Guide students’ learning with AQA AQA
Junk Kouture – Inspiring creative sustainability through engaging arts education Junk Kouture
Bett 2022 – Reuniting the global community for education technology under one roof Bett
Power up – The power of a membership network SSAT
The hybrid classroom – How to engage, inspire and connect XMA
Oxford University Press Courses
More than ever before, our young people are growing up in a world where they are expected to offer up myriad aspects of their lives for scrutiny amongst both their peers, and the public at large. The pressures laid upon them by social media have been much discussed and documented, but from an ex-actress’s point of view, I see young people being asked to cope with some of the strains put upon professional performers, with virtually no training or experience.
Our children are expected to have a strongly developed sense of self that they are able to portray and communicate to others, when they have had very little opportunity to explore or practise presenting themselves with truth and clarity.
This is where the use of performance in schools can be hugely useful, over and above its educational value.
It might be argued that we are merely talking about a set of soft skills that is hard to prioritise in the face of the many pressures of curriculum delivery. It does take a lot of time and effort from all involved to create an extracurricular production for example; however, the benefits are manifold.
I have often worked with teaching staff to ensure that the creation of a school show not only benefits the students in terms of increased confidence, ability to work in a team, planning skills and so forth, but can also fill in a few gaps for some (and for others deeply embed) aspects of the curriculum. There are opportunities here to work in a cross-disciplinarian fashion, involving not just the more obvious areas of English and music but also including:
For some children who struggle with the more traditional modes of teaching and learning, having the chance to engage with subjects through investigation and research in order to make a production accurate, can be a way in to accessing and retaining information.
If you really want to embrace the challenge, why not put aside one week during which everyone’s efforts (perhaps across a year group) are put towards creating a performance, starting from nothing on Monday morning, but which will be shared on Friday afternoon? This is, of course, very like many of the challenges that will meet our young people in the real world, and as described above, with careful choice of play you can use the project to cement some of the material they need to grasp for future assessment.
Regardless of what we need our children to achieve in their school careers (a radical thought!) incorporating performance into classes can bring about positive results that
will stay with those young people for the rest of their lives.
It doesn’t have to be complex – all that it takes to integrate a sense of performance into any classroom, for any subject, is to frame someone’s contribution with the import of something publicly staged. You have many modes at your disposal: music; acting; puppetry; spoken word and even dance or movement.
Expectation is widely acknowledged as a key factor for achievement; your students will rise to the occasion of being ‘on show’ if they feel that you believe in their abilities – and what a boost to their self-confidence when they achieve what they set out to do and can enjoy the enthusiastic applause.
It’s unfair to expect everyone who is working as a secondary teacher to feel comfortable with performing, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. You don’t have feel that you are good at performing in any way, your insecurities are not important. You only need to provide the platform for your young people, and they will do the work for you – and more importantly, for themselves.
In fact, part of the secret of making methods such as incorporating performance skills work, is that to a certain degree, you have to relinquish control. Once you ask your children to act out their interpretation of what you are trying to teach them, you have no say over what they might present to you. Your role then becomes that of the audience, of a particularly acute observer or critic, so that you may give them useful feedback. You will also enhance your own knowledge of exactly where their understanding lies.
Nikky Smedley is a writer, storyteller and public speaker (howtospeakchild.com). Click here to watch her TED talk Play.Laugh.Shut Up.
Everything you need for every subject across Key Stages 3 and 4.