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Sunday, 10 February 2013

How to provide more to a school play!

In the six years of teaching at my current school I have put on a production each year. Each Year group puts on a play throughout the year as a way of providing opportunities for the children to showcase talents and interests that aren't always covered in the classroom. The facilities are amazing with a fully functional stage with a hall that can hold up to 150 people.

Each year group performs a production throughout the year - Year 3 do Harvest (October), Year 4 - Christmas, Year 5 - Easter and Year 6 do a leaving show at the end of the year. I taught for four years in Year 5 therefore had to find four different ways of retelling the Easter story. We like to keep it traditional as we feel it is important that children learn the story behind the holidays we have, so each one had to tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

To keep the idea fresh I had to find creative and new ways to retell the story. The first year as an NQT I kept it quite safe performing GOOD NEWS, using the complete script and songs from the purchased play. The children enjoyed it especially the different take on the story - through different news reports however after a couple of weeks lost a lot of enthusiasm for the songs as they are far from the type of music that children listen to at home. The play provided plenty of cross curricular links including writing newspaper reports, looking at the history of reporting news and the process of broadcasting different types of news.

ON THE CASE: Davyhulme Primary School pupils performed their Easter play in the style of TV crime show CSI. Pictured are Gregory Burke, 10 (soldier), Leon Patrick, 10 (forensics expert), George Harper, nine (Barabas), and Alex Maybury, nine (CSI Leader)The next year, I tried to spice the story up slightly by adding a different twist and I stumbled across the play CSI Jerusalem. The story of Easter told in a similar way to the popular TV show, using the script and writing a few scenes myself. The children loved this approach, becoming detectives, learning about the job and the different aspects of a police investigation. Again this provided plenty of different cross curricular links with projects looking into the history of the police, providing different science investigations and writing persuasive reviews, trailers and posters. CLICK HERE TO READ A REPORT IN THE LOCAL PRESS ABOUT THE PLAY.

Some of the cast at rehearsal.The problem again was though was the music, the children loved the play however grew bored of the same old songs. The next year I wanted to provide music that the children would adore and love learning. After the untimely death of Michael Jackson, my stepson became obsessed with all of his songs, it seemed to inspire a whole new generation, I therefore harnessed this enthusiasm to help retell the Easter story in a whole new, enjoyable and creative way. I sat down an re-wrote the lyrics for a number of MJ classics to fit in with the story. The children absolutely loved performing, they recreated some of his famous dance moves, sang all the songs with enthusiasm and never grew bored of singing. This also provided more topics that could be covered in class, not only did the children learn about the Easter story, they were designing soundtrack album covers, collecting data about MJ's album sales and showing results in graphs and writing biographies. YOU CAN READ A REPORT IN THE LOCAL PRESS HERE.             AND ANOTHER ONE HERE

After such a positive response from the children using more appealing music, it led me to use a similar approach the next year. Due to the Easter break occurring before the Easter weekend we couldn't really do an Easter show three weeks before. Therefore we had a chance to do another themed play so decided to try and introduce Shakespeare to Year 5 by performing a modern version of a Midsummer Night's Dream using songs by the Beatles. The added focus of the Beatles fitted in great with the KS2 History Unit of looking at the life of a famous person - John Lennon. Having both the Beatles and Shakespeare as a focus provided so many learning opportunities and the children really loved researching and making projects about these famous figures of the past.

As I changed to Year 4 last year, we did a traditional Christmas Carol for the Christmas show, we focused on Charles Dickens and learnt about him and his life and other work. But again I rewrote some of the children's favourite Christmas carols and songs to fit in with the story. It seemed to have the children completely enchanted with the show and made such a big difference.

The timetable is relaxed for a couple of weeks before each show, providing time for children to practise. I always fear that this break in routine can mean children fall into bad habits and lose momentum with their learning. This is why I have always tried to provide as many different learning opportunities to the play as possible. Learning about the Easter or Christmas story is important however using music from different artists can also provide rich learning opportunities.
With all the plays I have done there are plenty of different activities that children can do if they are not directly involved in the scene being practised which can be used with any play:

LITERACY:

  • Write synopsis of the play.
  • Character descriptions.
  • Persuasive reviews
  • Adverts
  • Film Trailers
NUMERACY
  • Handle a budget, provide prices for stage design, hall hire, costume etc and work out the price of a ticket to make a certain profit.
  • Problem solving - Seating plan with certain colours - look at all the possibilities.
  • Handling data - Charts to show favourite characters/scenes.
OTHER CURRICULUM AREAS:
  • Design programme front covers.
  • Posters to be displayed around the school. 
  • Stage design - backdrops etc
While performing a play for some will have their creative juices flowing and they will relish the opportunity others will prefer to stay in the background which is why we also have a handful of children working backstage. One thing is for sure, every child loves learning songs they would be listening to at home. 

No money is ever made from our school productions, they are only performed in school time to parents and other children.


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