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In my fifth grade class I make drama a huge part of my practice. It has gotten to the point that children in the lower grades are starting to think ahead two and three years about when their chance on the stage is going to be. What I enjoy about stage productions is that there is rich opportunity to meet a million and one standards and the kids don't realize they're even doing it. It helps me to dispel the myth that you can have a creative and fun classroom while meeting standards and testing requirements.
How We Do It
Every year I put on a stage show for the parent community. We raise money for our weeklong outdoor adventure escapade that typically follows the month after the show. We begin practicing our parts and the songs as early as September, stay after school for weekly rehearsals, enlist parent helpers for costume making and set design and, figurately speaking, blow the audience away on show night.
Incorporating Drama into the Curriculum
My musical always ties into a specific theme that we study all year long. This past year the musical was a Revolutionary War story and so we studied this period of American history exclusively. We researched, read books, went to Boston to walk freedom's trail, wrote on various topics, and as part of the logistics in putting on the play the kids made invitations to parents, designed posters for the walls, wrote their own biographies for the programs, and helped design and build the set pieces. On top of art, writing, reading, drama all being wound into this big endeavor the children have a chance to read with expression, present to a crowd of people, sing, and work together with their classmates in a collaborative effort.
It's all there, and the kids love every minute of it. It's rather a funny thing that when we, as teachers, are held accountable for writing out our little lesson plans many times citing the standards and the strands and all the mumbojumbo I think, I could literally do anything I want in the classroom and tie it to one of the five million standards/strands. Heck, playing Simon Says in the middle of the day has to cover a physical education or health strand. Or at the very least following directions could be part of the justification.
In other words, put away the textbooks and the thick packets of standards. Whatever you do you'll be hitting some standard and drama is sure to hit a lot of them. Not only do I use my big musical as a springboard into the year, but I give them lots of opportunities to perform smaller plays and skits, some that I write myself. In future articles I will write about some resources I have used.
For now, head out to the wonderful website badwolfpress.com and glance at all the selections. I'm devoted to the work these people have done and the musicals I have put on using this cheap resource have been unbelievable.
Check it out, and start planning your musical today!