Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
My school has generously afforded me the opportunity to conduct a once-a-week English Acting class for elementary students that are semi-proficient in English and have a general interest in acting. Acting, along with writing, photography, and art, is one of my great passions and it gives me great joy and bliss to teach such a class.
While it’s planned to have the students do a sizable play or musical at the end of the school year (this February), many fun, effective acting activities and assessments will be utilized to help build the student’s confidence and ability in acting, as well as teach them to work together as a team rather than constantly competing.
After a few weeks of conducting activities that were primarily focused on teaching the students to trust one another, in addition to the manner of expressing emotions non-verbally, miming, and building teamwork, I decided to organize an activity called “Photograph.”
Before beginning this activity, I explained that there are roles in acting where one must stay still and hold a posture and/or facial expression for long periods of time for dramatic effect, in addition to addressing the important fact that ALL roles in any performance are vital no matter to their pertinent significance as they all lead to the overall essential meaning and completion of the story. It was also emphasized that not everyone can have a leading role and that those having short and/or non-speaking roles are just as important. I demonstrated this by reenacting a role I once had playing a “king’s guard” where my entire role was to walk in with the king and firmly stand guard next to him for 30 minutes without moving or portraying any such emotion. With my co-teacher standing-in as the king, I entered and stood steadfast and stout for a few minutes until my students starting laughing, but they got the idea. I then explained to them that many people in the audience, including the drama director, appreciated and praised my performance even though I had no speaking role, in addition the fact that I was given an extended speaking role for the next play because of my strong performance as the “king’s guard.” I hope this example was remembered.
“Photograph” is a fast-track teamwork-building activity where students have 90 seconds to build a scene based on theme parameters given to them. Once given, students quickly discuss amongst themselves how they wish to build the scene and who will be chosen to play specific roles. Once the 90 seconds have expired, students must hold their exact position and facial expression for at least 5 seconds in order for me to take a photograph, on which will be reviewed at the end of the class. Five themes were chosen and executed consecutively.
First scene: Baseball Game
I asked them, who is going to be the pitcher, batter, catcher, coach, umpire, audience, etc? Is the pitcher pitching, the batter swinging, the audience cheering, etc? The 90-second countdown started and the photo below is what my students concluded with.
Second scene: Boxing Match
I asked them, who are the two boxers, the photographers, the referee, the audience, the coaches/trainers in the corners, etc? Are the boxers boxing, audience cheering, etc? The 90-second countdown started and the photo below is what my students concluded with.
Third scene: Wedding
I asked them, who is the bride and groom, the best man and woman, the minister, the emotional audience member, the one who has already had too much wine, etc? This scene was probably the most difficult for them to execute as they had a tough time deliberating and negotiating who was going to be the bride and groom. It appeared no one wished to take on these roles, but I quickly encouraged them that this is only acting and not real-life, and eventually, the bravest two of them all beared to take it on. The 90-second countdown started and the photo below is what my students concluded with.
Fourth Scene: Fire Rescue
I asked them, who is the captain, supporting the hose, turning on the water, fleeing from the fire, carrying out the wounded, etc? The 90-second countdown started and the photo below is what my students concluded with.
Fifth Scene: War Battlefield
I asked them, who is the captain, the medic, the soldiers, dead soldiers, wounded soldiers, the prisoners, etc? Who is holding/firing a guns, etc? The 90-second countdown started and the photo below is what my students concluded with. The look of desperation with a mix of surprise and sadness from the medic veering up at me is superb!
The “War Battlefield” scene was indeed everyone’s favorite, including my own, and each one of my students raved and laughed at one another as we pointed out everyone’s role in each photo. Ultimately, I was very much surprised at how well my students negotiated among themselves on who was going to do what regarding each scene, in addition to conjuring new ideas within the 90-second time frame and how well each scene concluded. They are truly a great bunch of students and I’ll be looking forward to see what they come up with next week when I give them funny props to work with.