Sunday, 28 October 2012

A typical year 9 drama lesson - Why the arts matter

At the start of this lesson as always, I had noted on the board the Learning Objectives for the day.  I do this because I have been told to, but am surprised by how useful it has become to me: it's like a recipe... sometimes for glory and a great bake, sometimes for soggy bottoms - more of this later.  I have asked students to look at them whilst I take the register, but I only refer to them within the lesson during our final discussion.  These were today's:

To do with the WHAT of drama:
What types of people do we notice in our world? What does this help us to understand about these people?   What makes a person fit into a type: what signifier's are there? (Clothes, hair, make up)

To do with the HOW of drama:
How do we perform stereotypes and caricatures? How do we develop these amplified characteristics through our facial expressions, vocal tone and body language?

To do with the WHY of drama:
Why do we put people into categories? Why do types of people exist? Do these types limit our expectations of them and their expectations of themselves? Do we fit into types?

As I called the register, I asked the students to answer this question with a YES or a NO, , 'Do you feel that people put you in a box, associate you with a type of person, and sometimes not see you as you are, an individual?'.  The majority of my students answered this with a YES.  This is noted, but not discussed - I ask students to 'save that thought in the back of their heads'.

We then had a reading of a scene from the play, 'Sparkleshark' by Philip Ridley, which moved the action on, but which I did not want to focus on.  I ask students to volunteer to read, there were two characters for this lesson, and they sit with me in the circle, whilst the other students listen.  This is such a simple thing to do, but so effective, they don't have copies of the script so it really makes the rest of the group listen actively.  I read the stage directions adding to them liberally as I try to develop a sense of the scene; building the pace, punctuating the action, trying to help the students see how it would be on stage.

I then asked the group to split them self into pairs of girls or groups of three for the boys, move into a space and sit down.  I always count down from ten to one after a direction like this so that they do it quickly.  I then introduced the characters and asked for a still image of them out on the football pitch in the yard at break time in school.  The characters were:


Russell:                  'The turbo dream babe'

Buzz and Speed:   His side kicks


Natasha:               'No girl wears shoes to be sensible... do they?'

Polly:                   Hair tied back in a no nonsense pony tail

I mimic the characters extremes, don the accents and the body language to introduce them.  I spring into a role, mimic an extreme for laughs; get them think that this is going to be worth doing.  I then gave them one minute to create a still image of these characters. The time target is repeatedly announced and when there are only ten seconds left I count down everyone for them... 'Into your still images 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and FREEZE'.  If this is not kept to perfectly, it is repeated.

There are lots of ways to share a still image, but for this week as the image was in effect a quick starter, I had a quick look at them all (wandered through the silent and still gallery of work narrating what I saw) and picked two to dissect. Looking at the implications of what these characters might be like: how their actions within the images give us a sense of these characters - the girls flirting away and the boys pack mentality.

Quick move to script here, the moments Natasha, Russell, Buzz and Speed appear on stage for the first time.  I highlight how the exposition of the characters is significant, the audience's first view.  A quick chat of stereotypes and their function on stage, their readability, but then as we have a routine for how we approach script work by this stage in year 9, I simply set the 'time target' and call out the stages as they should be progressing through.  This week I peppered these reminders with directions about creating those amplified stereotypes: how to turn the performance volume up on their behaviour.  The students work independently of me for a good 10-15 minutes.  I love this bit, circulating and watching and enjoying them and their work.

Then we share.  Again masses of ways to do this, but today spotlighting.  They freeze in their starting positions and we watch each group.  I point to a group randomly to them, but to me trying to show high level then lower level work, saying 'Lights up' as they start and 'Lights down' as they end, at which point they sit down.  When all the work is shown we discuss - first the memorable ones and how they were successful (PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE!) and then slowly, orchestrated by me, get round to the theme of types: we've covered what and how so we're on to why.

The students brought out a lot of the issues - how we fail to see individuals, how people are easier to manage if you know their type, how its a human reaction as well as a human defence system (we hang out with people who are like ourselves, who confirm our sense of ourselves), how we can limit each other by doing this and how we need to be careful of how we judge people by what they look like and fail to see who they are.  I get them to talking about how in year nine recognising our individual qualities and respecting each other's individual strengths is important. Especially as we approach choosing our options - we need to chose what we want to do, not what's easiest or what people think we should or what our friends are doing.  Their reflections affirm their humanity and strength of spirit. 

I love my job. 

No comments:

Post a Comment