Classical Play Project 2018 – Production Video

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Here it is, a bit late, but worth the wait? Maybe?

Eddy Rex: A Re-imagining of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex from WayCAM Public on Vimeo.


Classical Play Project 2018 – Closed Ended Reponses

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Didn’t realize that I hadn’t posted these, so here they are.

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PBL – Classical Lit Play Project 2017 – Open Response Evals

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Students wrote four open response evaluations of the project. I include them in full here with the prompts at the top. If you want to compare last year’s, click here.

1. The play project was a success from an engagement standpoint; you all bought in more than I expected you to and, with few exceptions, remained engaged for the duration of the project. Do you feel that that engagement alone makes the project worthwhile? To put it another way, you were engaged. But what did you learn? What did you take away from the project? And is that take away enough to justify doing the project, i.e. is what you learned valuable enough / useful enough to warrant the project?

I think that the actual process of putting on the play was worthwhile because we had to collaborate, and the small class size forced everyone to be involved. I think if it was a larger group it would be harder for everyone to be engaged and contribute. I also think that it was useful for us to try to put on a play of an ancient story while putting our own twist on it. We learned how to choose a story to make into a play of the ideas people had. There was a lot of back and forth on the topic, but in the end we chose something no one really hated, which is important. It is easier to work on something that you enjoy instead of being forced to work on something you hate.
We also learned how to combine ideas and opinions when writing the script. Some people may not have wanted to contribute to that step, but everyone did. We supported ideas that we thought were good and we came to agreements when we had differing opinions. When it came to actually rehearsing, people were usually focused. We made changes while rehearsing when we decided that something was not working exactly how we wanted.
We had to make decisions on what props and costumes we wanted, and then we had to plan if we were bringing them from home or we had to buy them.
I think the collaborative and organizational aspects of the project made it worthwhile, and it is valuable enough to warrant the project.

I do feel that the engagement we had with the younger grades created a worthwhile. By performing for grades younger than ours, we can give those students, an outlook at how they too can be creative when in high school. Our performance not only succeeded in educating the students about the arts of years past, but also encourage artistic vision within them. I myself didn’t learn much from the play other than the importance of improvisation whenever something eventually went wrong  in the play. Other than learning how to improvise a situation when the plan does not proceed accordingly, I don’t think I learned anything that A traditional class would’ve taught me. With this being said I do still think that by using a project rather than a traditional project, we as students are able to project our understanding of the source material while, still being in a low stress, and creative environment.

I think that this project was worthwhile because it was different from the kinds of projects that I do in other classes. For our play, it was challenging to work with a larger number of people since everybody had their own ideas to contribute. We needed to listen to what everyone had to say and we needed to to compromise since we obviously could not follow through with all of the ideas. So, in the end we needed to come up with solutions that would satisfy everyone. Another difference is the level of independence that we had for this project. It was enjoyable because the class developed the play and gathered/created the props without much help from you. But at the same time, it was frightening because we did not have that safety net to fall back on if our play had been terrible. Normally, the teacher would step in and help fix the plot or whatever but for this project, the result of the final product depended on our collective efforts alone. I think that the challenges presented by the creation of our play such as the “complete” independence and the requirement to work with others justifies doing this project. These are skills that we should have when we go out into the “real world” because it is likely that we will eventually have a project of some form that we will have complete responsibility over. And we most definitely will be forced to work with others later on in life, so this project gave me the opportunity to learn to listen to other people’s ideas and to find solutions when there are disagreements. This project also taught me the importance of teamwork. When we all worked together as a class, we were able to make more progress on the project than when one or two people slacked off. On occasion when people did not do their part, it was frustrating because the whole class relied on them and it slowed down the process greatly since one person slacking is about fifteen percent of our “manpower.” This brings me to my next point of trust. For this project, we needed to trust each other to, for example, practice and memorize lines and create and gather props. With all these benefits of doing the project, I think that this is a project that is important for the next year’s class to do.

Yes, I think that without the engagement that we had as a class, the project would not have been worthwhile. The project was valuable because we put effort into it, because we were able to work together to produce something, and because we cared. If we didn’t care as much, it wouldn’t have worked out. The lines would have been bad, we probably wouldn’t have a set, etc. The details are what make a small play like this, and without the engagement the details would have been next to none.

