Thursday, January 17, 2008

The clock I'm punching in, I'm a monster

Aside from less than an hour assigning take-home readers to another teacher's kindergarteners, I was the drama teacher all day today.

First was the second-graders. I was very pleased that I'd happened to drop in Tuesday and watch the lesson. I just repeated it. The kids broke into groups, read some brief plays, then discussed and voted on them. When I'd observed, Mr. Drama Teacher had ended the lesson with a game called Remote Control (in which the kids reacted to buttons he'd call out: "Play" meant act silly and run around, "Pause" meant freeze, "Rewind" meant go backwards, and so on). Being a failed child actor, I decided instead to end the lesson with some on-the-spot improv suggestions. Watching second-graders pretend to smell something disgusting or come into a surprise party that disappoints them is hilarious. Prestigious has some very creative, bright kids.

First grade was next. We discussed the difference between narrative and dialogue, then I split the kids into groups and they chose fairy tale puppet sets. They rehearsed and then acted out, all on their own, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Again, I was amazed at some of the kids' creativity and humor. They put on silly voices, added narration between scenes, and made the puppets move in interesting and appropriate ways. I was especially proud of how much they did on their own, from picking which group would do which story to adding sound effects. After the plays, I led a rousing game of Remote Control.

Third grade had the most boring class. They watched a video of the opera Turandot. Although they listened fairly well, they were mostly interested in the executions and the riddles that would kill the suitor or bind Turandot to marriage. The kids hooted at a lot of it, mocking the woman who played the supposedly gorgeous title character. The general consensus was that she was unforgivably ancient (possibly close to forty, I'd guess). "She looks like my mom before she's had her coffee," a girl said. Another girl said she wasn't ugly: "She's just... I want to get the right words here and be fair... She seems like she's been in a car wreck is all." I don't know whether that girl was honestly trying to be solicitous or ironic. During a lengthy scene in which Ping, Pang, and Pong, the councilors, were waxing rhapsodic about their lives before the palace, a girl said, "We get it! Get to the riddles already!" Frankly, I felt that way too.

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