Today, we had our third practice with the OSHER participants. At the beginning of practice we needed to print our scripts because a few people didn’t have them. Technology was not on my side today. The printer ran out of paper and the computer was being slow. Thankfully the participants were patient while the scripts were bring printed!

We had a new participant join our group today which was exciting. We had casted last week though so it required us to do new casting today. I was impressed how everyone was willing to be accommodating. I feel as though I am getting a glimpse into theater on how there are always moving parts and you cannot expect things not to change. We have not had a week where participants having changed so I am excited to see if this is our final cast.

Today, we did a run through with everyone playing their parts. I was very impressed with their ability to get into character and put emotion into their parts. Many of them got very into their part and started working on their acting. Next time, we will start blocking. We gave them the homework of familiarizing themselves with their lines and thinking about what kind of emotion they want to put into their part.

At the end of practice, we started to discuss what kinds of props and costumes we would like to use. This will be an ongoing conversation we have as we keep on working with the script. Right now, we have decided on capes, drums, and trumpet among a few other things. Everyone always has lots of questions and it is great to see them excited about the project! I am looking forward to starting to block our act.

After our first meeting with Henderson Higher Achievement, I look forward to following Monday night sessions with these students. Our first meeting definitely exceeded my expectations. I expected to be in a classroom with around ten students. I assumed it would be primarily girls and a few outgoing boys. I had hoped at least six of them would have had a slight interest in acting, while the other four would let the idea of acting grow as they watched their peers. However, I walked into the auditorium of Henderson to twenty five RAMBUNCTIOUS fifth graders. They were bouncing out of their seats. They would raise their hand and stand up and wiggle their fingers to try to reach their arm higher than the student next to them. I was so excited by their excitement. While I thought our biggest challenge would be participation, I now think it will be to calm them down.

The first thing we did with the scholars was introduce ourselves and show a video of Macbeth. They were really quick to catch a three minute animated summary of the story. We had students call out what they remembered from the play and we asked them to help us piece together the story. In a short three minute video, they concluded that Macbeth killed everyone to become the king, and that he was motivated by himself, his wife, and the three witches. I was shocked by how well they were able to come to this conclusion.

We played the name game with them next, which looking back was definitely not the best way to learn their names. To get through twenty five fifth graders, it is impossible to keep everyone’s attention. We were thankful to have the Henderson organizers with us to help regain their attention. I felt bad because they were yelled at and warned multiple times to be quiet or they would get sent home. We simply could have chosen a better way to do this that would minimize losing their attention. However, we told them that if they paid attention and got through the name game, we would show them the video of Macbeth again. We did, and it allowed them to further understand the story line.

The next thing we did with them was play Bullfrog. They loved this game! This helped show us who was going to be loud and take on a lead role, and who had no interest in speaking. The first time around, a handful of scholars just pretended to die, even though no bullfrog stuck their tongue out. We told them we were going to stop playing if they did that again and soon we had them playing four rounds.

We ended the session by wrapping up what we did with them, and told them to talk about the play at home if they were interested in sharing it. The next class session, we look forward to seeing who remembers the story and if anyone would like a bigger role. We will work at gaining their respect and controlling their behavior early on, and find more games to play that allow the scholars to come out of their shell.

Our first week at Henderson Higher Achievement was encouraging yet a bit overwhelming. We were greeted at Henderson by our site contacts, who lead us to the group we would be working with. To our surprise, we had 25 5th graders in our group. Despite the initial fear of dealing with 25 5th graders, towards the end of the hour we were encouraged by how enthusiastic the kids were about Shakespeare.

We began our session with one of the short youtube Macbeth videos. After watching the videos the children wanted to hear more about Macbeth (mostly due to all the death that occurred in the video). We then started asking the kids questions about what they picked up from the video, just to see what they were retaining. After the first video we played a name game in which we were able to quickly see some children were more willing to speak than others. We also got a feel of the group we were working with. Throughout this game we had to stop multiple times to settle the children down.

After the name game we watched the video again- as per the request of the kids. We told them to keep some things in mind and explained how we would only be doing a section of the whole story. We tried to get them to hone in on things happening in our Act. The children were much more respectful and quiet this time around, and we realized that we may need to be a bit stern with them.

Lately, we played the “bull frog” game with the kids. They absolutely loved this! Again, we ran into the problem of having over-enthusiastic/energetic kids. In fact, in the first round of the game the bull frog wasn’t doing anything and the children were just acting out dying by themselves. After we established the rules, the game ran very smoothly. It was a great ice breaker and a way for us to see what kids may want to have bigger roles.

Overall, the experience at Henderson middle school was positive. Our site coordinator said that the kids were most likely especially rowdy that day because they had not seen in each other in a while. She reassured us that them acting that way was not normal and they would settle down. I am excited to see how the rest of the days play out at Higher Achievement!

I was unsure of what to expect my first week at Henderson-Higher Achievement as a part of the Jepson Shakespeare project. Last year, I served as a study hall aid/mentor at Henderson but I knew this experience would be very different. It was comforting to see a few familiar faces of Henderson staff upon our arrival Monday night. Jessie, Bridget and I had an overwhelming group of thirty kids eagerly waiting our instruction in the auditorium.

We excitedly introduced ourselves to the group and began to explain the Jepson Shakespeare Project/what they would be a part of for the next few weeks. To get to know our scholars, we had them each introduce themselves by sharing their name and if they could be an animal, which they would be. This was a bit challenging as there were thirty of them and they struggle to listen to each other/have smaller conversations. After we were able to get through all of the introductions, we then showed the scholars a short summary video of Macbeth. They found it entertaining and began to ask a multitude of questions. I was surprised at how many characters they picked up and the depth to which they retained the main plot from the three minute video we showed. Afterward, we were able to point out the section of the play our group specifically would be performing. By showing them the summary and our part, they were able to start thinking of characters they would be interested in playing.

Next, we decided to have the scholars play the bullfrog game. They loved this game and had so much fun playing it. Even one of the Henderson-Higher Achievement staff participated. At first, they were a bit confused on the rules and a few kids (that were not the murderer) stuck their tongues outs to be funny. As the game went on, they were able to focus more, improve eye contact and use their acting skills to fake their deaths. It also inspired many of them to volunteer to play the murderers in Macbeth!

In conclusion, the first week went well. In the coming weeks, it will be difficult to maintain all thirty students on task. I don’t think they will listen to us all the time, but if we continue to use strategies given to us during the Higher Achievement orientation I know it will get easier. We were also told the scholars are still catching up with one another as the Higher Achievement program is a mix of different schools in the area. This will pass by next week or the following. I’m glad the scholars are excited and I’m looking forward to this coming week’s rehearsal!