Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any question below to jump to the answer!

We have to teach strictly to standards. Are the plays connected to my state standards?

Yes, they most certainly are. All fifty states have their own standards, so we can't guarantee that everything in every play will perfectly match your state's standards on a particular subject. But we do align them with the common core standards and California's standards, which are pretty comprehensive. Visit any play page and click the "Vocabulary & Standards" tab for a full list of standards that play fulfills.

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How can I take time to work on a play when I'm under so much pressure to get my kids ready for testing?

Here's the amazing thing about musical plays: far from taking away from "real" teaching or test prep, they help students learn BETTER than most traditional teaching methods. How is that possible? Well, hidden in all the fun of acting and singing is profound learning in content areas, academic skill areas, and personal/social skills areas.

Content areas. Many of our plays teach academic content such as history, grammar, math, and science. The process of memorizing lines and singing catchy songs cements the curriculum near-permanently. Plays actually BOOST test scores! Many teachers specifically choose plays in curricular areas that are difficult for their classes, knowing they will do much better on the tests afterwards.We have been writing plays since 1995, and our teachers constantly tell us about students returning from college and high school who can still sing the songs they learned as young children. Some of these young adults even credit their successes on AP exams and college courses to the material in our shows. See our Teacher Reviews for more comments on curriculum retention.

Academic skill areas. Working on ANY play, even one that does not contain an identified curriculum, improves reading skills immensely. In the process of working on a play, students learn to approach language from many different angles. Not only must they read the words on the page, they must also understand the vocabulary and connotations. They must learn to emphasize the right words and speak with expression so that their lines will be clear to an audience. Many experience an "a-ha" moment as they grasp for the first time how rich and multi-dimensional language can be.

Plays also meet all the 21st century learning and innovation skills that we hear so much about these days: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Putting on a play is a team effort that requires students to use each of these skills extensively. Moreover, the collaborative nature of this kind of project inspires everyone to try their hardest. Nobody wants to let classmates down!

Personal and social skills areas. Plays enhance self-esteem. They build confidence and poise, both in working collaboratively with others and in speaking publicly. They motivate students to engage with school in a new way, and they bring disengaged parents into the classroom. We have been told time and time again about "non pencil-and-paper learners" who come to life on stage, surprising their teachers and classmates and even their parents with their previously-hidden musical or theatrical talent. For these students, a play can be the difference between academic engagement and falling through the cracks. Read more about the benefits of doing plays.

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What's the evidence that doing musical plays is good for students?

A whole series of recent studies show strong links between arts training and smarter people. Here's the information:

For the first time, coordinated, multi-university scientific research brings us closer to answering the question: Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

Research recently published by the Dana Consortium find strong links between learning, arts, and the brain. Read more information at their website:

You can ask the organization for their full report. It's interesting, although quite technical and not much fun for casual reading.

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I've never done a musical before---are you sure I won’t be in over my head?

We’ve written these shows with you in mind! Putting on a musical play is a wonderful experience for your kids, and it’s a lot easier than you think. You don't have to have ANY music or drama skill or experience. Really! Plus, all of our shows come with a detailed Teacher's Guide to get you started, full of information and insights from other teachers who have put on our shows. You can always call or email us if you have any problems along the way.

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Are there enough parts in the show for all my students?

We’ve really worked hard to use all your students as often as possible. Each of our musical plays has enough parts for any size class, typically from 11-40 students. All our shows have several parts that can have multiple actors. You decide (or merely let student interest dictate) how many Lions, Farmers, Bakers, TV Announcers, Squash, Storytellers, etc. you need: One? Three? Seven? Everyone gets a chance to star. Smaller classes can have students take on multiple roles. There is also a Chorus in each of our shows composed of all the students who are not in the scene being acted on stage at that moment. So, not only can all students play important parts, they are all singing along with the rest of the class throughout most of the play. Look at the "Song & Script Samples" tab on any page for a particular play and you will see the full cast list for that show.

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How does the licensing work? Can I photocopy the play for my students? Do I have to pay royalties?

