Today was the first day of auditions for the Christmas play, which has roles for three boys and six girls. I had three boys and fourteen girls. There are more auditions tomorrow, but it's clear that the theater program is growing.
On Saturday, the drama club went out on a donations drive--what the kids dubbed "Begging Saturday." We made about $70, which is about $60 more than we've gotten from the community over the four years I've been here. It helps that the club members are so gung-ho about it; I told them last year when we were re-organizing that I wasn't going to do anything except be the official sponsor, and they'd have to be in charge of everything themselves. And boy, have they stepped up!
On Saturday Randomville is hosting its annual town festival thingy, and the drama club is participating by giving out bruises and black eyes--makeup, naturally. They've been practicing during my theater class, and the principal told me he considered calling child services when he saw their poor abused little selves. Teachers and students have expressed concern, and obviously my students are delighted with their application expertise. Of course, they have an excellent teacher.
My theater class is writing an original play to perform Saturday as well. They told me the premise today, which is that they're getting ready to go onstage when one of the cast members dies. Then they have to figure out who the murderer is in addition to preparing for the performance. They've already cast the corpse, the diva, the minion, and the mime.
I am introducing literature circles in my reading classes. I'm nervous about it, because it takes the control out of my hands and gives it to the kids; they're supposed to direct their own learning. I hope it works. It's supposed to help them become better readers and develop their metacognitive ability. I started today with my largest class, which had six groups of four. Two groups got right to work, two took about five minutes to settle down, and two took a LONG time to get started. I know that it's just the first day, and that they need extensive modeling before they go off on their own, and that I shouldn't judge the entire exercise based on one day's work, but ... it's hard to turn over control in the first place, and when things don't immediately go right, I get worried and frustrated. I know that's my issue, not the kids'.
My kid who wanted the football book had read 3/4 of the book two days after he got it from the library. I hadn't pegged him as a reader, and maybe he isn't, but he has sure blown through that book. He was super-excited to show me his progress, and I was super-excited to see HIS excitement. I hope it lasts.
In my English class, I didn't feel like teaching parts of speech this year--frankly, I didn't much feel like teaching English, period, this year--so I put my students in charge of that unit. I divided them into groups and assigned each group a part of speech. I modeled with nouns, verbs, and pronouns (you know, the easy stuff) and gave them several days to prepare. Every year, I get frustrated because it's almost like they've never even heard of the parts of speech before, but this year I've found that they DO know it, and they've had to refresh their own memories so they can teach their classmates, and I have to tell you that I've been impressed with their sudden gains in knowledge.
Also, we finished up Poe today with the poem "The Bells." Since there's not really a murder or a love story or anything gross or macabre, they weren't as interested as usual, which is fine. I totally expected it. I love that poem, myself, just because there's so much potential for performance, and I'm going to use that in class when we review "The Bells" on Wednesday with READERS THEATRE. I'll write the first stanza, and they'll have to write the others themselves. We'll see how that goes.
Oh. I forgot to mention ... all the teaching things I've mentioned here? Are totally research-based strategies. Yup, a whole bunch of people have done studies that say things like, "Put the students in charge of their own learning," and, "Allow students to work in groups," and, "Encourage students' imaginations by having them write," and, "Use readers theatre to enhance comprehension and retention."
In other words, scientific research shows that LEARNING CAN BE FUN. How about that?