Sunday, August 21, 2016

And the winner is....

The winner of the $10 Giftcard Giveaway is...

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was so much fun seeing all of your answers as we hopped through the Facebook pages. Don't forget to Like my page to keep up with future updates, sales, and giveaways!

Speaking of sales, the big TpT sale is tomorrow - use the code OneDay to get 28% off my whole store tomorrow only!!

Happy back to school everyone!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music 4: Drama Teacher Edition

Today I'm hosting a guest post by my partner-in-crime Drama Teacher Extraordinaire, Kala Chaffin! Check out the first 3 parts of this series here, here and here. Kala's going to give us some tips on the "tech" side of preparing for a musical. Take it away, Kala!

Hi everyone! I'm Kala Chaffin and I'm so excited to be guest posting on Lori's blog. Today I'm going to be giving tips and advice from an elementary drama teacher's perspective!

So, you have an upcoming theatrical production.... Whether you've been roped into this massive project by your school or if it's because you love theatre and it's your first time directing and producing a show, you're going to need some "tech" (technical elements for a production such as lights, sound, costume, set, props and makeup) if you really want your production to pop and "wow" the crowd.

Planning Tech:
First, schedule your production dates and work backwards from there. You need to give yourself enough time to get all your tech work finished before opening night. Check out the schedule that I used last year for our production of 101 Dalmatians. Use this as a reference to help you plan.

Now that you see the time frame you are working with, it's time to start making lists. Because our school is tax exempt through Lowes and Wal-Mart, I usually make a separate list for each store.

Take a look at your script. Usually, there is a prop and set list either in the front or back of the book. If not, get yourself three different colored highlighters (one for set, one for props and one for costumes) and highlight the appropriate sections any time they pop up.

Now that you have everything organized in your script, figure out which supplies you need to purchase to create each item and place them on the appropriate list. Most of our props are made from cardboard or materials we have on hand, but there will be plenty of things to purchase or get donated.

I usually have a third list (in addition to my Lowes and Wal-Mart lists) that is dedicated to online shopping. If you want to be even more organized, make a "donation" list. This is a supply list of items you'd like to ask people to donate to your production. 

You also will want to make a list of big ticket items that are available for rental through local companies (mic packs, mixing board, lights, speakers, cords, etc.).

Be sure to have all your supplies purchased before your first Tech Day (if possible). 

Shopping for Tech:
The actual shopping part is so exciting for me! I get to imagine all of the supplies coming together to make something absolutely fantastic for the kids and the production. If your school has a parent teacher organization, I would suggest trying to go through them for your shopping needs. (Shout out to our amazing PTA moms and dads!)

Going through your school is fine, but you need to plan ahead even more so because you have to go through additional steps to get a purchase order. Not only do you have to fill out a Purchase Order form, you might have to have more than one person sign for its approval, and it may sit on someone's desk for a few days before it ever makes its way back to you. I find it easier to do some fundraising at the beginning or end of the school year and create an account for your program through the parent teacher organization or a booster organization.

After making purchases at local stores, it's time to shop online!

Online Shopping for Tech:
I love getting costume accessories, stage make-up, wigs, glow tape, spike, etc. online because you can find some great deals and have it delivered right to your school! A few of my favorite places to get "tech" for a show are: Theatre House, The Costumer, Norcostco, Oriental Trading, Party City and of course, Amazon. 

Amazon is always wonderful to use, but the tax-exempt process is more difficult. I'm an Amazon Prime member so this really comes in handy during tech week when something last minute comes up, I can have the item shipped free to me in two days. 

After making all of the necessary purchases in stores and online, it's time to order the mics, lights, speakers, etc. Call your local rental shop and order any of the big pieces that you plan on renting instead of buying. Make sure you get everything in writing and have a responsible parent pick up the equipment when the time comes. 

If you don't have a reasonably priced local rental store, don't worry! You can also rent items from NorcostcoThe Costumer, or Grosh Backdrops.

Paint Tips:
We get great deals on our paint. I call both Wal-Mart and Lowes, or any local paint store and ask if they would donate any of their mis-colored paint to our drama program. Once, a local paint store donated truckloads to our theatre program! 

So far, I've not been able to get Lowes or Wal-Mart to donate their mis-colored paint to use for free, but I have been able to get them to agree to sell it to us for $1/can. All you need to do is call the store and ask to speak to the manager. For painting foam insulation board, I suggest latex or acrylic paint. For painting poster/butcher paper, I suggest only acrylic paint because it will weigh the paper down.

Lightweight Set Pieces:
If your production is for an elementary school or you're working with younger children, you're going to want your set pieces to be light and movable. I love the insulation foam from Lowes. My favorite to purchase is the 1" thick 4'X8' sheets. They're easy to paint and to carve.

Use a turkey carver to cut sheets into the desired shapes! I do not allow the children to use the turkey knife; I either do it myself or have a parent volunteers do the carving. You can also use a hot knife to carve into the foam. I used this when I worked with high school students once but I prefer the turkey carver because it seems "safer.” The hot knife lets off a terrible chemical smell when cuts into the foam and that can't be healthy for our lungs!