I do think that doing the project was justifiable and a good learning experience. The most important component of the project was that it forced us to work together and individuals to compromise on certain things. Writing the script of a play, thinking out the props, and actually performing the play also forced us to think in a more broader way than typical classes normally do, which I think is very important. We couldn’t just focus on memorizing the lines, or writing the lines, or making the props, or choosing about the music; we had to think about all of it, and how each impacted the other. I think that those kinds of experiences are what make the play a good use of class time, although sometimes it seemed like we weren’t really doing anything. Although in the time we spent making the play we would have been studying tragic comedies, and reading various books and discussing them would have given us an understanding of the genre and some examples, I think that writing Pyramus and Thisbe, which is a tragic comedy, was also a learning experience. It’s a lot easier to grasp how a playwright juggles sad moments with funny moments when that is what you are trying to do in the play. We had to balance the dying, and the seriousness of the scene after it, with the whole Justin Bieber component. If we had not done a tragic comedy like we did, however, and you as the teacher was trying to substitute the play for the tragic comedy unit, I don’t think it would be enough or as worthwhile.

I think the only reason this project was worthwhile was because of everyone’s engagement. We all wanted to put on a play, and as a result we all put our best effort into it. On the surface the play helped us learn about literature by the famous poet Ovid and analyze his style of writing to create something that was our own, but going deeper, this project helped us learn other (more valuable) skills when it comes to teamwork, problem solving, and public speaking/acting. These skills are things that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Especially when it came to team work as it gave us (or at least me) the responsibility to deal with other people, letting them rely on me to get my part done and vice versa. Not only that, but because the process of making the play was so free, with us being able to do pretty much anything we wanted, we were able to let our creativity flow. Unlike other English classes in the past, because of this project I actually looked forward to coming to class and working, which is a big deal for someone who has hated English for their whole life; for this reason alone, I think it is enough to justify this project.

I will say that if we all weren’t as engaged and willing to put on a play we might not have taken away the same skills, this is partially because we are such a small group so if everyone hadn’t contributed then the play would have been significantly harder to pull off. Also, if people weren’t as engaged there would have been less creativity contributed, in turn brining the whole play down. So, in the end I think it is up to all the students to find something that engages them, and collaborate on that one project.

I do think the play project was certainly worthwhile, yet that being said I don’t think it can be boiled down to engagement as the deciding factor in its success. Take an AP class for example. After the AP exam, AP classes tend to do things that are engaging, but definitely very unorthodox in terms of the typical academic environment. For example, a physics class may go outside and play an “engaging” game of frisbee, because technically throwing a frisbee has physics involved, but how much are the students actually learning? Probably very little. I think in our case, we all learned a lot because we weren’t just engaged in an activity, we were engaged in a task. Most people know how to throw a frisbee, but not many people know how to write, stage, rehearse, and act out a play. We were forced to teach ourselves something essentially because without learning the project never would have come together in the end. In the big picture, of course we learned some stuff regarding the classics department, but the best lesson we were taught was how to work together to solve a problem.

While I feel that a normal class would have given me more knowledge of traditional subjects, the play project presented more information on less conventional subjects and not really english related subjects. In a normal class setting, we would have read books and learned about the style and type of literature that we read. What the play project taught was more experiential learning. That would be taking a myth and coming to understand it so that we could convert it into a play. From the play project, I learned to understand Pyramus and Thisbe and the different restrictions when creating a play. A restriction would be not including some more gruesome parts for the sake of the young audience. By coming to understand Pyramus and Thisbe as the border between comedy and tragedy, we were able to apply some of our own elements of humor, such as the addition of Justin Bieber, and tragedy, such as the addition of an antagonist to create more backstory and tragedy. In addition to understanding the myth our play was based on, we also now have a better understanding of writing a play. This course may not have set out to teach us the ways of playwright or actor, but it certainly did a good job. We learned about writing in the style of a play on our own while also working together to put together a coherent play. While, as I said, we may not have traditional knowledge of classical literature, we now have a more indepth understanding of planning and creating a play while also making edits to a traditional myth to make it into a play and appropriate for a young audience. I feel that this nontraditional knowledge is valuable enough to warrant doing the play project even though it may not directly relate to the course, it helped us to better understand a single myth as well as each other.

2. Speaking of the future, should I do this next year? You all were particularly willing to undertake this project. I’d like to take credit for that but am realistic enough to know that my role in your engagement was likely relatively minor. We had a good combination of skills, personalities, and interests and that produced a good process and product. But is that good process and product a requirement for undertaking this? Is the project still valuable if a subsequent class does not buy in as much / does not produce as good (or a good at all) final product? Should that impact my decision to do the project again or not?

