Think creatively! Be creative! A teaching challenge.
17th August 2016
By Karen Sarah Iturralde
C – Change your routine
R – Reach for the stars
E – Energize yourself and the people around you
A - Activate your senses
T – Take a risk
I - Invent something new
V - Visualise yourself doing something extraordinary
E – Enjoy being creative
In the late 90’s, I was a 5th and 6th Grade English teacher at an Elementary bilingual school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The children were given two and a half hours of English instruction daily, using a grade compatible American textbook and workbook. The level of English was poor despite the exposure to the language since kindergarden. The teaching methodology and learning was robotic and unimaginative.
However, each year , during the final term, there was an opportunity to break the monotonous routine during the ‘Creative Workshop Week ‘. The teachers were asked to create a workshop that would involve learning through the arts. Each workshop comprised about 15 students. The target language was either Spanish or English, depending on the teacher.
One year, the Director of the school asked me ambitiously, “Do you think you could put on a Shakespeare play?” Initially, I thought the idea was preposterous as I doubted very much that we could pull it off in a week with only two and a half hours a day to practise!!. However, I rose to the challenge and decided that we would not know unless we tried. It was an exciting prospect!
My first mission was to select and adapt a suitable play; one that would appeal to elementary school children and had a storyline that would be easy to perform for non-native English speakers. I set about rewriting ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, a story that encompasses fairies and magic, tricks and comedy, a man with a donkey’s head! The kids would love it.
On the first day of the workshop, we drew a mind map on the board as we read the edited version of the play, and the children filled in the names and events. Once they had understood the story completely, they decided which roles they would like to play. In order to make the story comprehensible and concise, there was a narrator to keep track of the storyline as it unfolded. The final version was 45 minutes in length and contained some of the main speeches from the original play.
We made crepe paper costumes and two scene sets: the palace in Athens and the magical forest. The children created their own imaginary vision of each set. In the palace scene we used white poster board cut outs of two pillars and a decorative arch framing the small stage. We made cardboard trees with golden leaves and suspended them in the air to represent the magical forest.
Daily, we practised the play. I was amazed to see how the stronger English speakers avidly memorised their lines, whilst the less confident ones read from written prompts. They formed a cohesive group of actors working together to perform their first ever Shakespeare play in English!!
Finally, the day arrived when they would perform in front of an audience of parents and siblings. The air was filled with excitement and anticipation.
It was an extraordinary experience and I remember it to this day! The audience laughed in the right places, the actors performed brilliantly and proudly wore their paper costumes. At the end of the performance, the parents cheered loudly and applauded enthusiastically. They were thrilled to witness their kids’ mastery of the language!
As their teacher, I was in complete awe ! How did we manage this feat in only one week?
On that day, I learned an important lesson. Do not fear the unknown, take risks, and believe in yourself and the power of others. Above all, enjoy the art of creativity!