Tips for Great Performances: Class and School Presentations

Sarah O Shea is our resident drama expert. Her post about class performances will be a lifesaver for those of you who need to get your class (or grade level, or school) ready for that much-anticipated school musical, concert, or play.

So you’ve graduated with the perfect
credentials, secured your first teaching position and are thrown to the wolves.
You know how to teach now and you’ve had a little teaching experience. But
there are so many hats that we realize we are going to have to wear.

We become the counselor, the
maintenance person, the Band-Aid keeper and applier, the sympathetic ear etc.
Need I say more? The list is endless! We may have been given some pointers
about dealing with topics that become everyday parts of our profession but if
we are honest, many of us start off by flying by the seat of our pants!
Over the years, I have seen how
disgruntled teachers can feel when they have to get their students to put on
some kind of presentation. It’s extra work and extra stress. Let’s face it. Have
you witnessed a class of students mumbling their way through some kind of
performance whilst the audience is twitching like they have several million
ants in their pants? If you’re like me, you will have cringed your way through
many a skin-crawlingly bad presentation, but with a few pointers, you can make
your class’s presentation into a star performance. And it doesn’t have to be
stressful.
Writing for a performance:
If
you’re writing the presentation yourself, be aware of the audience. If you are
going to have students perform for an audience that includes younger children,
keep it short, to the point, have some resources/work to show or a dance or
song. Keep the show flowing so there is little time for people to get bored.
Link play scenes with some background music to maintain interest.
Rehearsing
Leave
yourself enough time to practice with your class. Too long, and your students
will get bored and the performance may lack the spark you want. Too short and
they won’t have enough confidence in what they are doing. If you have your
class full time, two weeks should be enough time to practice a presentation
lasting between five and fifteen minutes. A small amount of practice each day
is better than long sessions a couple of times a week. And rehearsing in the
morning tends to be more productive than in the afternoon when children’s
concentration is beginning to tire.
Middle School students in rehearsals
Ensure your material is clear and easily understood by
your students
If
it is too ambitious, the students will not be able to do it justice and you run
the risk of it not achieving the best results. Also, you have to ask yourself
what the students are gaining by presenting work they don’t quite have a grasp
on, or which is above their comprehension.
Have a sense of humor
Your
audience wants to be entertained. Getting a point across in a light-hearted
fashion (if possible) will grab them and keep their attention.

Students performing in a musical play

 

Incorporate some variety
Too
much of any one thing, such as speaking the whole time, singing the whole time
or dancing the whole time can get old very quickly. Change it up and introduce
different elements to the performance. This also shows that you can be
versatile. Show pictures, do demonstrations, add a poem/story, even a joke!
Give everyone a chance to perform

Even
your most shy student may harbor a secret wish to be the center of attention
but never push a student to stand up and do something they don’t want to do. It
can hurt their self-confidence and you risk them refusing to perform when it
comes to the crunch, leaving you with an empty stage and possibly, a slight
panic attack! By all means encourage them and if you can see a little spark in
someone who is hesitant, nurture it by offering to assist them in anyway you
can to get them to take a risk and do a more high profile part.
Always
be careful about typecasting. It’s very easy to do this but pushing students
into a certain niche because their personality dictates it, is not always good
for them. Sometimes that overly confident guy who is desperately seeking
attention by having the loudest voice and who revels in the limelight at every
opportunity, needs to be reminded that it is important to give quieter students
the chance to shine in the public arena.

Pre-Kindergarten students performing a December holiday concert

 

To summarize:
DO:
insist on everyone using loud and clear voices. Practice in the yard or hall.
Stand at the other end of it (if it’s not too large!) and get students to
recite their lines or sing their song so you can get a feel of how easily it
can be heard.
DO:
Get them to pronounce words more slowly and clearly. NO mumbling!
DO:
Face the audience at every opportunity. Show them the difference between
speaking facing the audience and speaking with your back to the audience.
Showing facial expression is very important, especially if you’re acting out a play.
At
the end of it all, remember that if parents are watching, they are going to
love anything they see because their
child is in it and that’s what they are focusing on. Be confident in your
presentation and your children will be confident in it too.
Presentations
are a great way to showcase the amazing work you do in your classroom. Instead
of waiting for your turn to be asked, offer to do a short presentation to
showcase a project, theme or season of work you have completed. Get some praise
for your work!
Finally…
Principals love teachers who can do great presentations for parents because
parents love to talk and it is free, easy PR for the school. And that’s
priceless.
Take
pictures/video to record what you do. You never know when you might need to
look back on it for any reason. You might even be able to re-cycle it and do it
in the following years.
Good
luck and break a leg!About Sarah
Sarah O’Shea is a teacher/songwriter and runs ‘Educasong’, a
company which creates songs for classroom themes and musical plays for teachers
to use in schools.You can find her at Songs and Plays for Children and follow her on Facebook.

 

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