The play is a good project to make the class work together and collaborate, but it does depend on the group of students in the class. Other classes may not work as well together, and they may not be willing to put in as much effort. If a class is not as interested in putting on a play, they will not contribute as much. I think that the class should decide if they do the play or not, and what they might do instead of the play. We considered the museum project instead of a play, and I think that the play worked out better for us than the museum would have. We made the decision that most people agreed with, so everyone was more willing to contribute.
In addition, every class will have a different result because everyone will have different opinions and ideas. Just because one class does not put on a great play does not mean that other groups will be in a similar situation. Some groups may have ideas that do not translate very well into the play, but that does not mean that they did not try, At the same time, some groups may have simple ideas that they are able to successfully apply to the play. It also depends on where the class decides to perform the play. For us, the elementary schools were good places to perform because it made us consider how the kids were react to the play. If we had performed at the high school, I think that it would have been easy to not put in very much effort and to make the play boring.
The quality of the play should not be the determining factor because it will force the class to make decisions and work together. The students have to be willing to put in the effort to do well.

As I said in the previous response, I think that next year’s classical class should have the opportunity to do this project next because it was both fun and beneficial. But in order to produce a good final product, I think it is important that everyone is committed to their part in the project. If people are assigned to roles that they are not interested in, they may not put in as much time and effort, and it would most likely produce a mediocre final product. It might be difficult for them to find a project that everyone is interested in but it is a large part of the independence that this project comes with. With our class having only 7 people, it was easy to choose to do the play and assign roles (with the exception of one) but for them it may be more difficult to create roles and make sure everyone likes their role. I do not think that the product of the play depended on skills as much as it did on effort. Factors of this effort were people’s attitude towards the project and their pre-existing people skills. If the people in classical next year are interested in the project, they will put in more effort which it would liken the chances of producing a good product. But in order to almost guarantee a good product, the class must be able to work together and communicate with each other well. Our class did not have much of a problem with miscommunication because we are all pretty close to each other and there are only seven people in our class, but for next year, this may be a challenge that they probably will need to deal with.

I do not think that you should decide whether or not you will do this project again next year based off of the final product because it will not necessarily reflect the time and effort they put into the project. Having the final product impact your decision primarily takes skill levels into consideration which is unfair and irrelevant to the purpose of doing the project. As long as the students are all working hard on the project, I think the project is worth doing next year.

The play project worked because we had a small class and lots of interest in the project. I feel that the play project was worthwhile this year because everyone could be heard and ideas shared, but in the following years, it will not be worth it unless there is enough interest in the play. Should the play project be suggested for next year, it should be as an option like it was this year. By giving people the choice to decide whether or not to do they play, you can determine if there is enough interest. If the class is too large to do this project then there could be a more organized way to have the play, with some people doing the writing/editing and others participating in acting or set design. The play worked this year because of the small class, but I could still see a successful play project with a larger class and more organized work because there were some days when things were not quite so focused or organized as we worked on the play. In the end, the play project should only really be done if there is enough interest throughout the entire class because if even a small portion of the class does not want to do the play and are not invested in the play, then the takeaway from the play lessens. If someone does not want to learn anything from the play, then they will not so in order for the play to be valuable, it has to have significant interest from the class.

I think that, although our class isn’t perfect, it would be necessary to have close to the same amount of commitment and willingness that we had in order to make the project a success. I don’t think that doing the play instead of normal classes is valuable if the class isn’t very into it; it would most likely be a half-hearted effort, and a play by high school English students needs everything it can get to be decent. With a smaller amount of effort than what we put in, the final product would have been very obviously half-hearted, and pretty bad. The process would also not be as good; I think if we had not been interested in what the final product would have looked like, or just not interested in doing the play in general, we would have gotten a lot more off topic both in the realm of the play and outside of it. The play, most likely, would have been more scattered and less like a coherent story that we were able to make. The most value in the project came from figuring out the play itself, and figuring out how we could all work together to make it happen, whether it was deciding who would play who, or who would make/find a certain prop. If the class is not very into the play, they will be less willing to make stuff happen; they will be less willing to compromise and to put in the work.

I definitely think this should impact your decision, as the teacher, in whether or not the class is going to do the play in the future. It depends on the class and the year; if they are not super into it, and you can’t see them getting excited about it at all, I think regular classes would be more worth your time and theirs. However, if they are excited about it and are motivated enough to want to finish with a good product, then doing the play would be a good move and valuable time for the people in the class.

I don’t think this project is worth it if most people are not willing to do it, the students should be allowed to pick what they do. This is because putting on a play is a lot of work and in order for it to be successful people need to be creative and contribute different ideas. If most people are not passionate about it then there will be minimal creativity contributed which in turn brings the quality of the whole play down. Not to mention that a play is too much work for only a few people to participate in while the rest do a minimal amount, everyone needs to help. I’d like to think the purpose of putting on a play for us was because we all thought it was a good idea and had fun doing it, but with kids who don’t want to do it, going to English class and working on it would feel more like punishment rather than a fun experience. Also, the whole point of putting on a play is to produce a good (or at least an attempted good) final product, proving everyone worked together and were able properly execute the task assigned.

