Children’s Book Week 2015 - Ideas for Performance
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Performances for Children's Book Week are very popular in Australian schools. Teachers and librarians often look for something that will work across grades and bring the whole school together. Performance implies an audience, meaning this is also a wonderful way to reach out to parents and the local community. Performances are yet another meaningful way for kids to connect reading and other forms of communication, and to express themselves to an authentic audience.
The Children’s Book Week Parade has long been a fixture in schools. Here are three ideas for something slightly different:
1. Make a change and ask students to dress some THING as a favourite book character for a display: a teddy bear, a pumpkin or potato, a recycled milk or juice container. Have kids stand near their creation, prepared to speak about it, or add some details in writing to a card or screen set nearby. A simple format for older kids could be: Title, Author/Illustrator/Publisher, genre, one-two sentence blurb that summarizes the plot, favourite moment from the book, recommendation to other readers. This activity becomes a blend of performance and display.
2. Instead of dressing in costume, students might choose to wear a sandwich board advertising their book with a poster showing the cover (or a new invented cover) and the back poster featuring words and phrases to “sell” the book, or persuade others to read it.
3. Encourage staff members to come dressed as THEIR favourite children’s books, and then speak to the kids about why they love them. After listening to each spiel, kids could choose which staff member to visit for a scheduled reading from the book.
To celebrate Children’s Book Week in style, lots of schools have a special assembly with some kind of performance from different classes. Here are some ideas for creating a performance:
* Ask each class to bring a collaboratively-decided book to life in a way of their choosing. These might include a reader’s theatre (link here to find some of my articles on Reader's Theatre), a play using a book’s characters but creating new plot, a collage of dance, music and still images to transmit the “flavour” of a book, a video book trailer. Children will no doubt have great ideas of their own!
* Decide on one book for the whole school or department or grade. Each group interprets that book in their own way and brings it to life for an audience.
* With younger grades, a hybrid of reader’s theatre and acting works well. (For an example, see my script for The Three Little Pigs, frequently used in performance with kids as young as five.) Collaboratively write a simple script based on a book with the students. Use multiple narrators and short parts for single/group characters. For example, to avoid shyness, Pig 2 can be represented by two or three kids, speaking in unison. With the children, work out where to stop the narration and bring certain parts to life, by acting them out. Children might improvise short scenes in groups, class chooses the one they think works best, and that group then rehearses their scene for inclusion in the performance.
* Collaboratively create a script set in a school where there’s a problem during Book Week. What could go wrong? Does an evil genius want his child to win Best Costume? Do the book characters come to life and…? Does the substitute Librarian have a crazy plan for World Domination that starts with Year 6? What happens when the Principal decides to have a "Dress your Pet for Book Week Parade"?
* Start with songs children know and innovate on the lyrics to create new songs that can somehow weave each class’s performance together.
* Pop-Up Book is an excellent drama activity that can also be polished for performance. In it, you have a narrator read from a “book” and at each turn of the page, a small group comes to life to perform some of the action and dialogue. Here are more details.
* Have you seen the Australian TV show Slideshow? It features lots of activities I used as a drama teacher. One that would suit our theme is Shadow Puppets. If you or someone you know can build a big suitable screen, similar to the image here, (5th game down) you could have a performance where previously chosen teams from across grades vie with each other to represent book titles, using their bodies, props and a strong light source behind the screen to create shadows. Other team members in front of the screen try to guess within a time limit, while an audience looks on. Have a group of kids create props like large card geometric shapes which can be used in multiple ways.
* If your kids or parents are desperate for a Book Parade, grab some book character costume ideas from the pins on this Pinterest board, and this one.
Parents and friends love to see the ways children have been involved with books. Why not ask kids to design invitations for visitors and local celebrities to come and be part of your parade/assembly/display? Perhaps visitors might like to be part of the performance too! It never hurts to ask, and it's wonderful for children to see that books light up adults' lives too!
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