The big day arrived, as promised, and the students came into the classroom full of energy and nervousness. I gave them ten minutes to change clothes, make final decisions about staging, and review those lines, one last time.
Really, the students were ready, so it was important that they not have too much time to fret about their production. I had cleared a stage area right before the classes changed, so the students were aware of what to expect.
The groups signed up for their order of appearance without any grumbling or jockeying for position. Frankly, I think they were looking forward to this day.
The students did a great job with their performances. In each of my classes, only one group per class relied on their scripts. The rest were completely "off book." The students did a great job with coming up with original performances and clever little adaptations.
Perhaps the most original concept was from the group "Milkshakespeare" who recreated the gulling of Malvolio in a 1970's-era beauty salon. The tricksters were seated and peeking out from behind magazines while Malvolio reads the letter.
It was a really fun time.
After each production, I asked the students to praise the productions and to give constructive criticism. Most of the latter involved lines and volume (volume is always an issue with 8th graders...except for out at recess.) The positive notes were good, too, though the students tend to value humor a lot and tend to reward the humorous performances very generously.
Originally, I hadn't planned to do any voting for Oscars, but the students gave such positive feedback to each other, I decided to do it.
I had the students nominate each other for Best actor, best actress, and best production. Then, they did silent voting with their heads down. Winners stood up, and everyone was very supportive of each other.
Today was great, fun, and memorable. But, what I really wonder is...how could it be better? The performances are the culminating activity for Twelfth Night. The kids did a great job (especially given that they are 13 and 14,) but the performances were, for the most part, pretty basic. Most did an impressive job memorizing. However, only a few students really brought meaning to their lines, even though I am confident that they had a good understanding of both the sequence of events AND character motivation.
So, how would I improve it? Maybe it would have been a good idea to have each group do the same scene, so we could question the text more as a class. Maybe I should have given more time to the activity, so that I could work in conferencing (beyond the daily visits that I made to each group.) And maybe I should have been more specific about what I was expecting.
Don't get me wrong; the kids did a great job and the experience was worth it all. But, next time...