Demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of Commedia Dell’Arte…

So, last week I wrote about how we started off our 2013 academic year with our new units of work. The students were all introduced to the Area of Interaction focus, the Significant Concept and the MYP Unit Question for each unit of work.

To begin the units of work, the students were assigned a research and oral presentation task that will be used to assess Criterion A (Knowledge and Understanding). The students started on this task last week, where they had to do some research, take some notes and keep a bibliography/list of references. This week, the students finalized and delivered their oral presentations. There were two year 6 classes presenting about Mime and Pantomime, two year 7 classes presenting about Improvisational Theatre, and four classes from both years 8 & 9 presenting about Commedia Dell’Arte (here is the task sheet and rubric used for the year 8 & 9 classes).

This is the first time I am teaching the Commedia Dell’Arte unit of work, therefore I will try and document every step taken in that unit of work, and reflect on what worked and what might need tweaking. So far, the students’ oral presentations showed an impressive level of understanding. Some groups wrote flash cards, some groups designed posters, others prepared PowerPoint/Keynote presentations, and others used ShowMe or even iMovie (our year 8s, along with years 6 & 7 have iPads).

I have found that giving students this bibliography template worked really well, as it forced them to record all their sources and in the proper format, and scaffolded them through the process. I have also found that giving them a choice of how to deliver their presentation really engaged them, as opposed to forcing them all to deliver in the same format. However, some of the questions I asked in the task sheet were not as clear as I hoped they would be, so I might tweak the wording of the questions sometime before the next group comes in term 3 (drama is a semester-subject).

Here is a ShowMe prepared by a group of girls from one of my year 8 classes, and some snapshots from a Keynote Presentation prepared by another group of year 8 girls.

T conclude the lesson, I asked my students to write their exit slips and post them up on my class’ Padlet/Wallwisher wall. This really helps me with my formative assessment, and helps me set the starting point for the following week’s lesson. Here is a screenshot of one of the year 8 classes exit slips.

Technology vs. Teachnology: eLearning in moderation?


I am a big proponent of eLearning and mLearning. There, I said it! However, I often receive comments from people saying “those kids are not necessarily learning more when they’re eLearning” or “eLearning is destroying those kids’ spelling abilities because of autocorrect and text-talk” or “eLearning will lead to a loss of lots of essential motor skills like handwriting because of all that touch-typing” etc… The list of Armageddon-like scenarios people creatively conjure up is endless! I believe some of these concerns are valid, but can also be completely blown out of proportion.

eLearning and mLearning offer benefits for educators such as saving paper, higher student engagement, immediate student response systems, fast feedback, portability, mobility and many more. Students can also learn at their own pace, and connect with a global audience. Lots of eLearning tools also allow students to create many things: animated movies, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts, ebooks, comics etc… However, I am also a proponent of using everything “in moderation”. While using these educational-technology tools enriches the learning experience of students in many ways, it still does not replace teachers, and it certainly does not entail we throw all our old practices out the window.

I do believe it is still important to expect students to write every once in a while, instead of type. Not every Art project has to be on the iPad, as hand-drawing on paper also offers a lot of benefits for the child’s sensory-motor development. Not every project or assignment has to be submitted in electronic format. Sometimes receiving a good poster about the topic where the student actually wrote down their understanding, and used REAL scissors and glue to cut and paste pictures, can be as rewarding a learning experience as a virtual poster using Google Images and typed up paragraphs.

Web 2.0, mobile devices, tablets, interactive whiteboards are all TOOLS. Any skilled teacher should have a whole TOOLBOX of diverse tools, with edu-technology being a part of many others in that toolbox. Not all books have to be ebooks, not every written word has to be typed, not every assignment has to be electronic, not every discussion has to be online, and so on… Students need to learn a very large range of skills to be able to cope with the demands of the modern workplace, but not all these skills can necessarily be taught with a sole-reliance on educational technology tools. Teachers have to find the right balance between edtech and non-edtech learning experiences, so that our students are as well-prepared for life beyond the classroom as possible!

Kick-starting the new academic year!

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post! But I’m back! I have been trying to shake-off the holiday mode and get back into the routine, partly because I love routines (to a certain extent), and partly because I miss the routine too!

So, 2013 is a very exciting year for us in the drama classroom! During term 1, the year 6 students are studying a unit-of-work on Mime & Pantomime, which is designed to help them explore the creative potential of their bodies. The year 7 students are studying a unit-of-work on Improvisational Theatre to help them explore and harness the human ‘natural abilities’ to improvise and use them in drama. The year 8 and year 9 classes are starting off with a unit-of-work on Commedia Dell’Arte, with a specific focus on how this historical theatre genre has drastically influenced modern comedy.

The academic year kicked off with an introduction to the rules, procedures and expectations in the drama class (or a refresher for the returning students), as well as an introduction to the MYP unit-of-work for the first term, particularly the Area of Interaction Focus, the Significant Concept and the MYP Unit Question. Each year-level was then asked to set three personal learning goals for this term. Here are the student handouts that outline the unit-of-work for each year level: year 6, year 7, and years 8 & 9.

During the second week, all classes were assigned a research & oral presentation task which will be used to assess Criterion A (Knowledge & Understanding). I always tell my students that it’s important to start off with the ‘theoretical’ part of the unit-of-work to set strong foundations for the ‘practical’ components.

The students are all asked to conduct a simple research about their chosen/assigned topic, and either present it as a poster to the class along with their oral presentation, or record their voices using a screen-casting app like ShowMe, or present their research in an iMovie video, or in a Keynote presentation (as we now have three year-levels with iPads: years 6, 7 and 8). The task spans over two double-periods (two weeks), the research being done in the first double-period, and the oral presentations being delivered during the second double-period (next week). I am very excited to see the students’ oral presentations, and to use them as the basis for my teaching for the rest of the term. Here are the task sheets for each year-level’s Criterion A task: year 6, year 7, and years 8 & 9.