How the 6th-grade students set the “stage” for the Homecoming Dance as they did their own improv version of the scene.

 

On our third week working with the 6th-grade students, Group 4 was super happy with the way things went! Diego had the idea to make our script-writing process run more smoothly: an improv game! We had, on our own screens, the list of plot points from Act 4 and we asked them, scene by scene, to act out what a particular plot point might look like (i.e. Claudia accusing Hero at the Homecoming dance). We didn’t use the names of the characters in an effort to not be too confusing. We just did general plot points (in that case, someone accused another person of something really big at the Homecoming Dance). The title quote of this post was shared by a student named Joy and comes from the scene where Bea is telling Ben how mad she is about the accusations made against Hero.

This was such a fun exercise and I think the students really enjoyed it. I think it also helped that we had a teacher this time who was pretty good at helping them stay focused and also because one of us had the idea to split the group into partners, so we had two students doing the “acting” while the other (there was only one other at this time) was drawing. Our plan now is to put the quotes/lines altogether into a script and share it with them so that we can figure out what pictures we need/when we can record.

This was our best meeting so far. We had two students in attendance, Jayden and Joy, and they were both very attentive and excited to work. We went over the bulleted points of the plot and had them act out/improv each scenario while we recorded their dialogue. We went through about 5 or 6 scenes/plot points and they put a good amount of effort into every scenario. Next, we are going to write out the script by incorporating their dialogue and go over it with them to see if they are satisfied/want to make any changes. Then we will hopefully get them to start drawing.

Honestly, this week was a lot harder than last week. We only had three kids and struggled a lot to engage them. We also learned that 2/3 of our students are ESL, so they had a lot of trouble reading their lines (and when they tried, you could see their confidence began to falter which made some of them upset and storm off camera). We asked how they would want to represent our scenes, and we agreed on drawings. Instead of having them speak their lines and record them, I think we settled on having text bubbles where they could write in the lines. However, it was clear that the kids were not as engaged as they were the week before which was tough and a little frustrating for us.

Overall, I know that I mentioned feeling nervous because of the disconnect between people when you talk online, but I didn’t think about what would happen if the students weren’t listening. It’s really hard to get someone to take you seriously when you’re talking to them through a screen and don’t have the ability to stop what’s going on. I hope this week is a little easier to handle the students, and we can get somewhere productive with a little more structure in the time that we have with them. It was annoying at times, but reassuring to hear that we were doing a good job from our site director considering our circumstances. 🙂

Week 2 with our students was a blast! One of the most important things that we decided on was how we were going to visualize our scene. After some discussion, it was decided that the students will draw different backgrounds for the scenes and then use action figures to depict the characters. Of our 4 students, each of them chooses a scene they would like to draw the setting for and a couple of them will be working together to accomplish this. We also gave them an opportunity to draw more than one background in the event that more than one student wanted to draw. There did seem to be some contention around Borachio’s name as it caused unbridled laughter every time it was uttered, so we might have to talk about that. Our group is planning to meet again before next Thursday to come up with a list of decisions we want our students to make for the next meeting.

Week two meeting with the kids went really well! There were a few more kids present for this meeting so we had even more participation and enthusiasm from them. Essentially, we went through the plot of Act 1 and asked the kids about what major plot point they would want to adjust or alter. The kids were actually really enthusiastic about changing Claudio’s gender and renaming her Claudia, which I thought was a really cool idea and also really impressive that these kids wanted to do that. Also, one student was excited about potentially doing some drawings for Act 1. Overall, the meeting went really well and I am excited to keep working with this group!

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this week’s meeting with the kids, but we made a lot of decisions during our workday.

Act IV decided it would be best to film little by little, so nobody is overwhelmed. Since our kids seemed very excited by the idea of using some type of action figures instead of drawings, we planned to ask if they had these materials or needed Jepson to purchase them. We also began to search through the library guides for music samples. Not only was this another idea from the kids, but also makes sense considering we have a promposal and final dance scene. The only other detail we were planning on addressing was potentially making Claudio a Claudia.

 

Apparently, I missed some interesting decisions! My other group members let me know the community partner we’re working with rearranged the groups and that we had some new kids. They repeated much of the information from the first week and then the kids assigned figurines to the characters. So now in our adaptation, we have Hero as Moana, Claudio as the Hulk, Pedro as Iron Man, Leo as Batman, Ben as Spiderman, and Beatrice as a character from Trolls. Honestly, why not?

