Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Middle School Theatre: Why I Love Google Drive

There is nothing more exciting than finding a tool that I can share with my students that actually works!  I find that Google Drive has been amazing for keeping up with all that I do at work (and personally), and my students can easily use this tool.

How I Use Google Drive in My Theatre Classroom

Most kids (and parents!) question why we have to write in theatre.  Not only is drama a genre of literature, but performance is the analysis and study of writing and the human condition.  When it comes to getting middle school students to write in an elective, it's important to start out small and work your way up.  I start with daily warm ups, short monologues, and short scenes.  My advanced class by far does the most writing.  I teach them modern oratory as we prepare for our speech contest.  I would only do this unit for this class as they are competition-driven and want to be in the class.

Modern oratory, for those that don't know, is a 3-6 minute long speech written by the student about one of the given UIL topics.  Students must define the problem, determine the pro and con issues, research the issue, look at both sides of an issue, reach a conclusion, and support that conclusion with documentation.

This means we will need methods of finding such research.  That's where technology comes into play.  My school has a few carts with Chromebooks, so I checked out one for a week and a few days.  I gave the students a few days to research their topic online, copy and paste their articles into a Google Doc in a shared folder, then discuss their research with students who chose the same topic.

First, I created a folder just for Advanced Theatre Arts.  Then I shared this folder with every student in the class.  Then I created a folder for each unit so it would be organized.

Students submitted their research through Google Classroom, and typed their speech on a document in the shared folder.  This way I was able to see them working on it live, see if they worked on it at home, and give them live suggestions as they wrote.

I love this feature about Google Docs the most!  I can keep my students accountable and give them instant feedback.  Throughout class I would hear students say, "I see you on my speech, Ms. Korth!" and it would motivate them to work.  Or, "Thanks for the suggestion!" It saved me time, as well, from having to print and read all 18 of their papers and make corrections by hand after school.  I read them and made corrections as they worked.  

I could also print them from my computer, which is already tied to the printer, when I felt they were ready.  We only needed to print the final draft so they could annotate and memorize for the performance.  Google absolutely made this project so much smoother than hand-writing, and my kids who have a tougher time writing found it an easy mode of doing so.

I also love Google for auditions.  I have a separate folder for each unit and each production that I do.  Instead of printing out an unknown set of copies of the audition forms and contracts, I had students scan a QR code or go to the URL for the Google Form to sign up.  I added at the bottom of the contract that students agree to said contract by signing up.  All of their info is sent to a spreadsheet so I can number and organize and make notes during auditions, then have that information for students who make the cast.  It's such a breeze!

My school has really pushed to have assignments and lessons online, so I have been using Google Classroom since it's password protected.  Students must use their school district Google log in to access your classroom (or personal if you have them set up their own accounts).  I post all kinds of things, like the link to the Daily Warm Up questions on a Google Slide, or screen caps of their interactive notebook lesson for the day, and especially make up assignments if they miss a performance or day.

Google has definitely been a time saver for this busy theatre director and has made life easier for both me and my students.  I encourage you to play around with this fabulous tool if your district has not implemented it yet.  My students also use Google Slides and other apps when we use iPads for presentations of information.

I love new technology and finding ways to make teaching and learning easier!

Happy Googling!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Middle School Theatre Arts: Teach Every Procedure

Let's face it: middle school is tough.  It's tough on the students, parents, and teachers alike.  It really does take a special person to reach out to these kids and be their champion.  How can you make life easier in your middle school classroom?  Teach every procedure!

I use CHAMPS, as most schools do these days, from Safe and Civil Schools.  Students need to know exactly what to do, down to every specific detail.  Take the entire first week of school to go over your procedures.  I know, it's exhausting going through this seven times a day, but they really need it and going over these procedures will help your classroom run smoothly so you have time to focus on individuals in your classes.

I created CHAMP posters for 4 classroom situations in my theatre room.

1. Instruction CHAMP. For those days when I'm teaching and they are note-taking.

2. Group Work CHAMP. Most of my curriculum is group-based, so we spend most of our time working in groups.

3. Rehearsal CHAMP. Middle school students do not know what it means to practice, especially theatre.  This will help you teach what rehearsal should look and sound like.  I also use activity rubrics as daily grades to make sure they are following this CHAMP.

4. Performance CHAMP. Audience etiquette!!  Super important for in-class performances, also for outside of class!

I use interactive notebooks, so I had them write the CHAMP poster for rehearsal in their notebooks.  Now, when I say, "Rehearse your monologue" they know what they should be doing.

I added these documents to my TeachersPayTeachers page: Ms Korth's Theatre Arts Classroom

I'm also going to upload these files in Theatrefest Friends on Facebook.

