Frequently Asked Questions
Click on any question below to jump to the answer!
- What's the best way to get started with a play?
- Do I have to do a whole play, or can I just do part of it?
- 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?
- How long will it take for the play to arrive after I order?
- If I want a play, can't I just write it myself, or have my students write it?
- Plays take away time from real teaching, don't they?
- Is there any solid evidence that doing musical plays is good for students?
- We have to teach strictly to standards. Are the plays connected to my state standards?
- I'm supposed to have the kids present something, so can't we just sing a few songs from Disney or a favorite children's performer?
- I don't think my principal will allow me to do something like this. Any suggestions?
- Do I need a musician to put on a musical?
- Are there enough parts in the show for all my students?
- I've never done a musical before. Are you sure I won't be in over my head?
- Will your shows work in a Bilingual or ESL class?
- How long does it take to prepare for a performance?
- Which of your musical plays is best for the grade I teach?
- Do we need a stage?
- Any tips for the first-time director?
- Can I photocopy for my students?
- Why does the same music appear again and again?
- Who is Bad Wolf Press?
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.
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.
We're all for whole plays, but sometimes they best thing you can do is use just a couple of pages.
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?
Fifth 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.
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 I want a play, can't I just write it myself, or have my students write it?
If you want your students to read a novel, do you and your students write it? Of course not, for some excellent reasons: you probably don't know how to write a novel, and even if you did, it takes too much to be worth the effort. If you want your students to write a play, have them read, analyze, and put on several plays first so they understand the form. We think that's a terrific idea, if you have the classroom time.
Plays take away time from real teaching, don't they?
What exactly is "real teaching"? We think it means helping your students grasp the curriculum in your state standards. More generally, it means helping your students to be competent at reading for information and pleasure, and becoming comfortable with their number facts and mathmatical problem solving.
Does that seem like a fair description? If so, these are exactly the things that are plays are designed to do. Your students will become better, and more motivated readers by doing such an entertaining project. And they will solidly learn the curriculum included in the play. And because they learned this curriculum through melody, rhyme, and interesting stories, they will truly retain it.
Is there any solid 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: www.dana.org
You can ask the organization for their full report. It's interesting, although quite technical and not much fun for casual reading.
We have to teach strictly to standards. Are the plays connected to my state standards?
Yes, they almost 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.
I'm supposed to have the kids present something, so can't we just sing a few songs from Disney or a favorite children's performer?
Well, yes and no. You'll be in violation of copyright law if you present material that you don't own the rights to. (You probably won't get caught.) But what exactly will the kids be learning from doing these sorts of songs? Our plays are specifically designed to teach and reinforce your mandated curriculum.
I don't think my principal will allow me to do something like this. Any suggestions?
We find that teachers worry about this, but very few principals are not pleased when you show them any of our plays. Most principals would be thrilled if all teachers did our kinds of plays, but they're afraid of asking for one more thing. At least that's what we hear from the principals we talk to, and the teachers who put on our programs.
Do I need a musician to present a musical?
Absolutely not. That’s why we include the CD. (Crack members of our Bad Wolf marketing department estimate that three out of four 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 to each of our musical plays can be purchased with the book and CD.
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, 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. 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.
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. We consulted teachers whose classes have performed each show and asked them what they wished they had known before they started. We listened carefully and put it all in our Teacher’s Guide that comes with each play.
Will your shows work in a Bilingual or ESL class?
We think musical plays are a great way to have fun with language and practice speaking clearly. We’ve seen several successful shows put on by kids that barely speak English, and they were terrific. However, if the kids’ families will be watching, it’s wise just before the performance to summarize the plot in whichever non-English language the audience speaks. (If you happen to be in a multi-lingual school, a number of students could tell the story in their native language.) And then put on the show in English. Read some reviews from teachers of English Language Learners who have put on our plays.
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 you preparation. 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!
Which of your musical plays is best for the grade I teach?
When we first started publishing these shows, Ron's brother, who taught fourth grade for many years, 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."
We wish it was that simple. Actually a number 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. Hard as it is to believe, our shows really work over a wide range of grades.
Just select Find a Play by Grade and you'll be presented with a list of shows that we think would be appropriate 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!
Do we need a stage?
No, actually we’d prefer that you didn’t use one. We think 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 Teachers’ Guide included in each play provides more details.
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 videotape 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
- And remember, each Bad Wolf musical comes with over ten pages of teacher-tested hints on all aspects of production.
Can I photocopy for my students?
The purchase of a Bad Wolf musical gives you lifetime performance rights for your classroom---and yes, you can photocopy for your own students. But---and here’s the fine print---these lifetime performance rights and photocopying privileges apply to you, the purchaser, alone. The reproduction of any part of the script or CD for more than one classroom in a school or school system at a time is prohibited. In other words, if you and another teacher are putting on the show at the same time, you each need to purchase a copy.
Why does the same music appear again and again?
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 can and do use the same tunes more than once per show to help your audience become familiar and comfortable with what they’re hearing.
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!