Acting Cubes:
Another thing I would do is to invest in some acting cubes. These cubes are so versatile! You can paint them how you need them to look, drape fabric over them (I do this a lot when I need a couch onstage) and they are movable and lightweight so children can move them on and off the stage.

When I arrived at my new school last year, they didn't already have any, so I had one of the awesome theatre dads make us a set of three. Here is what you need to make your own:

   Plywood that has been cut vertically into three strips (16, 16, 15 3/4)
   Drywall screws
   Wood glue (same kind he uses in the video)
   2x2’s, quantity = 6

Click here to see the DIY video that I have used in the past.

I hope this information was helpful to you. Please check out my blog sometime for more Theatre Ed tips and hacks. I've just started my blog and it's the beginning of the school year so I don't have much content on there yet, so stay tuned! I want to thank my partner in crime for having me as a guest on her beautiful blog and for helping me create my own. She's the Tina Fey to my Amy Poehler!

Kala Chaffin teaches Drama at an elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow Kala on Instagram or Twitter @kalasstage. Kala blogs over at Kala's Stage (coming soon) or you can catch the latest video on her new YouTube channel (coming soon!).

Here's a link to the first three parts in this series: Part One, Part Two and Part Three

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music: 3

It's time to plan next year's musicals! This is the third post in a series! Check out the other posts here and here!

My partner-in-crime drama teacher and I have already chosen our musicals and done a rough sketch of the nitty gritty schedule. I'll talk more about that later. Let's get started by digging into Tech Day!

Tech Day is a family day where all the kids in the show come with their parents (and some siblings!) to put the physical pieces of the set and props together. It is a required event, but we don't take attendance (shh!). We know that our families are busy so we make it come and go and ask that they come for 30 minutes minimum. Most families stay longer than that, but this allows those with sister's gym meet and brother's basketball photos to be able to participate. 

To prep for Tech Day, the drama teacher and spend tons of time preparing. We researched exactly what we wanted the backdrop and set pieces to look like, decided on color schemes for the whole set, and brainstormed prop ideas. We made a huge shopping list as we brainstormed. We filled out POs and made shopping trips to Lowe's and the Wals-Marts to get everything. We made a giant list of things that needed to be done and wrote it on the white board in the drama room. After making this giant list, I turned it into task cards!

Task cards were easy to make and super helpful! 

We turned our to-do list into short tasks, added a list of materials needed and simple instructions if we wanted something done in a particular way. Then we printed these on card-stock, chopped them into strips and put them out on a table for Tech Day. 

After families arrived and we gave brief instructions, the parents and kids went to the task card table and selected a task to work on. This was very flexible - you could join any group and switch groups. If you didn't finish a task, you had to make sure the card got back to the table before you left. If you worked on a task, you had to sign your name on the back, so that we had a record of who worked on each item. 

As you can tell, there were tons of things to do and thankfully we had tons of families show up to help! 

Helping hands assembling the garment lists

We hung each garment list on a hanger and the kids put their costume on the 
correct hanger when they came to school for costume parade!

Large boards of insulation foam cut into various pieces

cardboard piano anyone?

not a box.

More foam insulation carved into a truck!

We have great artists at our school!

Reusing old backdrop pieces saved time and money!

The brown and tan houses from Aristocats got a makeover
with fresh window treatments for 101 Dalmatians (above)!

Big Ben going up!
Funny moment: 
Student: Why do you keep calling it Big Ben, Mrs. Sweet? 
Me: Because that's its name!

Foggy London-town!

Some of the dads helped create a backstage area with some velvet fabric, pipes and rope!

Costumes were made - each student brought their own white shirt (if they were a dalmatian) to paint!

We used generic headbands for all the dalmatians, and specific colors for the other dogs.

Sponsored in part by... just kidding. 
Although the directors and assistants were definitely powered by sweet tea!

Shew! I'm tired just thinking about it! It was a great day and I'm sure I'll remember more things to share as we finish this series. Stay tuned for more Musical Prep and Happy Back to School!

Check out part 4 here!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Teachers Pay Teachers: Back-To-School Sale Now!

It's back to school time again! To be honest, I have spent the last two months buried in homework for my grad school classes, so I'm ready for a break from reading and writing papers!

Today is day 1 of the TpT Back to School sale! Let's take a peek into the store and see what's been happening lately!

You have a little time to get the new Sea Shell resource for 50% off, so let's start there.

I love using this song not only because it's a great "do" song, but because it's a beautiful song that speaks to my students. They love to pass around my big sea shell and sing this song over and over again.

This song is versatile because you can read the rhythms in first grade, bring it back after you learn "do" in second grade, and then again after presenting "re." I have included slides that you can use to read the rhythm only, to read the "do" phrases only, and of course the "re" phrases/whole song.

Another student favorite and new resource is Doggie, Doggie!

My kids love to hear the story of Doggie, Doggie. We take a trip around the music room, asking the other "friends" if they have seen his bone. They are so excited to find out where he left it! Spoiler alert: Mrs. Sweet had it the whole time! 