The purchase of a Bad Wolf musical gives you lifetime performance rights for all of your classes. You don't have to purchase books for your students; simply photocopy the script. You can use the play with as many classes as you wish. No royalties are due as long as ticket sales don't exceed $5/each.

Licensing is per teacher. That means that each teacher/director working with the script should have his or her own copy. Entire grade levels or schools can also purchase the Site License version of any play, which authorizes teachers at the entire school/site to put on the play.

The traditional theater model requires directors to pay royalties for each performance and to pay for scripts for each actor. We knew that just wasn't going to work for our teachers. That's why we have one flat price. Simple and affordable!

Teachers/directors interested in using our plays in for-profit ventures or other special uses can contact us to discuss royalty options.

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Will your shows work in a bilingual or ESL class? What about a special education class? Gifted/GATE class? Home school cooperative?

Yes, yes, yes, and YES! Our plays have been done to great success by all age and ability levels in various educational settings. Click the following links to learn more:

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I don't think my principal will allow me to do something like this. Any suggestions?

Principals who are familiar with our plays and have seen the enormous benefits firsthand are some of our biggest supporters. Those who are not familiar with arts integration can be leery of approving projects that seem non-academic, but as we've discussed above, musical plays are anything but. You may simply need to share the facts with your principal. We have a template here that you can use. If you still get pushback, simply ask your principal for permission to put on ONE play as a trial. The improved test scores and overall boost in classroom camaraderie will speak for themselves.

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How long does it take to prepare for a performance?

We’ve found that most teachers take about a month from first introduction to final performance. This varies a lot---some teachers will take as few as three days or as much as three months. But we think one month is about right.

If you can, play some of the music for the students before you actually begin working on the play. They could just listen while working on other projects. Then when you really begin to work, the kids will already be familiar with the music---and may know most of the words!

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Which of your musical plays is best for the grade I teach?

When we first started publishing these shows, a teacher said, "This doesn’t make sense. You can’t recommend the same show for first and fifth grades. The kids are completely different! No teacher will believe you."

Actually all of our shows work very well for a broad grade range. The productions come out looking very different, of course, and the older kids will add all sorts of details that little ones are incapable of, but the process is equally valuable for both groups. And you are always welcome to add, edit, or delete material to fit the needs of your class.

Just  Browse Our Plays by Grade Level and you'll be presented with a list of shows recommended for your grade. On each play page, you'll be able to read the first 1/3 of the script and listed to a few of the songs. If you’re still stuck, just contact us and we will help you find the right play!

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Do I have to do a whole play, or can I just do part of it?

You absolutely can use just a song or a piece of a scene to help reinforce your curriculum.

For example, Anne VanLoon, who teaches English at the Berean Academy in Sierra Vista, AZ, used a song from "Pirates from Grammar Island" to help students struggling with pronouns. "I played the 'Queen of Pronouns' song and provided each of them with the lyrics. First they listened to the song, then they sang it as a class. Afterward I had them pick out each pronoun from the piece. They absolutely loved it."

Many teachers have told us that they use individual songs from our history shows to illustrate how the Gold Rush started, or the causes of the French and Indian War, or whatever else they're working on.

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Do we need fancy costumes, props, and a stage?

Nope! Our plays are designed to be as simple as possible. Few props are required, and "costumes" can be easily accomplished with colored t-shirts or by placing signs around the actors' necks. Of course, you CAN use fancy costumes if you wish. But it's totally up to you.

For performance space, we think that in most cases the best place to put on these plays is right in your classroom. The big advantage is the kids will be audible. This is really important! On stage in your school’s auditorium the kids’ voices will be very difficult to hear unless you start messing around with microphones. (Microphones can solve the hearing problem but are difficult to do properly.)

How can you fit a performance in your classroom? For little kids you can push several students’ tables together against a wall to make a stage. The audience can sit in students’ chairs and on the floor. (You may have to temporarily move some furniture outside.) If your students are too big to stand on the tables, then they can simply perform on the floor against a wall. The Teacher's Guide included in each play provides more details.

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Do I need a musician to present a musical?