Week 2 continued to bring interesting twists to our process. As a group, we created a list of plot points to bring to the meeting, in the hopes that we could share them with the students and ask them to “translate” it into their own words/re-tell the story in their own way. One student read the document we created with the plot points, and it was in this time, that we learned that the student was struggling to pronounce a lot of the words–6th grade, am I right? I did the same thing. Many of the names, in particular, were hard for him, and he called Claudio “Claundido” and Borachio “Borahco”. At first, I wanted to correct him and explain how the words were “really said”, but then I realized that the usage of these different names was really unique to THESE students and THEIR production. For example, if we really seek ways to “decolonize” Shakespeare, one way to do this would be having the narrators say things like “Claundido” and “Borahco” and sharing comments such as, “They got bougie names…”, which was said during our meeting. Just an idea…

Our translation process was a bit slow and we are considering other ways to go about this process, but in the meantime, another idea I had was to incorporate the sentences they said “off-the-record” into the script. For example, the bougie name comment and others like, “That’s a green”, “I think they like each other”, etc. I wonder if this could be part of the way we use their modern, every-day language to help them revamp this story.

The first week, we jumped right in working with the kids. There were only three of them and one had to leave early, so it was a bit awkward… but our group made it work! We showed them a video with an overview of the entire original play and then tried to give them an overview of Act 4 in particular, but I found it difficult because the students kept speaking with each other and it was hard to hear when they were/were not listening to us/engaging with us. I think this was partly because the students were all on in one space together, not on individual devices, and the sound was not ideal. This also just made it hard to find direction and sustain a conversation. Yet, despite these small setbacks, things are going well. The students had a lot of positive energy, which we can use to our advantage, and they had shared many ideas about using these robots they have on-site in the final video. At this point, I think our group needs to create a tentative agenda for our meetings to help give us direction and be efficient while having fun with and getting to know the students!

This was our second week working with the community partners on our Shakespeare project. At first, it was a bit confusing, since the number of kids that we were working with fluctuated from last week. That being said, it seemed like the kids were a bit more prepared to pick up on the material, and by the end of the session, there was a general understanding of what the story was about. This made me wonder though, how can we get the kids to focus more? They are absolutely picking up on the major themes of our scene, but they seem to be stuck on the major themes. We have to find a way to get them to begin creating dialogue and eventually move on to creating their pictures. (We’re still trying to figure out if it will be drawings, robots, or both.)

 

I think that there may be a way though. Perhaps if we were to “gamify” the way that the scene is given to them, we may be able to get better responses. Maybe if we make the writing of the script more like a game, we will be more successful in getting a script ready for whatever art form may have to accompany it.

My group’s second meeting with our community partners was just as productive and fun as the first. To our surprise, we had a few more students join us for this meeting. We began by explaining JSP in more detail for those weren’t in attendance last week. We then focused on the logistics of our virtual project, determining who wants a speaking role and who wants to work on the technical side of our adaptation. Fortunately, we had many volunteers for both of these positions. The students also expressed interest in creating stop-motion style images for the project, along with the use of Legos and action figures.

After getting these technical questions settled, I went through the plot of act 1 very briefly for the students who were not with us last meeting. I was surprised by how much plot information the students retained, especially since they’ve never even read or seen the play. I think this is a testament to how engaged they are during our meetings. Overall, we had the most student participation when we began to decide on character names and personalities. I was happily shocked by the fact that the students so willingly wanted to change Claudio to Claudia, with the further intent of making her “emo.” I support these changes—I think having a girl be the star of the high school’s football team makes our story more interesting and potentially more progressive. Along with the Claudio/Claudia switch, the students basically modernized all of the character names except for Hero, which I found intriguing because it seemed like our class also wanted to keep her name the same. Maybe we can incorporate Hero’s unique name into the script as we begin to write it (maybe it’s a nickname with a relevant backstory). Furthermore, it seemed like the students also wanted the characters to reflect their own interests. For example, one student really wanted at least one character be in the theatre club. I look forward to continuing to draft our abridged script of act 1 and present it to the kids next week!