I will say that because we were a smaller class it was harder for people to flat out refuse to do things just because we were so few; everyone needed to act, write, and create props. If it were a bigger class then there might be more room to make exceptions for people, allowing them to compromise and do things they are more comfortable with, in turn making the whole process more enjoyable for people who don’t really want to put on a play. For example, if someone were really shy then they could be exempt from acting, of course that was not the case in our class. In the end I think you should give the students creative license to do what they want as their final project. You could give them options like you did for us, but don’t force them to put on a play, because it’s not worth it if most of them don’t want to do it.

I do think that this project was a good idea especially for introducing classical literature to the elementary. However, I believe that the reason this play was so successful, was because it was a collaborative decision by all students involved, and was something most genuinely wanted to do.  In terms of value compared to a traditional classroom I don’t believe that we would have learned anything new. At the end of both the play and a traditional classroom we more or less end with the same knowledge about the source material. However, with the play on top of the source material we also learn how to perform, screen write, direct, and create props for use. I think that the project should be a choice for the class as to whether or not they perform a play or seek traditional teaching styles, given they are mature enough to handle the choice.

There are always going to be students less inclined to take on a challenge such as acting, and if in reality the whole class really really doesn’t want to participate, I think in that case it would be wise to have a back-up choice, such as a traditional fourth quarter schedule leading up to some sort of final exam. In reality however, I find it very unlikely that you would ever get a whole class unwilling to participate. If you think about it, at the beginning of the process, almost half our class were unwilling to participate. That included two of our actors (one of which went on to have a very major role, performing it very well) and our eventual director. I think as long as a few of the students are excited to participate, which is ought to happen, the project will get off the ground and then the unwilling students will essentially be forced to join in. As far as I’m concerned, the actors/director in our class ended up doing a fantastic job, and for all of them, I don’t think it was something they had prior experience doing. That being said, for those few students especially, I think the project had to have taught them a lot. On another note, I think it’s important that if the play becomes a staple of classical literature, it becomes advertised sophomore year when students go through the course selection process. In my case, I had seen the performance by the class prior to me, and knew what to expect when I signed up, but it’s possible that not everyone knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed up. On one hand, I think advertising this could potentially be dangerous, as naturally it could deter people from enrolling, however on the flip side, I think it could also potentially encourage students to take the class and it would be worth the effort in the long run.

3. Let’s talk grading and work load. Describe your role / your work load for the project: do you think that it was an appropriate amount of work? Independent of that, how should you / could you be graded? Check-ins along the way, either in writing or one-on-one with me? How should the performance / final product factor in? Should the audience factor in, i.e. whether they are given some sort of rubric, whether they can ask you questions at the end of the performance, etc.? Do you think people in this year’s class don’t deserve an A? If yes, for qualitative (i.e. the quality of the work they did)? or quantitative (i.e. the amount of work they did) reasons?

Personally, I felt like I put a fair share of work in regarding the writing process, the choreography of the scenes and mapping of the stage directions, and the creativity involved in the making of the play. That being said, it’s not hard to see why this project would potentially be a difficult one to assess. I felt like the work I did was worth an A, yet another member of the class might have taken on a very different workload and still feel the same way I do. For example, they might have designed all the props, found background music, and managed logistics. Obviously, with that being said it’s clear that you can’t exactly create a universal formal rubric because the roles were divided up in so many different ways. Personally, I think this year’s group worked very hard, and I don’t think any of us deserve much lower than maybe an A-, yet I think you should have determined our grade in part by meeting with us 1:1 and talking to us about our role in the project. You might have seen some of the work we did in class, but for all you know, I could have spend 4 hours every night for a month working on the project at home, but without having a meeting, I would never get any credit for that work. You just can’t really know. I know for sure that almost all of us, myself included, did some extend of behind the scenes work on the project at home for which we may never get the recognition we deserve, and I don’t think that’s fair to any of that. I’m sure you somehow could have accounted for that in the grading process, but at the same time, you can’t just assume people did work when you weren’t watching, because naturally not everyone did. Whether that means periodic check-ins, or just one by the end of the project doesn’t make a difference, but there should definitely be a form of verbal communication 1:1 for each student to give you a complete rundown of the work they did, allowing you to give out an appropriate grade.

