Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rainbow Performances/Process-Based Learning Through Performance - Final Work and Reflections

The girls performing their preliminary work for the class...
and the boys receiving feedback from their performance piece.
After all of the brainstorming, story boarding, decision making, and collaboration within their respective performance groups, it was finally time for each of the performance groups to begin presenting their work and solicit feedback.  They had been editing and refining their work all along, getting feedback from peers within their groups and from the teachers supervising them.  Now they had to actually perform their work "on stage"  - another step in the refinement of their final work product.  While it may have seemed redundant, the "lather-rinse-repeat" nature of perform-discuss-rethink-refine-perform again, the children truly valued their feedback sessions and began to take the constructive criticism to heart, allowing it to inform real revisions to their work.  

What is the purpose of getting feedback?

P:  It will kind of give you an idea.  Since you don’t know how it looks, it is good for people to watch to give you an idea.  You can’t look all around you since you have to stay focused.

So it gives you an idea of how you are doing.

I:  Because you can’t have eyes on a chair.  So it gives you the chair.  [i.e., it gives you an idea of what the audience sees/experiences.]

E.S.: It gives you opportunity to fix problems that you have that you might not know about. 

M:  Maybe somebody was talking too fast.

How did the feedback help you?

M:  You don’t really know what you are seeing because you are doing it.  You can’t have one part of your body doing it and one part watching.  So the feedback helped.

How did you keep that feedback in your head?

M:  I heard the feedback and remembered it.

C:  It can give you very good ideas to do in the play. 

J:  Another problem might be that you forget your lines.  I think it is way better for me to have my script  so I can remember my lines before.  That’s one of my problems.

So you can have your lines nearby.

M:  So like when Hera is talking to Aphrodite, if she’s looking at the script on the board, is she talking to Hera or is she talking to Aphrodite.

It doesn’t make sense if you are speaking towards the wall when it should be either to a character or to your audience.

P:  If you want to see your lines without it being distracting, you could tape them somewhere different.

But memorizing your lines is a really great thing to practice.

Who can tell me a piece of feedback you got that was really helpful?

J:  Be a little louder.

E.K.:  I guess sort of like just look [at the script] for a second and then just lock it in.

I:  The thing that was more better for me (sic) - except this is sort of a problem and sort of not - is that they had to say [my name] when it was my line.  [The helpfulness and distraction of being reminded to say your lines]

M:  Don’t be too silly.  

C:  If you are being silly and it’s your turn, you are probably going to miss your turn.

E.K.  And then it won’t make sense.

And if the play goes on too long, you may lose your audience.  You do need to make sure you move the play along to keep their attention.

To the boys:  On the second time through, you were calmer, you were speaking more clearly.  So if you are putting out the rainbow bridge, if you are delivering lines, you should always make sure your audience can see you.

The children performed their finished work several times.  
First, they performed for their parents:

Then they performed their work for their  Sabot siblings and 
the Rainbow Room preschoolers; next, to the entire fourth grade class; 
and lastly, to their Book Buddies in the sixth grade.  
A live performance was enjoyed by the preschoolers and siblings...  

while our 6th grade Book Buddies watched our videotaped performance.
What did you learn about yourself from this project?
What did you learn/notice about the other people in this classroom?

A.L.:  I got over my stage fright.  Every time I had butterflies in my tummy you guys would encourage me.  I had stage fright even in kindergarten.

A.C.:  That I’m strong and courageous.  That I did it all by myself and I performed it a lot of times.

N.B.:  I learned that I could remember my lines.  I was surprised by that. 

M:  I learned that I could help people write plays.  I never knew that I could do that. 

P:  I learned that I can be a good narrator and even though I had tons of lines and I was really stage frightened, I still did it and afterwards I felt really great.

I:  That everybody has separate ideas and you have to find a way that it works for them all to go together.

R:  I thought that it (acting) looks kind of easy but it’s really not that easy.

C:  It was kind of hard remembering my lines.  And I was trying to remember them and just saying the person's lines before me and that helped me try to remember my lines.  I put a lot of effort into it. 

W:  Well, I learned that at first I couldn’t remember stuff.  But then after [I practiced] with my sister, I didn’t remember at first but then I was able to remember my lines.  I really liked being in it and I liked being liked.  That we could play, that we could act it out. 

What was it like performing for an audience? 

R:  You feel small when you are performing in front of all the adults.
E.S.:  But with the siblings it might only feel like you are a little bit bigger because some are kindergarten but some are in third grade.

Did the performances get better each time?

The children had mixed responses to this.  Some thought they got better with each performance while others admitted that they were getting performance fatigue, which they felt made it harder to remember lines and to slow them down. 

M:  The first performance for the parents was awesome.  The second one was, “eeehhh."  The third one was not so good. 
E.S.:  The parents one was the best and I think it was the best because if you forgot a line, they (the parents) would still say that you are awesome.

Respectful, supportive, and constructive feedback is just 
another way to make our work better.  
When we keep revisiting our project work, 
we are thinking more deeply about what we do, 
how we do it, and why we do it.  
Communicating through performance is a real challenge, 
especially as it is a language that we do not regularly use - 
but the lessons learned from building drama skills extend beyond mere acting:  
  • it is important to communicate clearly and effectively - verbally, physically, emotionally, and artistically
  • going over lines and rehearsing is a form of pre-studying/developing automaticity for young students, a skill that they will build upon as they progress in their studies 
  • intentionality is key - think before you act - but be flexible enough to rethink and retool what you do in a responsive and reflexive way
  • connection is essential, regardless of the context in which you find yourself and your audience
  • putting yourself "out there" is a safe, creative risk - it is an act of bravery not only to express yourself but also to be open to the ideas of others
  • and everything worth doing takes practice...and patience...

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