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Friday, 18 November 2016

Top Tips for Teaching Drama

I have always used drama in my classroom. In fact, the first lesson I ever got to teach was a reader's theatre lesson. I ustilise drama in all my classrooms no matter the year level, relish when it my classes turn to do an assembly and have taught an extension group in upper school drama.
I have done most of my learning of teaching drama on the job through trial and error and today I am going to share my top tips for teaching drama with you. These tips can be applied to any classroom, age or skill level.

Top Tip 1: Have clearly defined rules. Repeat the drama rules each lesson and ensure students know exactly what is and isn't allowed. Drama lessons (like any lesson under The Arts umbrella) are known for easily getting out of control and as such many teachers shy away from them.
I always write my rules in the positive but it is important to go through what they do and do not look like in practice. If you ARE always trying your best then you ARE NOT crying or getting upset because you didn't get the character/story line/group that you wanted. If you ARE supporting your peers than you ARE NOT putting anyone down, mocking anyone or teasing.

Top Tip 2: Enforce the rules with an iron fist. This needs to be its own tip because this is where I went wrong when I taught my first drama unit. First the volume went up and up, then students started getting silly then everyone was off task and I was in a panicked, stressed out state. But when I think back, it always started with one student, who got a couple others off who then infected the whole class.It is like the very hard lesson all teachers have to learn where we have to be very strict in the first week to ensure a strong foundation and a good year.

Top Tip 3: Have a warm up and a warm down exercise. Having a clear end and beginning will help your students to switch between what is allowed in drama class and what isn't allowed in others subjects areas. It is also a great way to practice the basic skills of drama such as voice projection. Think of it like doing mental maths at the beginning of a maths lesson. 

Top Tip 4: Have a focus for each lesson.
 Drama can be a subject on its own or a tool utilised within another subject lesson but it should always have a focus. Drama should not be activities thrown together. They should link together to teach, practice or perfect skills. Such focuses could be movement, voice, characterisation, improvisation or emotion. If you are utilising drama as a tool within another area then ensure students will get out of the activity what you need.

Top Tip 5: Have a time for reflection. Drama is a very fun subject, A drama lesson can be filled with a lot of laughter, noise, excitement and applause. The focus of the lesson can be easily lost so it is important to reflect on what has been learnt or achieved at the end of the lesson. I prefer to do this after the warm down as students are generally more focused and more likely to retain what is being said.

Top Tip 6: Give EVERY student the same opportunity.
I am a shy person. In school I was the quiet one that you might almost forget was in your class. But come any drama activities I was an Oscar winning performer (okay maybe not that good....but one of the best in the class). Don't pigeon hole students. For some drama is their time to shine. Encourage all the students to have a go and some may surprise you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Report Writing/Informational Texts

Today I am going to share with you some of the activities from my Report Writing Units.

            Year 1 and 2                                        Year 5 and 6                                    Year 3 and 4

 I love to use the gradual release of responsibility model which sees students gradually having more control of writing .  I start off with showing them lots of texts and we do some text hunts.

To do a text hunt have all the headings on small bits of paper and draw them out of the hat one at a time. Students need to locate the information, summarise and record. I start this activity in pairs with younger students and then repeat with another text with students working independently. This activity allows them to become familiar with the layout and headings of a report and practice their scanning and sumarising skills.

Then students begin piecing together the text. I give them a version with the headings separate and students glue them on. Then I give them one where they must write the headings themselves. Eventually I give them a completely jumbled text that they must workout the order and layout.

I then do a mid unit assessment but because I only want to assess the students ability to write the text time and not have their ability (or lack of) to research get in the way I get them to interview another student in the class and then write a report on that person. The students are always so engaged in this activity and it really shows their knowledge of a text type.

Next I get students to research a topic. I let every student pick their own topic to maximize engagement. The younger the students the more restrictive I am of where they can locate their information but I give older students the freedom to google websites. I like to give students prompts for what kinds of information to put under each heading.

Lastly, I let students present their report any way they like; posters, flip books, displays, book, presentation. A long as they can address the items in the rubric though their desired output.

Now I would like to share a few thing I DO NOT DO when teaching text types.

  1. I don't have the whole class researching the same topic at the same time and then write every sentence out as a class for them to copy and construct a report. This does not teach them anything except reliance on you, does not cater for anyone's diversity and the higher achieving students are not challenged.
  2.  I don't allow them to choose their own questions about a topic. If they have a specific question they want answered then they can include it in a did you know section. This used to be the big way to do it. You'd get students to develop questions then research it. This just created a world of mess as students would ask unrelated or too specific or unanswerable questions.
  3.  I don't allow students to type specific questions into google to find answers. I direct them to type in the topic and tap 'info for kids' on the end. This yields the best and most appropriate websites and then students read to locate information using the skills of they have learn about the construction of report text types
  4. I do not give students a template to write their final product in. I give them a blank retrieval chart for recording information (like the one above) and then they present the information how ever they would like, Giving a template restricts how much students can (or would otherwise) write. For the weaker student it makes their reports look empty and makes them feel like greater failures. It also does not give them the opportunity to think about layout including the use and layout of headings.
You can find all my report writing units by clicking here and I also have ones for persuasive, procedural, poetry and narrative writing for all year levels.