For the project I was the Narrator. I was in charge of narrating the story through choice phrases and lines that I had written myself. I do believe that it was an adequate amount of work as I had to both perform with the most amount of lines, and then rewrite those lines numerous times in order to ensure the audience fully understood what I said whilst maintaining the sorrow tone/ mood I was trying to get across in a largely comedic play.  In terms of grading I feel that the grading should be based on the quality that went into the production, the creativity of implementing ancient plays in a way a modern audience can digest, and through a list of markers that include a general guideline of what should be completed by what time. I don’t feel like anybody doesn’t deserve an A. All of the members on our team contributed in anyway they could to the production, and their contribution made the play what it was.

For this project I helped to write the script, memorize lines/act, and I helped with a lot of the props. I think that it was a little too much work, considering that if the work had been spread a little more evenly I would definitely have had less (that’s not saying I did most of the work or anything). I think that grades should be based on check-ins along the way, but nothing to intense, just something to see how everyone is feeling and what they have done so far. I don’t think the audience should have a say in the grade because they don’t really understand what was happening behind the scenes, also some audiences tend to be biased; however, there could be certain people that you could potentially appoint to watch the show and give their opinion afterward. These people could be teachers or students who understand the process of making a play or are familiar with the literature, but it shouldn’t be a whole audience. Especially with the audience that we performed under; I don’t think the kids would exactly have given a fair grade as most of them were just into Justin Bieber. Asking questions at the end of them performance was a good experience for the audience to get to know us and vice versa, but I don’t know how audience questions would factor into our grade.

I think some people did less work than others but I don’t think they deserve an F. A lot of the reason for why they did less work was because they just didn’t get the opportunity to help out. Most of us girl’s kind of just wanted to do the work ourselves because we only really trust each other. Also, all of us just live closer together so we were able to collaborate outside of school for the play, whereas others couldn’t.

For the play project, I acted, wrote some of the script, and helped with finding props and making the moon and the wall. I think the amount of work I did was appropriate; I helped when I could and did what I needed to do. There was a lot of work that had to be done on the wall and I wish I could have helped more, because Eileen did a ton of the work, but I helped whenever I had frees. I think the best way to grade in the future is written check ins throughout the project. There were a couple days in a row when the whole class kind of got off track, and I think periodic reminders that this is an actual project would have been helpful in reminding everyone to stay on topic, as well as making sure individuals (including me) remember to put in as much as everyone else is putting in. The check ins could be one-on-one with you instead of writing, but that seems a bit harder than just having people type it up by themselves.

I think the main grading focus should be effort spent and the process, because that is most of the project, while the actual performance is just a small part, but the quality of the final product should also be a factor. If there was work put in and the play was awful, I think it’s fair to take that into consideration as well. I don’t think the audience should factor into the final grade, just because I think that the grader (you) can get enough information about the kids’ reaction from being there as we perform the play, and that would be enough to grade us on whatever you need from the audience. I liked the questions at the end, mostly because it allows us to explain parts of the play that the kids might not understand or are curious about, which lets us give them the full experience and interact with them (which we don’t get a chance to do in our play). I think we all put in around the same amount of effort and all deserve high grades (i.e I don’t think there was someone who slacked).

This is the type of project where it would be difficult to grad because of the type of working being an unconventional variety. My role in the play was essentially an actor and to contribute my ideas to the writing process. I think that we should be graded based on participation in the project and the final product. I feel that check-ins would have ruined the freedom felt by the project to succeed or to fail. Should the project have failed, we would not have deserved good grades, but since, in the end, the project came out very well, I think that everyone in the class participated and that they were enthusiastic about the project and that we all deserve an A. It seems that our audience really enjoyed the play which should account for some portion of our grade. I think that even though our jobs were different, the amount of work done was about the same, so we should either succeed together or go down together, and I think that the play really came together and we should all get an A, that is to say 100%.

For our project, I acted as the wall in the play and I also helped design/create the props such as helping design the wall, painting the wall, and creating one of the swords. I think that I did an appropriate amount of work because I had devoted a numerous amount frees to work on the creating the props and I took part in acting as the wall in the play as well. I think that the best way to be graded would be to have an individual interview with you after the project is over because we will be able to have an overall look on everything and we would have a better sense of our role in creating the final product. As I said in response #2, I do not think that the final product should factor into our grades because it does not completely reflect on the effort we put into creating the play. The final product is more based on skills rather than the amount of work put in. Therefore, I do not think that the audience reaction to our play would have been worth noting. Also, since we performed our play for younger elementary school students, the rating they would have given us would most likely be biased since they would give a higher “score” to their favorite character(s) and not actually accurately judge us for our part in the play.

