Unfortunately, we were unable to have our play due to the weather. We were very disappointed, because we knew that a handful of the kids were really looking forward to performing. I have high hopes that if the play did go as planned, it would’ve gone very well. To our surprise, Brandie (our site coordinator) ended up getting a good amount of permission slips back. This was encouraging because it showed students were serious about coming to the play! When we told Brandie that the play would not be on, she immediately asked if we could schedule to do it another time. Considering how enthusiastic the children were, I can only imagine the play would’ve gone well.

I was particularly interested in seeing the OSHER participants play. I do research for Dr. Berry in the psych department who specializes in older adults, and have learned about adult development through that research. From reading the journal entries, it appears as if the OSHER participants were very into the play and had been preparing for weeks.

In terms of how I foresee our part would’ve gone, I anticipated about 15 students showing up. This would’ve been stressful in the beginning, as we would’ve had to completely reassign positions. We would next need to acquaint them with the props. We never had an opportunity to bring the props to practice, so they would probably initially behave poorly with them. Once they settled down, as they usually did, I can imagine they would be ready to go. Since we didn’t have many practices, the scholars didn’t show much emotion and action in how they performed, so I assume they would’ve been more or less reading off the page. However, I do think it would’ve been a very fun experience for them and us! I hope we could figure something out come spring semester to do with the groups!

This week was the last week before the performance. Although we never were able to have the actual performance (as will be discussed in the next post), we still feel as if it was a strong way to end our work with the scholars. When we got to Henderson, the children immediately got into the groups we were in last time. In fact, some even had their scripts and name tags from the week prior. We had a couple of kids missing and a few new ones, but were able to add them in accordingly. I quickly met with my group and, when I felt as if they were doing well, I went over to work with the one scene with two students in it. The section with two students was the only group that didn’t have a group leader (Bridget, Carolina, and I). However, when I went over to them they had been practicing on their own for quite some time. The Lady Macbeth of the two was very interested in the plot, and would stop when reading over the script to ask me what certain things meant. I explained to them what was going on and we discussed how they could add emotion into the scene, as it was the scene right after Macbeth killed Duncan, so emotion would be vital.

After meeting in small groups, we decided to do a run through of our whole section of the play. Since we split our part up, it was important we made transitions smooth. At first, it was difficult to get the students to be respectful and watch each other. As the play went on, they became more interested in watching. While my specific group behaved fairly well, other groups in the room were not as focused. For example, the kids in Bridget’s group were saying how hungry they were and how they didn’t want to be there. I think the contrast between some kids being incredibly into the play, while others wanting nothing to do with it is interesting.

While this was our last time with the kids, I was extremely hopeful for the play that we would’ve put on that Friday.

We had a very successful session with the kids on Monday! We were finally able to place them in roles and begin the rehearsal process. When we first got to Henderson, the children were in the auditorium having an assembly. When our group was asked to come down to the “stage” area, we were a bit concerned at the immediate response. The 5th graders came down to the stage and immediately started running around. They were yelling, playing tag, and rolling on the floor. After a long talking to by our sight supervisor, the kids settled down and allowed us to get started with them.

Luckily, there was a perfect amount of kids who wanted small medium and large parts. We split them up into four groups and the three of us each worked with one group. There is one section of our play with only a Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and those children in that section worked independently. Going through my section of the play, I was surprised at how well the children were able to read and seemingly understand Macbeth. I really wanted to make sure they were understanding what they were reading, as I can imagine putting on a play in a language you can’t understand wouldn’t be too interesting. After explaining our part, the kids in my section immediately got to reading through. We had limited copies of our script, and they started to fight over who got to hold the script. By the end they were sharing nicely and we were able to get through three times. After reading the script once my group discussed adding in sound effects, how they would act out the murder that occurred, etc. Overall, I was impressed at how well the students worked.

The only not so promising aspect of our session was that there had yet to be any permission slips sent out. Since we hadn’t formally met with the children in a few weeks, Henderson said they weren’t aware permission slips were needed. This makes us worried about the outcome of our portion of the show. We are hoping for at least 10 of our students to show up, and also hoping they will be flexible with doing parts that they were not assigned in rehearsal.

Next week, we are going to work with our groups further and try to get a read through together. We will also discuss costumes with the children and the importance of getting the permission slips in!

This week we were unable to meet because of Thanksgiving break. This allowed us more time to prepare for our meeting today with the scholars. We will be grouping the kids and assigning their roles today. I am hoping that the children are cooperative as we have a good amount to get done before December 8th. Once the children are assigned their roles, we will start practicing in smaller groups so that the children can hopefully be more attentive. This also allowed Carolina, Bridget and I to better grasp a section of our part of the script. I went through my “part” of the script and wrote down a summarized version of lines that may be confusing. Hopefully the children have a good enough background on Macbeth (though our previous sessions) that they will understand the context of what is going on. Us three are really working on ways to get the children engaged and focused for this session.

