Thursday, August 18, 2016

Non-teaching Tips for First Year Theatre Teachers

Congratulations!  You got the job!  Your dream job!  You've been through new teacher orientation, staff development on your campus, and met a ton of new people.  Your students will be walking through those doors in just a few days.  You've been trained on teaching techniques, and behavior techniques.  Your passion for theatre runs in your veins.  You're so ready!

Returning teachers: finish your fruity, frozen drink, put away the swimsuit and floaties, and try to find your school ID badge.  It's time to inspire a new group of shiny students!  These tips could work for us returners, too.  As I was drafting this post, I realized that these tips are good reminders for myself, as well. We know that the day-to-day can be really hectic with all that we do.  It's good to step back and take it all in, and take care of ourselves.

The following are tips for new (and old!) teachers that have nothing to do with instruction, because let's face it: instruction only covers a percentage of what we do every day.

1. Buy a large, long-lasting water bottle.  I have a 32 oz bottle that I refill throughout my day.  Staying hydrated helps fight fatigue, headaches, and the grumps.

2. Train yourself to use the bathroom once a day.  I'm not kidding.  Last year, I had a morning conference, so between 11:20 and 5:30 I had to sprint to the bathroom if I had to go.  Those teacher memes about the bathroom are not jokes.  They are true.

3. Make sure you have a microwave and refrigerator near your room/black box/office/auditorium.  Lunch is precious, precious time and you don't want to waste it walking across campus to the lunch room.

4.  On that note: bring a lunch and sit down and eat it.  I mean it!  Preferably with other adults with whom you can engage in an adult conversation with.  Fellow middle school teachers: trust me on this.  You need a break from adolescents in your day, no matter how much you may enjoy them.  (Confession: sometimes I don't have food to bring, or I didn't have time to pack a lunch, so I get a tray in the cafeteria.  Some schools have a great lunch program; others do not.  Investigate first before it's too late!)  Also, keep plastic silverware, plates, and paper towels in your office.

5.  Don't wear your school shirt to happy hour on Fridays.

6. Keep healthy snacks in your office/desk.  Our days are long, and lunch times vary.  Our last lunch doesn't start until 12:20.  I would DIE if I had to wait that long between breakfast and lunch.  (for some reason I can make it from 11:30am-8pm with rehearsal and a workout before I get hungry.  Go figure.)

7.  Have instant coffee/a Keurig/tea.  I think scientific studies have been done that indicate humans need a siesta in the afternoon.  That's why it's the "afternoon slump".  Mine always hit during 6th period, with three classes, rehearsal, and a workout to go.  Caffeine in any amount is very helpful.

8.  Attend as many meetings on campus as you can.  Be visable.  Work with other teachers on campus.  Don't hide away and be forgotten.  Attend staff parties and happy hours.  Do Secret Santa at least one year.  Treat the office staff like queens (or kings), give treats to your custodians.  Participate in a pep rally.  Do the "non-theatre" fun stuff on your campus.  You are not an island; you are a part of a community.

9. SLEEP.  I confess that this is something I struggle with during the school year, and I LOVE sleeping.  I slept a lot this summer and I don't regret it.  My body needed it.  I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere sleep studies have shown that you can't "store" up sleep that you missed, but man it sure feels good!  One of my goals this year is to go to bed at a certain hour (especially during my peak running training).  It's so hard to multitask and not be grumpy when your body is lacking sleep.  Lack of sleep also leads to missed workouts and bad food choices, which leads me to...

10.  Make healthy food choices.  I'm not saying you should do a Whole 30 or even count calories.  Eat more fruit instead of processed food.  Avoid fast food on those evenings when you are just bone tired.  Mental exhaustion feels like physical exhaustion, but you can still muster up the energy to eat better to keep your body functioning the way it should.  Without that, how can you be there for your students?  Along those lines, schools and teacher's lounges are filled with junkie goodies.  For example, the first day of training we had candy scattered on our tables.  Tomorrow, the PTA is providing donuts.  (YUM!  You know I'm going to eat one, but the key here is ONE.)  It's ok to say no to free junk food.

The bottom line is: Take care of yourself.  We give so much to our students (it's THE reason why we go to work every day).  It's so easy to forget about taking care of yourself in this profession.  But, if we teachers don't take care of ourselves, how can we be at our best for our students?  Veteran teachers, I hope this was a helpful reminder for you, as well.

We have such an important job.  Do little things to make sure you are the best that you can be every day, from August to June!

It kind of feels like Christmas, doesn't it?  New school supplies, new clothes, new scripts, new faces.  Drink some night time tea and get to bed early, and have a GREAT school year!



Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Howdy!  Only a few days left to soak up the summer!  (And I'm working from home; it never really ends, does it?)

My goal this summer was to blog like crazy and add more to my TeachersPayTeachers account.  (As a runner, I need a little extra change to pay for new gear and races...)  Guess what I didn't do?  Blog and get on TeachersPayTeachers.  Sigh.