I definitely think that there are people in the class do not deserve an A but I also do not think anyone deserves a grade below a B/B+. For me, I did not participate much when we first started the project with the script writing, but when we began to gather/create props, I think that I did a good portion of the work. I think that not everyone deserves an A because of quantitative reasons since there definitely were some people that did not do as much work and some people that did much more work than others. On occasion when I was creating props, some people would choose not to help which was a little frustrating. I do not think that the grading should be heavily weighted based our qualitative work because it does not accurately show how much effort we put into the project.

I think it was an appropriate amount of work considering that it was near the end of the year. Until AP tests were over, I know that people, including myself, had a lot of work for their AP classes. Once the AP testing weeks were over, people had less work for those classes, so they had more time to work on the play. However, I do not think that the play was more work than we would have had if we did not do this project. If anything, we probably would have had more work because of readings. For the end of the school year, I think it was an appropriate amount of work, especially with finals coming up.
I think that we should be graded based on the effort that each person put it, not only on how the play turned out. Check-ins throughout the process might distract the class from their work. A short piece of writing at the end of the process might be helpful. Each student would write what grade they think they deserve and why, including the work they did throughout the process. It would show how much effort each student put in to the play, and how seriously they took the project. If someone thinks they deserve an A for having one line in the play and doing absolutely nothing else, it would be obvious that they did not take the project seriously and are hoping to get an A for the work that other people did.
I think that the audiences’ responses to the play should be factored into a portion of the grade, but I do not think that they should be given rubrics or anything like that. Especially for little kids and people who would not take the play seriously, grading us could be a joke to them, and their responses would not be sincere. I think that the questions at the end were good for the elementary schoolers and how they would understand and remember the play.
I do think that some people definitely did more work than others. When some of the class was working on something specific, the other people would goof off and not pay attention. I understand that they did not have something to do, but they could be pretty distracting to the people that were actually working. I don’t know if they deserve lower grades than the people who put in a lot of work, but I know that they shouldn’t be graded too harshly because the play was pretty successful in the end.

4. Assess the project. What do you think worked well? What do you think needed improvement or tweaking? This response shouldn’t be a list but rather focus in on one, two, at most three things, and develop your thoughts about them.

Overall, I think the project was good and successful in the end. I think you, as the teacher, sort of stepping away and letting us doing most of the work worked well. We were forced to make sure that we were focusing and doing what we needed to do in order to be ready by the first performance, which I think was one of the main points of the play. If you had continuously stepped in, the play would have lost much of its value. The biggest help was Mr. Weingartner coming in to talk to us — before, our play was kind of pointless (and pretty boring) but him talking us through how we should start the play, and construct a plot and characters and conflict, was super important in making our play into the finished product that it is. He’s retiring but if you continue to do the play, I would say it’s almost essential (unless you have a lot of theatre kids) to bring in someone who knows what they’re talking about, because none of us really know anything about theatre and playwriting.

I can’t remember any major things that needed improving. I would say that between us, it was hard to organize people to do things outside of the classroom — it worked out fine, but sometimes if there was an easier way to organize people and kind of get things done quicker, that would have been helpful. That may have been something that can’t really be helped, because we’re all busy and some of it was stuff that wasn’t that fun, but that would be my main thing that would need tweaking if it could be.

I think this project was fun because we all were able to compromise and do a little of what everyone wanted. Matt and Vincent wanted to do a play, but Emery, Eileen, and I were opposed; however, because we compromised and preformed it in front of elementary schoolers the experience became more fun for all of us. In the end, as a group I think we were able to work well together because our personalities just matched. We were more lenient with each other and willing to takes ones for the team, especially when it came to job roles; there were a couple of people who were uncomfortable with the roles they were given, but they took it in stride. Not only that, but we didn’t bud heads too much when it came to the creative process as we all had the same general idea of how we wanted the play to go. Overall our willingness to compromise with each other was what made us successful.

When it comes to improvement, I think that the biggest problems were with staying organized and separation of work. We all got distracted pretty easily, in the end making it so we couldn’t even have one full rehearsal with everyone before we actually preformed. If we had stayed a little more focused and efficient the quality of the play may have turned out better. As for separation of work, a lot of it didn’t really have to do with teamwork as much as it did being accessible to help out during frees and after school, which some kids weren’t able to do. Also, I think it was more of an organizational issue, as we didn’t really make it clear who should do what when it came to props. However, overall I think we all did a great job and I am proud of what we were able to pull off with such few people and limited time.

I think that our actual performances, and screenright turned out quite well. However, I do feel that on some classes our time management, and overall communication was a bit lacking. Some of the classes I feel like were unproductive, and were detrimental to the progression of the play. However, I feel this is an expected weakness of performing a play with little to no intervention from the teacher. As for the communication, I do feel like at many times throughout the play’s creation many idea’s either weren’t taken seriously or ignored.