This week at Henderson we got the opportunity to observe the children in their Geography Challenge. We were not told that we wouldn’t be able to meet with the kids directly this week, so we went to Henderson and got to sit in on their Geography Challenge. Watching this activity helped us learn how to instill positivity amongst the kids. As per the teachers rules, even when a kid got the question wrong, the entire crowd applauded them. I would like to use this energy in our next meeting with the 5th graders. I think if we can get them enthusiastic about the Shakespeare project, they will be more willing to cooperate.

To prepare for lasts weeks meeting that we unfortunately didn’t get to have, we had name tags to split the scholars up into groups. There were those who wanted a large, medium, and small part. We went through our script and assigned each character large, medium or small depending on their lines. We were then going to have the children read some Macbeth and then we would assign them accordingly to meet what they wanted and what they were able to do. We hope to still use this method of assignment for next week when we get to meet with the kids.

This week we had a week off of volunteering because the kids had a half day. We used this time to further discuss how to best go about our next couple of sessions. Carolina, Bridget and I are going through our individual assigned “parts” and getting a good grasp on how we would describe what is being said to children. We are hoping that the splitting of the group into 4 sections ends up working out well. However, we are hesitant because we know there are many kids who do not want a big part. I am hoping that once we start going through the script, the children will be more interested in having a larger part.

One thing about Henderson that constantly intrigues me is that one of the teachers there is a Jepson alumni. She has helped us out in our sessions before, but usually we more see her in passing. I would be very interested to have a conversation with her. I would want to know how she took what she learned in Jepson and applied it to her work at Henderson. We have been trying to take our leadership skills and use them as tools to manage the about 25 children we have. Yet, we still continue to struggle with controlling the group. I would be interested to know what the Jepson alum would have to say about what she has learned and what was the most useful coming from Jepson.

This week we were not able to work on the Shakespeare project with the kids, but we had the opportunity to go to Henderson for their harvest festival. We got to work with the kids in a different setting than when we are doing our project. The kids were set in different stations that had halloween themed games. The stations did not all go smoothly, and most kids weren’t doing the “game” correctly. It was reassuring, in a way, that the kids were still poorly behaved even for something that we weren’t running. I think the fact that the event was a high energy, loud music event contributed to the kids actions. This helped us realize that we need to approach our meetings in a calm way in order to mediate their energy.

During our workday we constructed a potential plan for the next few sessions. We cut our part of the play into four parts and will be splitting the kids into four groups. Different parts have differing roles in the play. For example, those who want big parts may want to be either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth in our first part. We are hoping cutting our part of the play up this way will help us better control the kids. We can also focus on one section of our part each in order to get a better hold of what Shakespeare is saying and how to explain that to children.

 

Although I was not at Henderson this week, hearing about the experience from Bridget helped us brain storm ways to lead our upcoming sessions. Bridget was alone during this session, which I could only imagine how hard that must’ve been. There are still around 25 students coming each Monday. In Bridget’s session, she told us how she tried to play many games and get the children to read a script (not Macbeth), but had a very difficult time. Despite all efforts, even using games that you needed to be ‘silent’ for, the children were too riled up. Bridget, Carolina and I discussed how we might proceed moving forward. We think that next week we will split the group up into three. We will try to have an equal distribution in each group with kids who do and don’t want big parts. Then, we will assign these groups parts and each of us will be in charge of the individual group. This way, there will be less distractions for the kids and we can get to know them more personally. We also can then focus on specific acts in our scenes that we are assigned. Another thing we brought up was making sure we are strict right off the bat. Bridget described how she had to take away a couple of phones and separate some kids. If we are strict in the beginning of the session on no talking and ┬áno phones, then we will hopefully gain more respect.

Week two at Henderson left us again feeling fairly similar to last time. This week, we received a positive response from the children, but were a bit overwhelmed by how many children we had and having to control them. We begin the session by trying to play a name game in which the children made hand movements and said each others names. This game did not go as planned, as the children took too long to try to decide who they wanted to “choose” as the next person to name. We then tried another game involving an imaginary object. In this game, the children would pretend to be using an object, and then pass that object to another student who would transform the object to their own (for example I would be motioning myself putting on a hat, and I would pass it to Bridget and she would transform it into a sandwich). The point of this game was to get creative and get the children using their bodies to represent objects. While this activity went better, the children still were not quiet and it was difficult to get around the room. After the games, we showed a different Macbeth video from the last time, and we were surprised at how much the children remembered. We spent some time explaining to the children what our Act consisted of and which characters they will choose from. At one point, we explained to them that both boys and girls could be Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, to which they were surprised but open to it. My favorite part of the session was when we asked the children for knock-knock jokes (this is what we will be doing for the Porter scene) and one child made a knock knock joke having to do with Macbeth! This just demonstrated how well they were listening and understanding what we were explaining. I am looking forward to see how this group progresses. However, I am also worried that the students will be very caught off guard when they realize how difficult it is to understand Shakespeare. I hope that we will be able to explain to him this language as best we can, and they can get involved and enjoy themselves.

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!