Absolutely not. That’s why we include an audio recording with every play. (Crack members of our Bad Wolf marketing department estimate that nine out of ten performances are accompanied by the recording.) Our singers sing all the songs; then you hear the instrumental accompaniment so you can rehearse and perform the entire show without singing or playing a note. However, if you or a parent or community member wants to play piano or guitar, the sheet music for each of our musical plays can be purchased with the script and audio recording.

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I have time for only one play a year, but there are other titles I'd like to work into my curriculum. What can I do?

Third grade teacher Mike Fishell frequently does class read-throughs of our musicals. He passes out copies of the script and the class reads it aloud. They may read it once, twice, or three times, but no more. Mike says, "With the songs we often just listen to the first 30-40 seconds. Recently, I've been reading the lyrics out loud before they ever hear the songs. Quite often, if I have 10 minutes or so, we'll do a 'songs only' read." There it is: easy, no stress, and very little classroom time.

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What's the best way to get started with a play?

Read it aloud to your students. Many of your kids have probably never seen a play. They may not even know what a play is; their primary experiences with storytelling come from movies and TV.

Students often make videos as special projects in school; they almost never put together a play. It's easy to see why - they've all seen information and storytelling on a television screen, but few of them can conceive just how exciting real humans talking in front of an audience can be. And they may be more comfortable in front of a camera than a live audience.

We think your best bet is to model the acting. If the kids are following along with their written scripts, they'll have a huge head-start on fluently acting the play. "Acting" is the key word. Kids mostly don't realize that they can use silly voices and gestures, and they can vary their timing to make the jokes work. (Mr. Bad Wolf LOVES it when the jokes work!) But you, the teacher, can show them all of this.

So don't just read the play to your students, act it out for them; be loud, be outrageous, and make the story come alive.

What about the songs? When a song comes up, push the button to start the music and sing along. (You can't sing? Then move your lips and make it look great. But crummy singing is better than nothing).

After this first reading you'll be able to have the kids read it aloud, taking different parts. Have everybody sing the songs together. We think you'll be amazed at what they do.

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How long will it take for a play to arrive after I order it?

If you're in the United States, you'll receive it within one week -- usually faster -- via post office mail. International orders take 6-10 days to arrive (though we have no control over how fast your order will get through customs). If you order a digital copy of the play, you'll be able to download the materials instantly.

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Any tips for the first-time director?

  • Relax and simplify!
  • Keep the sets and costumes as simple as possible. No costumes is just fine.
  • Get another teacher at your school to put on the musical at the same time. You can bounce ideas off one another, and if you use sets and costumes, you can share them. Each class can watch the other rehearse and students can give feedback to their peers.
  • We especially recommend that you video-record a rehearsal and have students analyze it. What was good? What could be improved? When the students see themselves fidgeting and fooling around, or when they can’t hear themselves sing, they will discover for themselves what they need to work on.
  • And remember, each Bad Wolf musical comes with over ten pages of teacher-tested hints on all aspects of production.

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Why does the same music appear more than once?

It’s like this: we all enjoy the music that we’re familiar with. If every bit of the music in a show is unique, then the audience will never get a chance to become familiar with any of it. So for hundreds of years, writers of musical theater (opera/Broadway musicals/etc.) have used their best tunes over and over within a show. The best melodies traditionally showed up in the overture, the finale, scene-changing music, and any other opportunities the writers could come up with. Then when the show was over, the audience walked out happily whistling the tunes. Bad Wolf doesn’t have overtures or scene-changing music, but we often use the same tunes more than once per show to help your audience become familiar and comfortable with what they’re hearing.

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Who is Bad Wolf Press?

Bad Wolf was started in 1995 by lyricist John Heath and composer Ron Fink, who began writing songs together in high school. Fink & Heath wrote their first kids’ musical ( Jack and the Beanstalk) in 1992 for a first grade teacher in Camarillo, CA. Response was extremely positive and the writers did another show the next year. Kids had a great time, parents got excited, and teachers began to talk. Fink & Heath contacted lots of publishers, all of which turned them down. Eventually they forged ahead and started publishing on their own, and their ungainly offspring, Bad Wolf Press, emerged into the world. Learn more about us!

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