Arc news: June 2011
Greenford High School with Arc: Creative Partnerships Programme
Funded by A New Direction, this spring Arc worked in partnership with Greenford High School in Middlesex to create a special celebratory drama programme based on the school's historical heroes.
Entitled 'Greenford Heroes', the project saw Arc's highly-skilled team of writers, directors and facilitators come together with teachers and 241 Year 8 pupils to create original stories and devise new scripts, leading to an epic performance including all participants!
Over an intensive six weeks, together the children and teachers took part in workshop sessions exploring the life stories and ambitions of the heroes that have influenced their school, including Charles Dickens, Ella Fitzgerald, Aristotle and Marie Curie.
The main outcomes of the project were to:
- Learn about specific 'heroes' and their histories, making their achievements relevant to today
- Share artistic practice with teachers
- Develop pupils' thinking skills through drama
- Develop drama skills, including performance skills, voice techniques, physical and movement skills
- Raise self-esteem and confidence about drama amongst students and staff
- Develop writing skills, including how to write a script, a treatment, monologues and text
- Encourage team-building with other class members and build new friendships (although students are part of the same class, some have never worked together closely)
- Work towards a large performance piece with all participants - a community celebration event for family, friends and the wider community
Using everything from storytelling, practical drama sessions, physical exercises to written work and craft activities, Arc's practitioners led each class through a range of stimuli carefully devised to encourage imagination and creative thinking amongst the young people. Working in such a diverse and strategic manner ensured participation was prompted from all pupils, from the more confident and extrovert personalities, through to the thoughtful and reflective or shy characters.
Watch the 'Greenford Heroes' video by Grace Pluckrose-Oliver
"... coming into Year 8, some of them lose confidence and won't stand up in front of other people and speak anymore, because they're becoming far more hormonal and everything, and then they get into patterns, like the loud ones always being the loud ones - at least that's how it's been in my class..."
"All the practitioners who came to class were excellent. We got all the children to write the treatment, which was an excellent idea, and of course, this is where a student could be very quiet but still be very good at writing."
"There were lots of opportunities to be positive with students you wouldn't usually be positive with, because they shone in the Creative Partnerships Project, whereas maybe previously in thinking skills lessons they hadn't." Greenford teachers
Greenford workshops with students and Arc
"The teachers have really blossomed through working with the practitioners [at Arc], who have just been amazing! They really understand what it is to work with teachers. We're very big on speakers and performers - it's a key thing - but those kinds of lessons come down to the teacher and how confident they are, even though we have all sorts of resources. And I think this was much more intensive and the kids got much more out of it." Kate Boshier - Greenford Project Coordinator
Some feedback fom the pupils about the project:
"... basically, they let us write our own play. We were given information on the person that we were doing it about and we got to take it wherever we wanted from there - we could influence things."
"The training was really fun - it was good calling teachers by their first names - it's always Miss and Sir, and we're really formal with them - it was funny watching them [the teachers]."
"They [Arc] mostly communicated with us, so they thought we were more important than the teachers - that felt good!"
"You could say anything you wanted without being worried - without getting in trouble - we didn't get in trouble."
"We got to know each other a bit better and know who's a good leader, and who doesn't like to lead, but likes to take part, and who's shy and stuff."
The final performance
Some of the teachers' conversations about the project:
"They [the children] were given the structure and they had the freedom within that - and they did brilliantly! And that's where their creativity and their planning came in. They were writing the script and designing the scenes."
"... even if Danielle [Arc Practitioner] came up with the idea, the fact that you were all in the classroom having this dialogue, the kids are seeing how co-construction works - it's being modelled. It's trying to get them to realise what adult conversations are happening and what the process is."
"... rather than it being tokenistic, and that's what was good about these practitioners [at Arc], it wasn't remotely patronising. It was a genuine partnership - the students felt able to suggest and do anything."
" ... and they were given responsibility, so they had a taste of real life. It was really intense, it showed how hard you had to work."
"The kids, you could see their confidence develop throughout the project, so to start off with you had a lot of kids saying; "I don't like drama" or "I don't like standing up in front of people", but the fact that they were all involved in some way or another was really nice."
"... within the performance you could see the engagement in their focus and watching each other's. What we didn't write down at the beginning, but was very clear as the project progressed, and we've heard a lot in their feedback, was that support for each other. They became very supportive of each other and very positive about each other; e.g. one student was incredibly nervous about it; she can't read very well, and now she had a script, and everyone was very supportive and reinforcing."
"... it's not only changing teachers' perceptions, it's changing their peers' perceptions."
"... positive reinforcement from her peers was really important. And generally across the year group when I talked to them afterwards about which play was best, they didn't always say their own, but talked positively about the others. They don't know each other, so they're making connections and seeing each other in a different light. There are ways you get approval and status in Year 8, and that was turned on its head because suddenly the way you got status was to take part in this really challenging project; speak up and be a good performer, and then you had the approval of staff and students."
"... once the joker became the main character, the dynamic changed and people sought his approval by participating."
"I thought it was a great project. It was nice to have someone in to take over the class in a way, and to lead things. Especially because I certainly wouldn't have been that confident in delivering what they did, so that side was rewarding. It was nice having a bit more of a supporting role. I learnt loads of different techniques like the freeze frames and things like that, so I learnt a lot."
"For teachers, there's nothing like having someone in your class for six weeks, for 100 minutes a week - that's exceptional! It's probably some of the best CPD I've ever had!"
"I'm bringing drama into the classroom and generally all over the place! I feel like my personal confidence has shot up, and I think that's true of the other teachers."
"This week in TSkills we've been role playing some problems with the students coaching us, and I really don't think we would have done that if we hadn't done the project. That's not risky ... putting 240 students on stage in four weeks' time, that's risky!"
"I felt I could talk to anybody. Yeah, they [the Arc practitioners] were brilliant."
"They [the students] became very supportive of each other and very positive about each other"
"It was interesting which teachers were reluctant to participate. The science teachers really took me by surprise, they really embraced it! By the end they loved it!"
"The ESL Club [a drama club for English as a Second Language pupils] - the feedback was exceptional. We've got a new Head of Drama and I'm going to approach him about continuing it - it's the kind of thing which was the practitioners' [Arc's] suggestion and we didn't even realise what a good approach it was to work with these children who lack confidence in speaking English, because they don't speak it very well, but if you put them all together in a drama club then, WOW! It can be really developed! So there were quite a few things like that that they [Arc] did and which we now want to carry on."
"The practitioners [Arc] also ran some extremely well rated inset on behaviour management."
"The parents coming in and singing along with the song. It was so much more than just about the play, it was about the community coming in and celebrating. And it hit all the stuff that's in my periphery that I don't necessarily get to do. So that was really exciting."
"We want to carry on - we're creating a scheme of work. We want Year 8 students to have this experience every year, so we'll build up to 240 students again. Our new Head of Drama and I think we have more Thinking Skills teachers who feel confident about it."
"People have realised the power of speech."
The final performance (images courtesy of Greenford High School)