Well, I got on today and added the CHAMPS posters I tried to share in Google last year.  I updated the link in that post, as well.  You can find them here: CHAMPS posters

I also added a Melodrama Playwriting planning sheet that I use with 7th and 8th graders in the spring.  Middle schoolers are all about melodrama and they LOVE it!  It includes the elements you must have to make it a true melodrama, and a timeline at the end for both students and the teacher to keep track of the writing project.  I gave them three weeks to write (or type.  We use Google Drive.), then three-four weeks to produce their work.  They LOVE writing and producing their own scenes!

I'm going through my files right now to see what else I can add to the store before school starts that would be beneficial to all theatre educators, veterans and newbies.

What resources are you looking for the most?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Teacher Burn Out: It's Real!

Howdy, folks.

I haven't posted anything since January.  It is now July.  Fellow teachers, you already know what I'm about to say: life is hectic as a teacher in the spring, no matter how many years you have under your belt.

January brings new challenges in my world: we jump right into our One Act Play contest rehearsals, and that's all I can think about until March.  Spring break hits, and I lose my drive.  The kids are antsy.  It's getting hot outside.  They can't bare to turn in any assignments, even the easy ones.

I wanted to write a complete post about how Interactive Notebooks worked for me this year.  I took pictures of how the storage area became a mess and stayed a mess all year long even with classroom jobs.  I don't even know where those pictures are right now.

Here's the deal with Interactive Notebooks in middle school theatre:  The idea is nice, and admin loves it, but it just doesn't work well if that's what you are basing your curriculum around.  I found out that I wanted to fit as much as possible into those notebooks, and by February we were all sick of them.  I kept supply tubs at each table with glue, scissors, rulers (aka swords), colored pencils and markers.  By Thanksgiving they looked terrible and I needed to reorder supplies.  Middle school kids will fiddle with everything they see, so those tubs lived on my bookshelf for most of the second semester.

Even though kids kept their notebooks in their class period's bin, they still lost them. (!!!!!!)

I want to continue with the notebooks, but here's what I'm going to change:

Don't fit all the notes into one semester.  It's ok to take half the notes one day, the other half the next.  Hey, you could even ask kids what they remember to keep them in engaged in the unit!  My theatre I kids this coming year will take the same amount of notes, but spread out throughout the year.  My need to get them ready for contest makes me rush through the notes and students hated it.

Add more opportunities for students to reflect and evaluate in their notebooks.  We had plenty of room in notebooks at the end of the year, so I pledge to give them more opportunities to reflect and evaluate in their own words.  I used to be really good at getting gets to evaluate performances and reflect on them.  I don't know what happened, but this year I felt their writing about theatre hadn't improved.

My returning students will already have the basic notes from last year, so they will definitely have less writing.  (And I can create assignments based on their notes for when I have a sub!!)  I packed up all of the notebooks in May, and come August I will unpack them and recycle those who are not in the class any longer.

Another thing that did not work again this year was getting students to do their warm ups.  In previous years, their notebooks were warm up books. They would write a paragraph or vocab word as their warm up in their notebooks.  Many students didn't do it, or lost their notebooks (in the classroom again), which is why I moved to interactive notebooks and I changed my warm ups.  They were a question with a short answer each day, written on a paper Monday-Friday, turned in every Friday.  Students did not even do this simple task, and I put them on my website.  Many students earned a C because their warm up was a daily grade every week.

Y'all, I even had an entire class that would not do active theatre games/activites, NOR would they sit and do worksheets!  They sat and did nothing all year!!  I got burned out from trying to motivate this class every day.  What can I do with a group of middle school students who don't respond to any type of activity or lesson?  I don't like to just put movies on; that's not my style.  But every day, that class wore on me.

So, after taking a good long break from even thinking about school, I think I am ready to dive back into it and try to retool my classroom, yet again, because that's what teachers do.  We are always trying new things to engage our students and help them grow.  I want my theatre students to grow academically, so I will not take writing out of my curriculum.  However, I know they need more hands-on, active learning.  As a teacher, that type of learning in the middle school environment is hard to monitor and control.  I will spend the rest of my summer figuring out how to do just that.

Sorry for the lack of posts.
Sorry for no pictures in this one.  (ain't nobody got time for that in the spring semester).

I'm going to direct you to my TeachersPayTeachers page where I have my "Make Your Own Lesson Plan Book" documents on sale until Saturday, and I will be adding more resources to my store in the upcoming weeks, as well.

Ms. Korth's Theatre Classroom and Other Tools

I hope my fellow educators are getting the rest and family time they need to be the best they can be for their students in August!  Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Career and College Prep in Middle School Theatre

I don't know about you, but I am feeling the pressure to include more obvious college and career prep lessons in my curriculum lately.  Administration and parents love to hear that children are being offered this kind of instruction and support these days, but they do not realize they are already receiving it in their Fine Arts electives.  It's not in an obvious way, but the skills we teach in theatre directly pertain to college and life skills.