Remember to display them in your room and refer to them before you start.  It also helps to stop a lesson midway through and "Champ it out" if it gets out of control.  I use these procedures to document discipline, as well.  If a student habitually disobeys one of the CHAMPS, then I start them on the discipline track.

Cheers and happy CHAMPing!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Middle School Theatre Arts: Grading Made Easy!

I realize that my last post about Theatrefolk podcasts seems a bit rushed.  It was very rushed; I tried to blog on my conference.  HA!  I tried to be productive on my conference; imagine that.  I've decided if I'm going to write a coherent and helpful post I should wait until I'm not at school.  Also, we've started our musical (Legally Blonde, Jr.!) so I'm hoping my posts won't disappear.  No promises.

I had an interactive notebook quiz last week with all seven of my classes.  In the past, they were quizzed over their warm ups and it was a disaster.  I would ask what the entry was for four different dates and they would be writing the entire period and many failed because, let's face it, middle school students do not do warm ups.  My school loves them, and I do, too, because they help to focus the kids and give them a task to do before and after the tardy bell so I can deal with issues before we start each class.  Anyway... I don't want my kids to fail and putting so much weight on a warm up was not efficient.  Instead, I am quizzing them on their interactive notebook.  It's an open-notes quiz, and multiple choice.  Instead of writing the entire period, they fill in a bubble on an answer document.  Instead of spending too much time grading, I hold the answer document up to the camera on my laptop and it grades it for me!  How, you ask?


This little website is amazing!  First you must create an account.  I always use my school information when creating an account, that way I will always know it.

When you log in, your dashboard looks like this:

You must add all of your students.  This seems daunting, but many gradebooks have an export feature.  My district uses GradeSpeed and this link is on the left.  You must click this link for each period and section you teach.  It will automatically go to your Downloads folder.

In GradeCam, click on Classes and add a new one.  Import your students through the file you created and hit next until they are all there.  Do this for every class.  It seems tedious, but it's worth it.

Once all of your classes are made, create an assignment.  Make sure you create a key that is accurate!

To print forms for students, click on Forms.  There are different options for the choices and such.  I printed four copies, then cut and taped them to one paper and made several copies from there and use a paper cutter to cut them.  Saves paper.

When students take the quiz or assignment, they must bubble in their GradeCam ID, which is the same as the last four digits of their ID that was imported with your roster.  TIP: have them also write their name on the top.  We know them by name, not numbers.  So much easier when handing back.

Students can use pencil or pen.  When you're ready to grade, click on the assignment and correct class period, and hold the answer document up to the camera until it makes a little noise. Viola!  Graded!  When I enter them into my district gradebook, I make each browser small and put them next to each other and just enter the grades.  BAM!  They are done in a few minutes!  I cannot express how much time and paper and stress this little tool has saved me and it's only been one quiz!

For absent students, I place the class set of the questions with extra answer documents in a labeled folder in the dish rack I have next to the bookshelf.  When a student presents me with an excused slip and asks what they missed, I can easily give them the documents and they can take the quiz in the hall.  I can grade it in seconds and the grade is saved online to enter in later.

This can be used for quizzes, tests, take home assignments, etc.

We all need more time, and GradeCam gives us a bit more in our busy educator lives.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Middle School Theatre: Easy Professional Development!

This will be a quick and simple post, and maybe more of free advertising.  One of my favorite things to do while on my conference period is to put on a theatre podcast in the background as I work.  Theatrefolk has amazing podcasts just for drama teachers.  Thank you, Lindsay Price, for these little gems.  I also download a few on my phone for the trips to Houston during the holidays to visit family.  Even if it's something I may already use in the classroom, it's good to hear other perspectives or hear other drama teachers doing what I'm doing.  Most of us are the only drama educators on our campus, and most of the time our administration taught core subjects and stay away from the arts.  I find this podcast to be helpful and I feel supported.  We are not the only ones!

My absolute favorite podcast has to be the Mission Statement lesson.  I used this podcast to create a lesson plan for my advanced class in which they created a mission statement for our program.  Here's our mission statement:

You can find the link to the podcast here.

What podcasts do you like to listen to as theatre teachers?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Theatre Arts Interactive Notebooks: Day 1

Technically, it's the third day of school. But let's be honest: the first day is a blur and the second day everyone is hungover from the fury of the first day. I only introduce myself and play name games with them and let them know what supplies they will need.

Today, the third day, we went over class rules and procedures and began our nifty little interactive notebooks! It's never too soon to start, and I can already pin point the kiddos who will get a schedule change next week.

First, I started collecting notebooks the first and second days. I took a daily grade today if they had it. If they don't, it remains a zero until they have it.

