Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making the PYP Happen!

Making the PYP Happen - Through the Performing Arts

This year, the Lower School’s Performing Arts department overhauled the traditional holiday concert program, rejuvenating our senses with something new and wonderfully significant. In this unique programme model, each grade level is given the individual opportunity to demonstrate, elaborate and celebrate aspects of their current learning in a show called Let’s Make It Happen. For all the hard work and passionate dedication, I’d like to draw some attention, a sort of tip of the hat, to the Performing Arts department of our Lower School.

So far, CDNIS has hosted five of the Let’s Make It Happen shows, with a sixth just around the corner. As a homeroom teacher, I’d like to share my perspective and reflections with you detailing what I’ve seen, heard and discovered about how the Performing Arts department is making the PYP happen. 

In an energetic little cul-de-sac on the 8th floor, I stand my post as the 5D Homeroom Teacher and Grade Level Leader. In December 2010, Mr. Marshall Shaw began his intricate planning for the Grade 5 Let’s Make It Happen concert. Students began crafting their own montages of skits, dances, poems, and songs, specifically about their current unit of inquiry. The students developed their own enduring understandings and emphasized the concepts that were most pertinent to them from their inquiries. The teachers allotted intermittent practices and rehearsal times over the course of approximately four weeks. Next came two critical days of rehearsal in the LLAC where the teachers gave feedback as we watched their pieces  - almost 30 in total. The theatre staff supported us with technical requirements, helping students become familiar with the equipment, cues, stage direction and time structure. Collectively, the adults involved with these practices gave feedback about the flow of the show, its critical content and the delivery of their performances. We didn’t, however, try to influence the students with our own ideas or agendas; we handed the reigns over to them completely. Try to imagine us all working collaboratively in the theater; 135 ten-year olds, seven teachers and three theater staff. What we saw inspired us. Their performances were evolving as they practiced. They took our feedback, incorporated their own intentions and then applied changes to their work to make it better. The students were definitely running the show, every step of the way. This is PYP in the Performing Arts!

On show night, the final performance was truly wonderful. One thing that many people of the audience noticed and appreciated was that this was obviously the authentic work of the students. No longer do we have annual school concerts, showcasing the polished performances of students who have learned to follow someone else’s instructions or a performance recipe. No longer is our annual school concert the result of teachers’ hard work, teachers’ expertise or teachers' dedication to education! Why was it ever about that in the first place? Now, we boast annual grade level performances that highlight the hard work, expertise and dedication of the star performers themselves - the students! And the students are making it happen. From what I understand, they feel proud, empowered and far more attached to their performances than ever before.

Making the PYP happen through the Performing Arts showcases is a real testament to the value of student ownership and awareness surrounding one’s own learning, growth and development. These celebrations promote self-confidence and self-awareness, allowing students to show off their own creativity and interpretation. Students taking action is a powerful and inspiring sight to watch. Such a wonderful celebration of talents, accomplishments and achievements has only been made possible by the Lower School Performing Arts department, their vision for something different, hours of organization and preparation, as well continuous commitment to teaching and learning.

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