Monday, April 1, 2013

Performing in Class

When I teach I explore what performers call levels. Levels are best described as high, middle, and low. Those denote where your body is in space. I am a moving teacher, I don’t like to park and bark. So I’m constantly walking the room, making student eyes track me. Easier to see who isn’t paying attention when you’re moving. Whose head isn’t moving along? I’ll get low, kneel down right by a child. I’ll get high, I have been known to stand on desks. Someday my principal will walk in on me standing on a desk, waving a yardstick around like a sword, reading from the book. I hope he doesn’t mind. I also constantly adjust volume. The best advice I ever got, and advice that I’m terrible at remembering, is lowering my volume to keep their attention. Make the students lean in to you. Make them try harder to listen. I’m a loud teacher, so I forget this. Until I remember and suddenly I’m Nic Cage. Nic Cage, for those of you who don’t know (and for shame), has two acting gears. There is quiet, softly crazy Nic Cage. And there is LOUD SCREAMINGLY CRAZY NIC CAGE. Keeps the kids on their toes.
The last point on teaching as performance art I want to make is on reading aloud. Reading aloud is one of my most favorite things about teaching. There are so many fantastic books out there. If you view teaching as performance art, and you view reading aloud as part of teaching, then your read alouds become chapter-long daily plays. I do voices, I do expression, I get into it. Sitting and listening to someone read from a book can be torture. Acting when you read brings the book to life. When you bring a book to life the students see that reading is more than words on a page. Reading is an adventure. I expect my students to read with expression and I model that every day. I go for it so that they feel safe about going for it. I act silly and shout and whisper and do an awful accent because I want them to take risks in class.

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