Kickstart learning by keeping it simple
The beginning of the school year is really the time to help students get back in the groove of classroom learning -- and to Bad Wolf, that means it’s already time to have some fun with the curriculum.
“But wait!” you say. “My kids are still just trying to settle down -- we’re not ready to take on a classroom musical.” And for many classes this is true, but in fact a curricular supplement of some songs and humor can be extremely useful at the beginning of the year. Here are three ideas teachers have shared with us over the past few years to stimulate active engagement with your curriculum from the start of the school year:
Don’t put on a show at all. Instead, use individual songs from a musical play whenever the appropriate topic comes up in class. Let’s say you’re talking about capitalization -- you can take two minutes in class to play “My Very Favorite Capital is I” from the Grammarosaurus show. A few more minutes of playing and singing over the week and the some of the major concepts of capitalization will be stuck forever. Maybe a month later you’re on to commas -- out comes “Commas Make Us Pause.” By the end of the year you can put on the whole play if you want -- the kids will know all the songs -- but that’s not even necessary.
Don’t put on a performance -- use the shows as Readers’ Theater. You want your kids to work on expository writing all year, of course, so why not give them a succinct and funny outline of the process right up front? The Case of the Missing Paragraph covers elements such as choosing a topic, doing research, structuring an essay, reference sources, revision, and plagiarism. Copy the script, distribute parts, and have the kids read through the play. They’ll have fun and you’ll have presented the major topics you’re going to cover throughout the year. And each time one of those topics comes up, you can bet the kids will remember the scene from the show.
Think developmentally. Put on an “easy” show in the fall, keeping things as simple as possible. No, we mean really simple. Especially for younger students, there’s a huge difference between their abilities in early fall and those in spring. So don’t use costumes, sets, or props, and don’t have an audience. This is an exciting way to bring all the students together while working through the curriculum and engaging the whole person. Maybe pick something from the sciences (Biomes or Life Cycles or Rumpus in the Rainforest), or from the social sciences (We Come From Everywhere or Friendly Neighborhood Helpers)-- these are fun and easy shows to learn. Then later in the year your kids will be ready (and eager) to jump into a “real” performance.