Learning Through Musical Theater
You don't have to be Richard Rodgers or Oscar Hammerstein to produce a musical in your classroom.
It's the end of the year and there is no way your young learners are going to sit at their desks and complete workbook pages, yet you have some final social studies and science standards that you need them to master, or review, before the end of the year. What can you do? Why not try setting your standards to music and adding some drama to the classroom. "But I have no musical ability," you say. Not a problem. With today's technology and internet resources, your class can be singing, dancing, and acting in no time. All that is required of you is a positive attitude and a little organization.
Finding the Right Tune
You don't need to spend countless hours creating your own script and musical score. There are many great websites like Class Plays, Visage Entertainment, and Histage that offer full scripts and musical CDs for a small fee. Try searching these websites and others for educational topics that you want to teach in your classroom or topics that you have already covered and want to review. If you can't find what you're looking for, you can easily create your own musical revue of the major topics your class has learned throughout the year. Follow these steps to create your own musical:
- Look for educational songs that cover the topics you want. TeacherTube, Kids Know It, and Songs for Teaching offer free educational songs on thousands of topics that children can learn. Print copies of lyrics and have a CD player or speakers available to project the music.
- Have pupils write down what they learned or what they know about each particular topic. Go through the writing process and have them peer-edit their work. What they learned will form the dialogue and lines for the script.
- Next, put together the songs and the students' writing in a logical order. Have them memorize what they wrote and teach diction and intonation as well.
- Once they have learned all the songs and have thoroughly rehearsed the order of music and lines, invite other classes and parents to watch.
Get Everyone Involved
So that the experience is as educational as possible, make sure every child has either an acting part, or a vital part in the production of the show. If everyone is engaged and has a specific roll to fulfill, then you will have less policing to do backstage and between scenes. While children are learning about the particular topic through song, movement and their lines, they can also learn about the process of play production, which some may want to pursue in their secondary education.
Not only is it important to have each child involved, but try to elicit help from parents and other classroom volunteers. If you are using classroom volunteers, schedule your rehearsals for a time when they are present in the classroom. If parents want to help, but cannot be in the classroom during the day, consider having them help with set design or costumes during their free time.
Lights, Camera, Action
You can offer one or two larger shows and utilize the school auditorium or multi-purpose room. However, if you have an early elementary class, it may be intimidating for children to perform in front of such a large audience. Similarly, getting sound to project in a large room might be a challenge. Instead, offer a few smaller performances in the classroom. Desks can be moved to the side or stacked in the back of the room. Invite other classes to come watch the show and set aside a performance for parents to see. This makes logistics and organization easier since all the necessary materials are already in the classroom.
If weather or seasons are part of your curriculum, consider using these songs and poems as part of your musical revue. There is even a PowerPoint slideshow with the lyrics to reinforce literacy.
Before beginning the musical, try using these short drama activities to get kids familiar with acting. Improvisation and miming are a great way to get them comfortable with using their imagination in acting.
Common fairy tales and folk tales are a great place to start with younger actors. These familiar stories are easy to act out in a tableau for children who may not yet be fluent readers.