were acting similarly at the beginning of the school year.  I started calling home and writing disciplinary referrals for the office.  Met with one parent of the worst student, and she told me, "I told him not to take theatre" so he has transferred out of my class.  The behavior has calmed down and even though I have to actively monitor other immature behavior, they are slowly coming around.  It is exhausting at times but I allow the ones that do perform to brighten my day (and they are rewarded with stickers) and the other dorks are yelled at or ignored (depending on the situation - airplane making would not 'fly' in my class room lol ;)  My students have told me that I throw" a lot of shade" but I feel like they respect me and my rules.   So my suggestion is to call home and those that don't participate earn a failing grade.  Good luck - just want you to know you are not alone : )

    Marla Blasko
    Director/Teacher Theatre Arts
    Long Reach High School
    Columbia, Maryland

  • 3.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-03-2019 07:52
    I have 20 middle school students for a semester class and it's difficult and often frustrating. The one word story game that you mentioned is a favorite of mine but challenging with middle schoolers. But, they get better at it if you return to the game.  Zip-zap-zop, "Yes, and...", and group machines or tableaus are the games I've had success with in class. Best adjustment I've done is have them write in class. Show them an image from a play and have them write a scene. Or an image of two characters and then have them write an A/B scene. Write in silence, focused on the image and task at hand. Then have them act those scenes out later in the semester.  Short open scenes can work too. Large number theatre games are tough to create and I ditched those or introduced them later in the semester. Your vision, passion, and knowledge often cannot overcome or inspire 20 plus middle schoolers. You are making a difference though, and maybe only a few connect and say, "Yes, and..." to the class/theatre but know that matters. Stay fierce!

    Kent Burnham
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Trinity-Pawling School
    Pawling, NY

  • 4.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-04-2019 08:33

    Hi- I  pretty new to INTERNATIONAL Thespian Society....but I also work with Middle School AND High School students. We have a demerit /merit system. #1- I have found if I have reward/consequences in place and have notified parents of the expectations and consequences- ​I have myself covered.   #2- I lay out the rules - give them a week to understand I do what I say I will do. Reiterate the rules every day for a week. Keep track on the board those who are not following. Try to have an individual co versatile with those who can't seem to grasp the concept of following directions- bc we alll want success for them- even if it's just learning proper behavior and not spoiling the class.  #3- after that first week, I warn them 1 time, then next time- this is your final warning - ​​​then comes a demerit and a note home to parents
    When the kids see that you will do what you said you would do it begins to matter. Of course their participation grade is effected. Parents notice this! 

    I hope this helps! I had a very difficult class in 8th grade last year and this change has definitely helped. Also-once you know your kids well- do a seating/ group chart for scenes, etc and keep the trouble makers separated. 😊

    Jennie Berry
    Horizon Christian Academy
    Cumming, Georgia

  • 5.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-03-2019 09:36
    I would also , very close to their disrespectful little bodies, remind them that they can choose not to learn but not to impede others learning. They can sit quietly and not participate either in the room or in the office. Stand close to the worst one while instructing and monitoring, go old school and make one of those in charge of something too. Been there and done that and god willing won't have to do it again.

    Kati Heintzman
    Thespian Advisor
    Middletown City Schools
    Middletown OH

  • 6.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-03-2019 13:04
    You described my life.  I teach middle school theatre, and my largest class has 26 students.  43 minute class periods every day for nine weeks.  There are always a group who don't want to be there and do everything they can to throw off the class activity.  I've found that it helps to give them as much control as possible.  Give them input for choosing groups, scenes, and activities.  We do lots of warm up games, tableaus, and building scenes based on popular movies or fairy tales that they choose.  I haven't had luck showing video clips because many students tune out or talk over it.  I'm going to try out a musical theatre unit this quarter to have groups choreograph dances to songs from musicals they like, since a few kids are begging to do something with Hamilton.  We'll see how that goes.  I've had trouble with individual monologues because it takes too long for everyone to perform and the rest of the class gets bored and unruly.  To protect the grades of the kids who try, everyone gets an individual grade for their role in a scene, and each student has to complete a character analysis, floor plan, and blocking instructions.  This also helps the kids who struggle with acting since the grade isn't all about the performance.
    And bug your principal for another desk.  That's just terrible that there aren't enough!  Or, better yet, get rid of desks in the room altogether.  I've got clipboards for when they're writing and we don't have desks.  Best of luck to you, and keep fighting the good fight!  You're impacting the students whether they show it or not, and they're lucky to be in your class.

    Pamela Podolner
    Berwyn IL

  • 7.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-03-2019 14:05
    This sounds incredibly frustrating and difficult. The best I can offer is this - small victories are victories.  Middle school is largely about socialization and it sounds like you're doing that work.  But it's slow.  And that's OK.  Keep inviting in the ones outside of that core 10 or so.  Know why you're doing the exercises you're doing and share that with them as you can. Patience and stubborn persistence are your best friends.

    Rob Kimbro

  • 8.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-03-2019 16:00
    I think we've all been there. For me, what helped was to hold them individually accountable, some groups just can't handle group work (which is hard in a theatre class) so I created a mock audition unit combining everything I could find on monologue performing. It has been reworked several times over the years based on what is working and what isn't, but this is where it is at now, haha. Everyone performs individually and is responsible for their own grade. Now, I do these lessons every Monday and their mock audition is their quarterly test. I call them Monologue Mondays, they are given 9 weeks (that is the length of our grading periods) to learn their monologues, and they perform on the 9th week. I take grades on it almost every Monday. It puts the responsibility back on them, and I have had a lot of success with it. Plus, its nice to know what I am doing in class every Monday. :) I'm attaching everything for you. You could always do it as a two week unit too, it just gives them less time to learn it, but it ups the pressure. Hope it helps! ​
    The file Monologue Mondays Week by Week shows what I do each week, and everything else is the paperwork for it. Juniper and Jake are the two monologues I start with every year. Since we have four grading periods I assign two dramatic monologues and two comedic monologues every year. Two days before performances begin I put up a sign up sheet. First five sign ups get bonus points and if they don't sign up, I fill their name in. I tell them "Choose your fate or leave it up to the gods, it's up to you, but when your name is called you perform or you receive a zero."

    Summer Rickman
    Hobbs Municipal Schools
    Hobbs NM

  • 9.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-04-2019 08:38
    I've been teaching middle school drama since 2004, so I've seen everything you are talking about. What I have found is that if I structure the class as much like an "academic" class as possible in the beginning, it pays off huge dividends down the line. I'm talking assigned seats from day 1 (I don't have desks; they sit in rows like an audience.), bell work when they walk in, quizzes on theatre vocabulary, rubrics for performance assignments, etc. This is what they are used to in school. Too many of them equate a loose structure to low standards of behavior and work ethic. After structured bell work, then we get into the creative work.

    My teaching philosophy boils down to this: you have to build the house before you can color on the walls!

    Jennifer Bennett
    Lake Mary FL

  • 10.  RE: Lesson plans

    Posted 11-05-2019 08:03

    I'm so sorry you have a tough class! It really takes it out of you, I know. 

    Have you done pantomime? At least that's quiet. Have them re-start every time they get sloppy with movements. Work up to a silent-movie style live performance in groups. The ones who don't want to perform can help write scenes, source props, find music and do other tech jobs.

    I showed performances from past years' Tony awards to some of my classes and that really made an impact on some kids. Might be worth a try.

    Good luck to you, and keep  breathing!

    Dianne Rowe
    Theatre Arts Teacher
    Junior Thespian Troupe 88177
    Berry Middle School
    Birmingham, AL