It is a wonderful blessing to have a full-time teaching positions in the theatre arts. Many other schools have had to cut programs due to budget issues. With the emphasis over the years turning toward standardized testing, the focus has fallen on passing the test and has moved away from individual creativity. It is rare to find a middle school drama program, let only one that is required of all students. The benefits of such a program reaches far beyond the drama classroom.
No matter what field students go into, the ability to speak clearly and present themselves in a confident manner are essential to success. Whether a doctor dealing with patients, a lawyer in the courtroom, a business person giving a presentation, or a McDonald cashier waiting on costumers…eye contact, diction, inflection, and poise are just a few of the public speaking skills that are required to be successful. Academic intelligence and content knowledge are not enough in the 21st century. Students need to boldly express their thoughts and ideas, confidently question what they don't understand, and intelligent share their opinions and beliefs. In doing so, these young people will be able to stand out and stand above their competition.
Drama does not just build public speaking skills. It plays an important role in building self-confidence, teamwork, communication skills, and focus. We joke that there is already enough “drama” in the lives middle school students. I claim that we don’t create the “drama,” we just focus it. We value the opportunity to “play” and perform in a safe and supportive environment, where risks can be taken and comfort zones expanded.
Active listening is emphasized in class because it is an essential aspect of communication. If everyone is talking, there is no communication. Students learn the balance of giving their ideas, while taking time to listen to others’ ideas. True leaders do not just give orders, but take time to listen to the advice of those around them.
Building a Strong Drama Program
Students begin in 5th grade with small group performance. They write and perform fables, Shakespeare scenes, and conflict-resolution skits. In 6th grade, students focus on the individual performance, writing and performing superhero monologues, American Indian creation myths, stand up comedy routines, and Shakespeare monologues. By 7th grade, students are ready to take their performances to a larger audience, writing and performing their own one-act plays for a middle school assembly. In 8th grade students choose their performance elective from options like, Theatre Performance, Theatre Tech., and Forensics. It is important that every student can say they have performed on the main stage, in front of a large audience by the end of 7th grade. It is a rare and invaluable opportunity!
Middle school is tough! There is more responsibility, more homework, more competition, and more expectations…all resulting in more stress!!! Students may be worried about the way they look, what they wear, and what they are “supposed” to do. Students are trying to figure out who they are, while trying to be cool, trying to fit in, trying to make friends…not to mention trying not to embarrass themselves! They try to handle all these challenges while being expected to stay focused on their schoolwork.
How Can It All Be Done?
Objectives of my Middle School Drama curriculum and program:
- To help the students gain self-confidence and expand their comfort zones
- To allow the students to take risks in a safe and supportive environment
- To allow the students to work together as an ensemble
- To increase students’ ability to focus, communicate, overcome obstacles, and resolve conflict
- To build students’ public speaking and performance skills
- To give the students a basic knowledge and lasting appreciation of theatre
From the first day of school, students are made aware of the expectations of Drama class and the consequences for failing to meet these expectations. Students work best when they know what is expected of them. They are empowered when their expectations of a teacher or a class are listened to and respected. Students learn that their actions have consequences. Positive actions yield positive consequences, while negative actions yield negative consequences.
Expectations of my Students
- Bring an Enthusiastic and Positive Attitude to Every Class
- Always Put Forth Your Best Effort
- Respect Yourself, Each Other, the Space, and the Work
- Actively Participate
Students Expectations of Me
- To Be FUN!
- To Be Fair
- To Play Games and Perform
- To Learn Something
Consequences for Students Failing to Meet the Expectations
- Clarification and Conversation About Expectations
- Sitting Out of the Game/Exercise
- Reflective Writing Assignment
- Phone Call/Email Home to Parents
- Detention (for behavior issues)