One thing that I think worked well and also not so well at times was the freedom of class. As the play project really went under way, you took a very hands off role in the project, not even having check-ins or grades along the way and I feel as if there were some positives and some negatives to this approach. Of course, one negative could be that were had to be self motivated and there were some days where we were not. I also feel that this approach really worked because it allowed for us to have our own process and really made the project what it is. If you had been hovering over us and listening to us work, I am not sure that the result would have been the same or even as good. In addition, the freedom allowed for a more casual class where we felt more comfortable sharing our thoughts and ideas. The project would not have been as successful had there not been that freedom involved, but there needs to be more motivation to get the project done. Since the project started so far away from the performance date, the starting classes were not quite as effective as the ones leading up to the performance. That being said, I am not sure there is anything that can be done to remedy that, it is simply part of the process and really helps to make the play project what it is. Something else that I thought worked well was the organization and the assignment of roles earlier on. I feel as though this was important for the project because it gave each of us something to focus on. It gave us some tangible task and goal. Especially if this project is going to be done with a larger class, there needs to be this organization. I think that by forcing us to chose roles early on, it really helped later in the project when we realized there wasn’t much time before the performance.

I think that overall, the final product was successful because everything went smoothly and the audience seemed to enjoy watching the play. I think the number one thing that worked well in the play is the practice that we did prior to the performances because I think it paid off greatly. Because we practiced running through the play multiple times, the main actors knew the gist of what was supposed to happen/what was supposed to be said, so when they forgot the exact wording of their lines, they were able to improvise and say their lines in their own words without the audience knowing. This was especially helpful during our last performance at Claypit because it had been a week since we last performed the play and most of the main actors forgot a line or two. The time and effort we put into practicing the play was worth it because the everyone remembered stage directions and, again, the actors would be able to improvise.

One thing that I feel that needed some improvement was the plot of the play. After getting feedback from Mr. Wiengardner about how there should be an overlying message about the suicide of Pyramus and Thisbe, we added the rewind where Justin stands up to the mom and refuses do the wrong thing. However, I do not think that the message that we were trying to relay was very clear because the message could have been perceived as “Don’t fall under the pressure to do the wrong thing. Do the right thing.” or “Fighting is not the answer. It leads to bad endings.” Both messages are good for the students to know, but I think we should have chosen one and focused on it more to emphasize the message. I think this would have created a much stronger plot, and the students would have been able to better understand the moral of the story. Besides this flaw, I think that the play went well.

I think in this project, the good certainly outweighed the bad, but there was of course a little bit of both. Starting with the bad, I don’t think the staging process at Claypit went very well. I think I would have really appreciated a trip over to Claypit before our performance to work out the details of the staging. That being said, if the play is ever performed in an untraditional location again in the future, such as the Claypit tech room, it would be extremely valuable to go check out the space days in advance. I think our performance could have definitely benefitted from making some changes in the days leading up to the performance that would have been made on account of the funky space. Other than that, I don’t think there was much bad. On the flip side, I think the amount of rehearsal time we had was optimal. I think at times it felt like we had a little too much time on our hands, but I think we only felt that way because the project in general went relatively smoothly. I think the time we had to rehearse and prepare would have been enough time to be able to fix any major problems in the performance that may have arose unexpectedly or make any changes we need to. The time gave us plenty room for error. I also thought the idea of performing the play for 3 different audiences was a good touch. Not only did it force us to learn how to adapt our play to different spaces and situations, but I think it also let us polish our play and it forced us to focus more on things we did wrong. If our performance had been one and done, I probably wouldn’t have even considered my mistakes, but this way, I was forced to look back on things that could have changed, and actually changed them. Finally, I think it was important to divide up roles, but I think it was good that for the most part the project was one big group effort, not a product of individual efforts. I definitely learned a lot about the other members of the class, and I think by the end we had very nice chemistry working together to solve problems.

I think that one of the biggest things that worked well was our class. Since there are only seven people, everyone was involved in every step and part of the process. If the class was a larger group, it would have been very easy for people to slack off while only a few people do most of the work. It also worked well that people were willing to compromise. Originally, only a couple people wanted to do Pyramus and Thisbe, but everyone was willing to listen to other peoples’ opinions and then compromise. I think the class size was good because it forced everyone to contribute. It was easy to see if someone was not putting in enough effort or any effort at all. Everyone contributed to the initial plan of deciding which project, and then which play. Everyone helped write the script. During rehearsals, everyone was generally focused and worked hard to make the play the best it could be. There were only a few times were some people were distracted, but everyone refocused eventually.
Another thing that worked well was the willingness people had to do work outside of class time. If we had to spend a lot of class time on building the wall, painting the sheets, and constructing the moon, we would have lost a lot of time that we could have spent rehearsing. One reason the play worked so well was the props because they were created by multiple people in the class, not just one person. This way, they were more thoughtful because they were the product of multiple ideas. If each prop had been created by separate people without any collaboration, they probably would not have fit the class or the play as well as they did.
One thing I noticed is that the play was very short. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it felt like it was over fairly quickly, so it’s possible that the audience did not have time to get as into it. However, the length could also mean that it kept the kids’ attention because it was quick and their attention spans are short.

