The children were well prepared for this first day as they had all watched the video model clips (posted previously on this blog so that families could watch them at home). We watched the clips with two children at a time here at the clinic just prior to a practice session where we did all the activities of acting class once and learned the visual schedule. We pointed out to each child who his or her acting buddy was going to be as we watched the clips together. Each child got a picture of his or her acting buddy. When they met together for the first time in the lobby of the theater, you could see how happy and excited the children and the acting buddies were to meet one another. The meeting between parents and acting buddies was also very warm as parents were clearly pleased to meet the volunteer (acting buddies). (Eye brimming moment for me.)
Prior to the class, children had practiced every activity of the acting class in our clinic in a practice session. Tamara Pogin, Speech & Language Pathologist, my colleague and the co-teacher of Stage Play had practiced each activity with the Duluth Playhouse children's teacher, Ashley Mathison and with all the volunteer acting buddies. The video models were made during this practice session. We all practiced every part of what we were going to do.
During our pre-teaching session with pairs of children, we became certain that our curriculum was at the right level of difficulty. We knew, in fact, that every child was going to exceed the class objectives because our clinic practice sessions went so well. But we could not know how well the first day of class would go as there would inevitably be many more people and a new place. We worried that it would be overwhelming to some of our children and some of our volunteers. We hoped that all our preparation steps would be enough to help the children and adults through whatever happened.
It was a little overwhelming to some but it was overwhelming like a birthday party is overwhelming to a young child. Happy excitement prevailed. Every child wanted to be there even though most of them had to work really hard to keep excitement in check. Without much time or additional support every child participated in every activity of the class. We felt this was a cause for celebration! (And teary eyes.)
I put one clip below so you can see the opening activity of each class, Popcorn Attendance. A second clip of Popcorn Attendance will be on my next post, along with the acting class learning objectives.
From the first day that Tamara and I had an idea that we would like to teach children communication and social interaction skills using the context of theater, to yesterday when we made this a reality, there were many steps. We sell the idea Kate Horvath, Duluth Children's Theater Director first. Kate already had the seeds of this idea planted and it was not difficult to create a shared vision for a collaboration of our two agencies. Then we both set out to sell our idea to our respective directors. Luckily, our two agencies are small, flexible, and open to trying new things so it was only a few meetings and a couple of months before we were preparing in earnest. Here were the steps:
- Creating a curriculum
- Training the volunteers
- Making video models of each activity
- Creating a visual schedule
- Teaching the visual schedule by using it in a small group session first
- Letting the children try each acting class activity in a familiar setting with one other child
- Sending home visual supports like an actor card and an audience card (see picture)
- Using other visual supports like circles with the child's picture for children to sit on
- Giving each child a water bottle to help the child stay calm by allowing each child to hold something and put something appropriate in his or her mouth