First night of Growtheatre’s Youth Theatre went fantastically – a lovely bunch of kids, with some very creative ideas. Here are 3 photos of what they got up to before in Ecclesall Woods before the sun went down! Looking forward to Henk Littlewood joining the group to do a tools session: knives, saws, loppers – kids can’t wait. Can’t wait to see everyone next week.
So, the Tinsley Nursery Infants project came and went… weeks 5 – 10 happened and were so busy I didn’t get to write about them!
It was fantastic working in the school with such lovely, responsive kids, and passionate teaching staff.
We really made a difference with the drama too! At evaluation stage, what became clear was that the project worked in two very different ways:
1. For the children with limited English, it provided them with a safe space on a weekly basis to begin trying out their spoken English, and the shift in language acquisition was very marked. It went beyond speaking too, for many of the children, as they showed big improvements in their written work as well.
2. The space that drama offered in the classroom also allowed children who had more language to try their hand at directing. This was a boost to their leadership skills and their ability to interact in a group. We took the children’s ideas and made a short show based on what we’d done in class, and all the children performed to their parents and to the rest of the school. They showed clear improvements in their ability to perform, to stay still on stage, to project their voices and in just having the confidence to be out in front of their families and peers.
The teaching staff have reported to me that they are now all using drama more confidently in the classroom, and have repeated many of the simple exercises that we learnt together, changing the context to new topics and themes in their classrooms.
So, job done. It was a steep learning curve for me too (particularly learning how to use drama exercises with as little language as possible so that all the children could access them), and one I enjoyed a lot!
Onto the next project…
Drama work continues at Tinsley NI.
Week Three: After a lot of snow and disruption, the teachers had done less drama during the week than they had hoped to. It was a much harder week this week as it became clear that the majority of the children – many of whom have SO little language – are just not able to contribute word based ideas to drama exercises. After two slightly sticky sessions with the classes in the morning, in the afternoon we listened to the music created by one of the classes last week, and worked and added more sounds and rhythm and mimed drama work, and everything flowed far better… it was such a lesson in communication without language!
Week Four: As a result of last week’s non-language revelations, we agreed that this week the sessions needed to be about mime and movement and telling stories with our bodies, not with words. The children need to build their arsenal of drama techniques, and we need to find ways to boost their confidence in front of each other. Not only are we asking them to perform, but we have been asking them to perform in a language that most of them are not comfortable using yet.
Thankfully, it worked, and it was wonderful to see all the children responding, especially those that have no English and who just cannot access 90% of the work going on in class. The teachers were excited too, thrilled that the hard-to-reach children had participated in building sound pictures and in whole-class sound/movement improvisations.
Next week they are looking at the story of Cinderella, so we will use the same framework and hopefully continue to have more positive results…
Posted by Sophie Hunter
We’re delighted to have been offered work in 2 primary schools in the Locality C Learning Collaboration cluster in Sheffield. These are 14 schools that have come together to support children with exceptional needs through using creative practice in the classroom. We’ve been given 2 really different schools – Y3s in one form entry St Theresa’s Catholic Primary, and Y1s in 3 form entry Tinsley Nursery Infants. Rachel is working with St Theresa’s, and I’m in Tinsley .
In Tinsley, the year 1s have not done any drama before, and the vast majority of children are EAL. There are lots of SEN kids too. Many of the children have extremely limited English and haven’t been in school very much. But all the kids are delightful and thrilled to be trying something new on a Friday! The 3 teachers I’m working with are really friendly, enthusiastic and open to trying new things in the classroom too. I’m trying to use only exercises and games that they will be able to replicate themselves after the project is over.
Their theme this half term is ‘Pop Up’ and they’ve been looking at traditional fairy tales and pop up books. Our project is using the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a basis for introducing drama, characterisation and new language to the children. As the project is specifically focussed on raising attainment, we’ve devised a simple method (the joys of lists and post-its!) to track the children’s progress as the weeks roll on – it felt important to set that up at the very beginning.
Week one: we introduced basic drama language and exercises, as well as the story and characters of Little Red Riding Hood. The children responded really well and the teachers were thrilled that the drama already seemed to be reaching the children that often don’t engage in class. The teachers have the story built into their literacy plans for the next week, so they can keep reinforcing the language we were using too.
Week two: the staff asked me to come into school in role. I’d planned all of the characters from the story, and brought in costume pieces, and so the children picked who they wanted to meet. During their literacy sessions during the week, they had also planned questions to ask each of the characters. The response from each of the classes was very different, but all positive. By far my favourite response was one of the boys (who last week wouldn’t even say his name out loud) who decided he wanted to put on the Granny costume (frilly hat, glasses, full length nightie and shawl) and before our eyes morphed into role – we hot seated him in front of the class, and he stayed in role for the whole time, coming up with the most outlandish and magical answers to our spontaneous questions! Pretty impressive for a 6 year old! Equally pleasing was (1) listening to one of the classes play me their ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ themed woodland music (that I’m hoping to respond to with drama in our next session) and (2) in our planning meeting, listening to the teachers talking about the drama exercises that they would try to replicate in their own classes this week, building new characters with the children.
Roll on next week!