Freedom Writers (Ultimate Blog Challenge #12)

Ultimate Blog Challenge

Yesterday, I talked about the exciting Process Drama that I am running with a couple of 7th grade classes. Check out the link if you want to know more about it. Today, I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on with my 4th graders: a Devised & Collaborative Theater program, using the themes of Freedom and Democracy to propel us along. Like the Process Drama, I had a 9 week program to work with. Limiting in time, but also creates a sharper focus, which, sometimes, I need myself. There’s a lot of information to share, and not always enough time.

The students in both classes have taken to the work in  fun and exciting ( Mondays are exciting) ways.  As with my 7th grade classes, a lot of the success of this ongoing work is due to the classroom teachers who I have partnered up with. They are just as invested and excited about the students work. They’ve seen the ensemble (team work) building; the cooperation skills; the listening and communication skills; the creative thinking in their decoding and interpretations; their critical eye developing as they give peer-to-peer feedback; the FUN they are having learning while they don’t realize it’s LEARNING. So to the teachers: Thank you.

My initial proposal was accepted: since I had the theme, let me find song lyrics that embrace the ideas of Freedom  and Democracy.  The students would be taking these lyrics and interpreting them (decoding) to eventually present them in a theatrical form. They’d be working in theater arts, literacy, social studies and a lot of life lessons through this.

The entire class would work on one together with me to decode: Redemption Song, by Bob Marley. (BTW..if you click on any of the song titles, you’ll go to a lyrics page. Some of them have pop ups that are annoying, but Norton & Google both give the sites their official okey dokeys). We had spent a few classes on basic theater ensemble work, warm ups, interpretive exercises, so when it came time for Redemption Song, the students were ready for this next step. For two classes they worked in small groups and had a good model of what was to come next.  They also learned how to CRITIQUE as opposed to Criticize.  “I Like…”, “Have you thought of…”, and “My suggestion to take this to another level is…” replaced the “you did that ____wrong”, etc type of negative tear down the ego stuff that comes from “constructive criticism”’s still criticism, in my book. Peer to Peer feedback in a positive, supporting, and growth educing way.

After Redemption Song, the students were divided into new small groups and the individual songs were handed out:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Unreconstructed Rebel,
The Ballad of the Underground Railroad,
I Aint Go No Home

Now just having had my 7 of 9 class with them (yes, Voyager pun intended!), they are well into putting their interpretations up on their feet, giving me tableaux, beginning, middle and ends, character work, stage fighting choreography, creative thinking, creative drama, and more.

Last thing:  when a student asks me “Can we do __________?” in the context of their creation, my answer is: “You can do whatever you think fits the work for presentation.” Try it out, see if it feels right, and do it. Or toss it if it’s not right.

I’m looking forward to the last two sessions, and sad too, that they are the last two sessions.

What are your creative outlets?

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richie Lashutva
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 14:30:31

    I wanted to check up and allow you to know how considerably I treasured discovering your blog today. I will think it a real honor to do things at my workplace and be able to make use of the tips discussed on your web page and also partake in visitors’ feedback like this. Should a position keen guest writer come to be on offer at your end, you should let me know.


  2. Alejandro
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 14:34:13

    Brilliant stuff. I need all the help I can get for my 3 going on 6 year old.

    Cheers A


  3. Ali Bierman
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 16:33:41

    Great program, Stuart. I’m known for my ability to create a song on the spur of the moment. When my kids were young I’d take poems ( such as they were) of 7 and 8 year olds and also high school aged kids and set the to music. That made each youngster a lyricist. Some of them blossomed wanting to write more and more. And the kids who often felt lost or ignored–well you know how it feels to watch eyes light up with pride?


    • bornstoryteller
      Apr 12, 2011 @ 16:38:17

      Hi Ali.. yes, I do. When they GET’s amazing. It just takes them over and it’s infectious. I do improvised songs too, but as a lyricist with an idea for a melody. I need a musician to carry it through. I’ve been blessed that I’ve worked with people like that.
      thanks for reading.


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