Here is how I store them in the room: separate bins for each period. 

I have supply bins for each table. I asked students to bring glue, either to keep in their pencil case or to put in the supply bin.

To begin the notebooks, I had my theatre I kids skip the first page. I'll have them do an "About Me" page/collage there. Theatre II and III got a worksheet I found on Pinterest called "50 Things I Love". They worked on that the first day as they got to know or chatted with each other. I had them fold it in half and glue it in the first page. They can use it for writing or improv ideas throughout the year.

I am doing every page with them and have four sections, so four notebooks. It helps me gauge how long cutting and glueing should take as I teach and if a student is absent they can use mine as a reference when doing make up work.

We turned to the first page spread and began the Table of Contents on the left hand side.

We turned the page and added the Class Syllabus on the left, and did class rules and procedures on the right. Beginners could glue the syllabus in, but intermediate and advanced need a parent signature so they are taking bit home. When it is signed, they turn in the signed page and glue in the top paper here. I found the class rules and procedures on Pinterest, which is linked from Teachers Pay Teachers. (Free)

I copied them on colored paper, but ran out so my examples are white. I just colored them with a colored pencil. We filled out each flap as a class. I use a document camera to project my notebook as I work on it.

It took the entire 45 minutes to get this lesson done. I am excited to have meaningful notes in theatre this year. Overall they were received well and 6th-8th graders can keep up with the motor skills. I also offer morning work time before school for kids who need to catch up. 

I will use GradeCam to quiz them and will
Blog about it when it happens.

Until next time, happy notebooking!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How I Set Up My Middle School Theatre Classroom

I'm beginning my fourth year of teaching this year and finding that I am adding and  improving things every year. It can only get better, I think!

I am almost ready for my students; just a few things to add or clean. Ignore my desk; it's a dumping ground right now.

I am lucky to have a great black box for my teaching and learning space. I have 5 beginning classes, one intermediate, and one advanced class.

I also have a storage closet and small office. The computer hook up for the sound system and projector is in the classroom, so I also have a desk outside of the office. I find that I don't really spend time in the office. (Only to cry, which hasn't happened in the last year!) Inspend most of my time in the classroom space. 

I have a word wall near the door with large word. These are words that we use frequently or or frequently misspelled.

My students loved to write their birthday all over my dey erase events calendar and it got out of hand last year. I have a separate space for them to show everyone when their birthday is. The cabinets have interp pieces and lesson plans, as well as "Indepndent Theatre" assignments. This is book work for kids who missed a performance or go to ISS or AMS. I copy these at the beginning of the year and pull them as needed. The book shelf is organized for students to check out materials with the iPad on a a Google form, and my CHAMPS posters are displayed. I rarely had to refer to them last year, which was great. I am storing interactive notebooks in the colored bins, and the turquoise bins are for papers that need to be handed back or scripts left behind. I really want a bright fuzzy rung over here, but I have to see ify students can handle it.

I have a place to turn in papers, class rules, rewards and consequences, and a dry erase calendar. I also have a dish rack that Inise for the unit's assignments for absent students and a place for found pencils to go. 

I have to keep the stage curtains behind the objectives board because idle school kids will not resist the temptation to play with them otherwise. The table has five student laptops and bins for interactive notebook supplies. The bins are numbered for each table, which has a number. I always have assigned seats at the beginning of the year to establish structure and usually stop using them depending on class behavior. Don't forget a giant lost and found bin! I find my theatre kids are always leaving stuff behind.

Near my office I display information about our district speech contests and NSDA points and certificates up on the ledge.

It's taken me four years to get to this point and each year I add or change something so I can be more efficient and teach my students more effectively.

We will be starting interactive notebooks next week so I will update on the process when we get there.

Good luck to all educators out there was you prepare for another year of shaping and molding the minds of the future generation! Take care of yourselves, as well as your students.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Favorite One-Pot Meal

I love to cook, but I love it even more when it all goes in one pan/pot and lightens the cleaning. My favorite one-pot meal is chili! There are several ways to make this and that's probably why I love it. I make it differently each time based on what ingredients I have or want to add. My parents have a great chili recipe that is so different from this one, but it's not football season without the Noodle Chili.

I will try to record what I made tonight:

Kasey's One-Pot Chili

1-2 lbs ground beef or turkey
2 gloves garlic, finely diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 hatch chiles, finely chopped (when in season!)
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 can beans (I used a large can of black beans)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (I didn't have any tonight and it was still delicious)
1 tablespoon of cumin, chili powder, and paprika each
1 teaspoon ground chipotle (or more if you want more smoke flavored)
1 tablespoon of cooking oil (I use coconut)
Salt and pepper

Toppings: shredded Mexican blend cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream, cilantro

Heat oil in large pot or deep skillet on medium heat. Add garlic, chiles, jalapeño, and onion. Cook a few minutes then add ground meat.  Cook meat until brown. Add spices and stir. Drain tomatoes and beans and add them to the skillet. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

This can be a rather high calorie meal so watch your serving size. I like to eat this meal for dinner after a running day. The protein in the meat, beans, and cheese is great for recovery.

