15 I n c i t e /I ns i ght High School Network Spotlight W i n te r 201 8 From the Conference to the Classroom W R I T T EN BY JUSTIN F. CHARLES W e all have those moments in our careers when we try something new and instantly regret not having done it that way for years. As a high school teacher, when you attend a conference, you hope to find a few things that you can take back and use right away with your students. While many of us are guilty of putting away all those conference handouts into a drawer upon returning home, sometimes we are lucky enough to attend a session that really delivers and changes the way we teach. For me, Shawnda Moss’ workshop “Using Work Stations to Drive Focused Rehearsal Time” at the 2017 American Alliance for Theater & Education (AATE) Conference in New Orleans is that session. I had just finished teaching my first year of high school theatre when I attended the 2017 AATE Conference. Previously, I taught middle school theatre and spent several years teaching other subjects. Heading into the conference, I was definitely not impressed with the way my students used class time to rehearse. They would run through something once or twice, and think they were done for the day. They didn’t understand the improvements and refinements that the rehearsal process provides, no matter how much I explained it. While incorporating feedback was not an issue, they were not using their time to explore different choices or perspectives. I was not happy, and was looking for something new to try with my students. Moss’ session was just what I needed. I 16 In c it e / In sig h t was hoping for a sit-and-get (I’d spent the previous evening thoroughly ‘exploring’ the city), so I sat down and thought oh-no- she’s-making-us-pair-up-and- do-pantomime. Looking back, I honestly do not think I would have understood it as well or decided to use it in my own classroom if I had not experienced the process of work stations during the session first-hand. I was looking for moments when a reluctant student may disengage from the activity, but happily found myself unable to do so. Moss’ premise for using work stations is to provide a variety of activities for students to engage with their piece, for example character work, expression, storytelling, and movement. The students move from station to station throughout their rehearsal time. The activities can be teacher-generated or student-generated. During the conference session, they stations were generated by “the students.” At one station, we had to really consider sequencing: what came before, the beginning, the middle, the end, and what came after. At another, we explored the scene in slow motion, paying close attention to our gestures. Back in my own classroom, my Drama 1 students were working on silent scenes when I decided to try using work stations. For the first session, I came up with stations, rather than asking the students to generate ideas for them. I created a total of twelve stations, and students rotated through them over the course of two days. The stations alternated between writing at a desk and standing up and practicing. I set a timer for five minutes, and when it went off they moved on to the next station. W int e r 2 018 Here are the stations we used during the first classroom session: I was amazed by the outcome. I was expecting the majority of students to go along with it, but not all. In the end, every single student worked for a solid thirty minutes each day and the results of their work were evident in their performances. Since then, I have used work stations three more times and have learned that once students get the feel of work stations, you can reduce the amount of time they spend at each station. If it took them five minutes during first semester, it’ll only taken them four minutes during second semester to complete the same kind of activity. Once students are familiar with the rubrics, they are capable of generating the station activities themselves. Now, I ask them at the end of the previous class what they think activities should be for the next class, and they are able to suggest appropriate activities to help themselves engage in the tasks and improve their performances. So, a huge thank you to Shawnda Moss. My students are performing at much higher levels than last year, and it is all because of you. And to everyone else, attend the AATE Conference in Minneapolis! It could just change the way you teach. JUSTIN F CHARLES teaches theatre and French at Round Lake High School in Illinois. He also is one of the co-chairs for AATE’s High School Network. R Draw the location. R Practice your movements in the scene with no facial expression. Focus on your body. R What happened right before the scene starts? How does the scene begin? What happens during the scene? How does the scene end? What happens right after the scene ends? R Practice your scene. R What is the relationship between the characters? How long have the characters known each other? Do they usually get along? Why or why not? How do you act with those people in your life? How will the audience see the relationship between the characters? R Practice your facial expressions in actual time of your scene. Do not use your body, just focus on your face. R What is the conflict in the story? How have you dealt with this conflict in your own lives? How is the conflict resolved? What do you do so that the audience understands the conflict and resolution clearly? R Practice your scene. R How do you use the theme in your scene? How do you establish the theme in the beginning of the scene? How do you continue the theme through the end? What is the lasting message about the theme that you want to leave the audience with? R Practice your scene in slow motion, focusing on each specific movement. R Practice your scene over and over and over for four minutes. In the last minute: What feels strongest in the scene? What still needs the most work? R Switch roles, play the other person’s part in your scene.