PBL – Classical Lit Play Project 2017 – Claypit Performance

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This was our most difficult, but in many ways most successful, performance. It was last Thursday, so basically the last day of classes (not worth it to explain the ‘basically’) so the energy was pretty low. Because of scheduling vagaries at Claypit we were in a tech classroom, and the students were nervous about being able to perform in an admittedly small(er) space.

But in the end they did a great job. The space worked fine and we even had a better speaker / sound set up because there was one in the tech classroom.

So here it is. Enjoy.

PBL – Classical Lit Play Project 2017 – Loker Performance

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We performed at Loker today. My students enjoyed having a theater; they incorporated the lights, both stage and house (to the delight / chagrin of the 4th graders?) and again did a nice job. And the Q & A, as usual, was excellent; the 4th graders had some great questions. I’ve included the performance is below.

PBL – Classical Lit Play Project – Happy Hollow Performance

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Friday was performance day / debut day for this year’s Classical Lit play. I had started this project last year with an adaptation of Plautus’ Menaechmi that we performed for a high school audience and a parent audience; you can see write ups of last year’s play here . This year the class decided to similarly adapt a Classical text but to perform for elementary students. Friday, we went to Happy Hollow Elementary School and performed for fifth and third graders, maybe 50 to 70 students?

Perhaps the most interesting, and pleasantly surprising part, was the Q & A afterwards, which the principal suggested. We went for maybe 15 mins with questions from the students, all of which my students answered and answered well. I’ve included below a picture gallery from the play and below that the video of the play. I’ll include the student surveys and debriefing info in later posts.

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Trying Out Swivl’s Recap

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I’m a Swivl Pioneer and so was alerted to the launch of Recap, a website that allows students to interact via video with questions the teacher poses. (I’ve heard this is similar to VoiceThread, which I know of but with which I am not directly familiar.)

In my Medieval Lit class, we’re focusing on manuscripts for the next few weeks, and so I thought I’d turn my class loose with Recap and some introductory videos on MSS to see how Recap works.

Once you’re logged in to Recap, you make classes:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.00.49 AM

There’s my Medieval class.

At the upper right of that screen is the ‘Add Recap’ button, which allows you to write questions for your students to answer and you can set the length of max response (2 mins max).

When I first started writing the questions, I was sticking to largely objective questions (because they were the ones that came to mind) but I realized that it seemed somewhat wasteful for students to record answers to objective questions (though I was happier with the video responses to those questions than I expected; more on that below). As I went on, however, I made more open-ended questions, including questions that required physical props; this, it would seem, is the real advantage to Recap, is the ability to hold before the camera in a dynamic way objects to enhance a response.

Once the students answer and submit, the teacher has a summary screen:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.25.00 AM

(At the risk of sounding defensive, the students were working in groups, which is why the percentage is so low.)

You can see too that students are able to rate their understanding with a simple visual key and student videos are available for watching at the bottom.

Here’s a screen-scroll of all of the responses / summary screens:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

Recap also produces (and I mean that to some extent in the technical sense as well) a ‘Daily Review Reel’ (at upper right) that puts together the videos with some music, borders, and the question at the beginning. (I’m not quite sure why all of the videos didn’t make the review reel but I did find that you could add or subtract videos from the reel; perhaps they try to keep the review reel on the shorter side?)

Here’s a link to the video (Recap provides this; no embed code as far as I could find). And here’s the screen-grabbed video:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

In the end, I’m always trying to assess whether a new tool like this has staying power. Is it an effective tool for me and my students to make more efficient and more successful my teaching and their learning? The easy answer is I don’t know. They were initially skeptical (at best) of videoing their answers but, once they got used to the idea, they produced good responses in a more natural and comfortable way. I enjoyed listening to the answers because their personalities came through. And even for the objective questions, which, as I said above, I felt like was a bit of a waste for this kind of format, it seemed like they had a better handle on that objective information than they would have if they were writing it down, filling in a blank, etc. I will try to do circle back to this information later to test that sense, but that was an initial impression.

So a good first foray. I think finding the right kind of assignments for this is important, but I’ll continue to experiment with it.

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