I'm not sure how long it took me to make this tonight, but the longest part is chopping everything.  I would guess this is a quick 30 minute meal and my large skillet is full so it could definitely feed at least four people. Since it's only Patrick and me, that means leftovers for days!! :)


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Favorite Recipe: Banana Ice Cream

I've decided to post some of my favorite recipes here as of late.  I have gotten on the Paleo kick and really enjoy the cooking options and how I feel after meals.  I try to have three meals a day without snacking to control calorie intake, but I do like healthy treats now and then!  Here's my favorite cool snack: Banana Ice Cream

Banana Ice Cream

What you need:

  • food processor
  • frozen bananas (1-2)
  • anything you would like to add to the bananas for flavor.  Options are not limited to: unsweetened cocoa powder, peanut butter or PB2, honey or agave nectar, etc.
Break the frozen bananas into small pieces and blend them in the food processor for a few minutes until they are smooth.  Blend in any flavor additives you would like.  Enjoy! 

1 serving usually equals one banana for adults, 1/2 of a banana for kids.

If you are watching calories, watch your flavor additives!  They can pack unwanted sugar and calories.  There are plenty of healthy options out there, though.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Interactive Notebook Ideas for Middle School Theatre Arts

I'm in my third year of teaching middle school theatre and finally feeling like I'm not constantly drowning.  I've had my students complete a bell-ringer/warm up assignment in a notebook for the last two and half years so they can learn concepts and focus on theatre while I take care of housekeeping tasks and learning is still happening.  I've decided my goal for next year is to implement interactive notebooks in my classroom and change the formatting of my bell-ringers.

Interactive notebooks are not new to me; I saw them in use by the wonderful elementary teachers I worked with as a special ed assistant.  I recently took a workshop at TETA Theatrefest about the notebooks, which sparked my interest.  I love colors and note-taking, but I also see how some kids don't like this.  I, however, feel it would be a great way for them to learn concepts and complete assignments without loose-leaf paper.  It can be something they are proud of with drawings, colors, and stickers.

I kept the notebook I received at the TETA workshop and I started creating sample lessons for middle school theatre at all levels.  Below are some of the ideas I've come up with:

Here's the cover.  I know; it's simple.  The workshop instructor made a good point when she said glued on images fray and fall off through the year.  A simple cover with the student's name and class period works.  These notebooks should be kept in the classroom, sorted by period.

These two pages showcase a lesson about how our bi-annual speech tournaments work in my district.  I used foldables and sticky notes to have students understand how sectioning works and which events to pick.  I always have them create a goal they want to achieve so they can focus on that as they prepare for the tournament.

This is a Theatre I lesson on stage directions.  Have them paste in the grid and fill it out as a class.  You could use stickies and foldables, as well.

 The above photo is a section about the UIL one act play unit set pieces.  I teach in Texas, and UIL one act play contest = life!  My job at the middle school level is to teach them the basics and give them experience with the contest before they go to high school.  Our district contest is competitive and so much fun at the middle school level.

This is a lesson teaching the critique process for theatre, musicals, and film.  Later in the notebook I can have them write a page-long, paragraph form critique based on this lesson.

Envelopes are a fun idea! Students can keep show tickets in one throughout the year, and in this improv lesson they can keep character idea cards for when we play improv games.  I also includes foldables for CROW and the Four Rules (Tina Fey!) of improv.

You can also use foldables for Character Analysis, External/Internal Characteristics, The Rehearsal Process, playwrights, careers, vocabulary, etc.

I know several teachers on my campus deal with warm ups and bell-rings differently.  Some flip the notebook over and have them record the warm ups in the notebook that way.  I've created a weekly template to use next year. They will keep it in their binder and turn it in every Friday.  When it's graded they can cut out the warm up template and glue it on the next clean page in their notebook for reference. Open notes quizzes can be given.

I've seen the idea of sawing composition books in half for smaller notebooks, and I think I will do that for rehearsal notebooks for my after school shows.  They are small enough to keep with their scripts and they don't need a ton of space for their individual notes.

Bookmarks can be added with tape and a ribbon on the back cover.

The possibilities are endless with interactive notebooks. There are plenty of free resources online, especially Pinterest.

Happy notebooking!