You might have heard that Middle Schoolers love drama – and it’s true! But no, we’re not talking about drama as a form of gossip. Actually, our 5th graders truly have a love for theater!
Last week, the fifth grade class traveled to the New Victory Theater to see a favorite class book brought to life on stage.
Seedfolks is a Newberry Medal-winning young adult novel by Paul Fleischman that “tells thirteen stories from diverse perspectives—young and old, immigrant and native, haunted and hopeful. A fractured neighborhood unites with just a few seeds, turning a drab empty lot in Cleveland into a beautiful green garden.” Our 5th graders love this story of how neighbors are bought together by one little girl’s hope to connect with a father she has never met. They appreciated the author’s ability to bring humor, struggle, and community together in a powerful way.
An adaptation of this moving collection of stories was performed by the mesmerizing Sonja Parks. After the performance, Ms. Parks took time to answer questions from the audience, about both the adaptation and her work as an actor. She described collaborating on the process of adapting the stories for performance on stage (something very few actors can say they have done), how she prepares her script by highlighting her lines, and even how she records and then listens to herself to help her remember her lines! She likened this process to learning the words for a popular song on the radio: the more you hear it, the easier it is to remember. Ms. Parks’ performance was beautiful, and listening to her describe her craft was so inspiring!
This trip to the theater was a great lead-in to a special capstone project in our classroom, a playwriting workshop with Drew Cortese.
Many of you already know Drew as the Director of Admissions, who is helping to grow our amazing Lower & Middle Schools. But did you know that Drew is also a life-long drama enthusiast and actor?
To end this year with a bang, Drew and I are leading the 5th grade through a mini playwriting unit. Students will use all they have learned over the years about story structure and elements, great literary works, and the writing process to create and perform their own scenes.
We have begun with taking “mind trips,” imagination exercises that allow students to flex their creativity muscles in a low-pressure environment. Students have so far imagined themselves as an animal and an object in their bedroom. We have given each character traits and created a story for each character. We give life to even the simplest of ideas by considering the names, family, habitat, and most of all: the wants and fears of the character. This approach allows students to build confidence with the process before mining their own experiences to create fictional stories for performance. By the end of this unit, students will be able to write their own scripts and see them performed by a brave group of volunteers –teachers, staff, and a few special guests!
The 5th grade is so excited about this new experience, they are already curious about drama class next year, and asking if they can perform Hamlet! Love this class!