In Texas, the standards require that we teach theatre careers to older grades.  This year I had my advanced class (7th and 8th grade) create a theatre resume and I took a "headshot" (they ended up calling them mugshots) and laminated it to put on the wall next to their resumes.  This is something I saw my  high school director do with his advanced kids as they prepared for college, prep school, or a career.  Since schools are forcing kids to think about their future as early as 6th grade (!) I figured my kids could do their resumes, too.  My advanced kids participate in every production in some shape or form and are required to attend our speech contests, so they had plenty to put on their resumes.  I checked out a cart of chromebooks and had them do the assignment in Google Docs in a shared folder.  I can monitor their progress, give them feedback, and print the final product.  Easy.  This three days, starting with an interactive notebook lesson on jobs in theatre.

The next project I had them do was partner up and research a job in theatre, using local theatres as an example.  They had a week to research, analyze, and create a poster to present to the class on their career.  The poster had to be sturdy enough to be displayed to my other classes, and they did an assignment on this "Career Fair" while I had a sub.

Here's the finished Career Fair! (as you can see, one group didn't realize they were under a deadline...)

I've included the lesson plan, rubric, and PowerPoint for this lesson on my TeachersPayTeachers store for FREE!  It won't be free for long, though! Click HERE for Careers in Theatre Unit!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016


TeachersPayTeachers is a great collaboration and sharing site for teachers.  I just set up my own account to sell a few things I've created.  I've added documents for the Make Your Own Lesson Plan Book that I blogged about last year and still make!

Check it out if you want to customize the way you organize your days.  It's not just for Theatre educators, but the weekly template has the Theatre TEKS on it that you can take off.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Why a Good Website is Important for a Theatre Director

Did you notice how I said "Theatre Director" instead of "teacher"?  That was on purpose. We not only teach 5-7 classes a day, but we also have after school activities nearly every single day that vary throughout the year.  Districts are also pushing technology use for students in every classroom, including the arts.  A good website is a very important tool for theatre directors.

Your website should look like you spent time on it and update it often, otherwise parents and students will not use it.  Our district uses Weebly.  You can view my site as an example:

The Homepage

On the homepage I have an image of drama masks.  My district requires special permission to post photos of students so check before you post any.  Images enhance the aesthetic of the page.  I have my Twitter feed on the page, as well, for parents and students who are not on Twitter.  Substitute teachers will look at your webpage to see your class schedule, so I put mine at the bottom. (I know I did this as a sub; I always wanted to know when I was going to eat that day!) I don't want to have too many tabs along the top of the page so I added a few buttons/links about why and how children benefit from theatre classes.  Keep in mind that prospective parents and students may look at your page.  You can use this site as a recruiting tool, as well, by printing up QR codes on your informational flyers on Electives Fair or Open House nights.  I also list items that I would like to be donated to the department if parents/students wish.


We have a million things happening in theatre and you can keep them all organized with Google calendar and embed it on your webpage.  It updates automatically when you add something!  I add notebook lessons, due dates, rehearsal calendars, drama club meetings, progress reports/report card dates, etc.  With Google Calendar, I can create a separate calendar for each show or speech and print them separately for students with my website address written on them.


Your students should be able to find work online.  I have my students complete a quick warm up at the beginning of every class.  If they are absent (or lazy...) they can go to my website to find a link to a Google slide file with all of the warm ups.  The worksheet is also there to download.  I have a link to Google Classroom where I post images of our interactive notebook lessons for the day taken with my document camera.  On my assignments page I also have the district's policy for late work copied and pasted there, along with FAQ about what letters and symbols mean on Parent Portal when they are viewing grades.


On this page I list several things that we cover (or may cover) for prospective parents/students, or current parents.  It helps for admin to see this, as well.  What exactly do we do in theatre?  Well, this is it!  This would also be a good place to post information about how skills in theatre can prepare students for college and work.  High school directors may even have an extra page dedicated to auditioning for university or preparatory programs. 


I have a page for our musical, one act play, spring show, and speech.  On the musical page I included info to sign up for our Remind account, and I added a form for cast members to fill out if they knew there were going to miss rehearsal.  That was a lovely tool; I got an email several days ahead of time instead of a student telling me and me forgetting that they even told me.  I also have a page for our drama club activities.

About You

Parents and students want to know more about you.  Include a little biography with your teaching philosophy, experience, and education.  Bragging about your college to your kids is always a good thing!

Weebly has the option in the paid accounts to add password protected pages where you can post work without violating copyright laws.

Not only do you want your students to be able to access work, but you want your website to be a great tool to recruit new students and inform the public about your upcoming shows while keeping the cast and crew informed.

Now when my kids ask the dreaded question, "Ms. Korth, do we have rehearsal today?" I can tell them to check my website because it sounds like they lost their calendar! :)