The traditional solo singing game can be played with a nylabone from PetSmart, a toy bone or even a printed picture of a bone! Students in my class love to play a barking variation of the game as well. (The student that stole the bone barks in response to the question in phrase 3!)

Later, after we learn so-mi, we can read the song on the staff or with the rhythms. 

This is a great la song as well, because of the mi-la pattern, which should be learned after the so-la-so-mi pattern, according to the Kodaly Today gurus!

Another fun addition to my store is my National Standards checklists! I am so excited to have all the standards in one checklist for my teacher binder. You can post them in your classroom (laminate! plasticize!) and check off each grade level, or put them in your lesson binder and keep track of each grade level or class individually. 


What are you looking forward to this year? I'm excited about getting my teammate and partner in crime back on campus! We are moving a lot of students around this year because of a new school opening and we've been in limbo about who was coming back all summer. We got the word and were finally able to meet up and plan our musical season and take a deep breath about the year! Shew! 

I can't wait to share more about this year's musicals, but it's Top Secret until the reveal date. If any of the kids ask, we answer "Shrek." (Note: We are not doing Shrek, it's just our standard answer to all musical questions. Mwahaha!)

I hope you're having a great end-of-summer and back-to-school season! May we all survive this crazy time of year!! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Prepping for Next Year Now

It is officially summer break around here! For me that means beginning my Master's degree, moving across town (closer to my school! woo!) and getting everything planned out for next year.

Every summer, I spend hours and hours getting ready for the next year, trying to think of improvements, better listening lessons, smoother transitions, unique ways to keep my students' interest. Allthethings.

My friend Linda over at Floating Down the River has challenged us to come up with a list of things you can do now as school is ending to help the next year go more smoothly. You can link up at the bottom!

Analyze Your Data!

If there's anything that education has taught me over the last 13 years, it is the importance of data. Data can show us what is really going on in our class, what our students are actually learning, and should help us to plan for the future.

During the school year, we are always in a time-crunch, whirl-winding (just made that up) to the end of the year. Shew! Take a minute when the dust settles (but before summer brain kicks in) to evaluate what happened in your class this year.

Student Data

Look over the year's student work. Really dig in to what they missed and why. Was it the kid who was in orchestra three times during that unit, or was it a kid who was there every day and stilled missed it?

Make a tally of the answers for "exit tickets" - was there a pattern? One of my close teacher friends mentioned that her students were having issues with adding the stems to their staff work - bingo! Next year, she will be adding more examples with stems.

Look at the self-assessments - did students feel confident in their understanding or was it more surface level? I find that when students are not confident about their knowledge, many times it is because we had to rush through the preparation phase of learning. Usually when I look back, I see that we were also preparing for a performance, or we ran out of time because of a school holiday. This is a great time to assess exactly how much time you got to spend on each unit.

This is also fantastic data if you are having to speak to a principal or administrator about the number of programs and performances required. When they see actual data regarding the missed curriculum, sometimes that is more persuasive than a tired teacher who just has "too much on her plate."

Teacher Data

Look over your "teacher data" - lesson plans, yearly plans, how many units did you complete? This is a great chance to analyze "what you planned to do" vs. "what you actually did."

For example, every year I make two Yearly Plan documents. The first is the pie-in-the-sky document in August when I have forgotten about assemblies and field trips and orchestra practice and program prep.

The second is usually about halfway through the year, when I come to grips with the fact that the year is half over and I get down and dirty trying to decide what I can cram in with the remaining weeks.

Here is the document I've been using lately. It allows me to do a rough sketch of the year, blocking out any program dates, holidays and events, so I can see the big chunks of time and plan accordingly. I don't want to start a unit the week before spring break (for many reasons!) but I also don't want to finish it the week we get back.
My printed lesson plans have check boxes on them because with over 120 kids rotating through my room each day, it is very simple to check off the items we completed and circle the ones we didn't. Then I can look back on them when planning the next rotation to see if I need to add more time for preparation or more time for practice if I see they are having trouble in the next unit.

Create One Project for Your Classroom

When I think about the list of things I want to do for the next school year, it can get overwhelming! But if I step back and create one thing at a time, it makes it much more manageable. I try to do one creative thing for my classroom early in the summer, before all the activity of summer gets me out of "school-mode."

One year, I ordered banners and stickers from a printing website. Another time I made instrument and manipulative repairs for the next year. I was very thankful I had glued all of the magnets back onto the beat and melody cards come August.

Rest, Relax and Don't Think about School!

Get some R&R time with your friends, family, or a good book! It may seem like a good time to get everything done that didn't happen during the school year - and it is! But make sure you spend time re-charging your batteries and spending time to think about things that are not related to work. Your creative brain will thank you for it!

What do you do during the summer to make your school year better?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music: 2

It's time for part 2 in my Musical Prep series! Don't forget to check out Part 1 here; plus all new: part 3 & part 4!

Let's talk rehearsals!

In my previous post, we discussed planning the schedule of rehearsals (depending on how much time you want to spend) and communicating that with the parents. Now let's get to the nitty gritty - how we ran our rehearsal schedule & what you can accomplish in a limited time.

Our first after school rehearsals were for "character roles" only - students that had auditioned and won "character roles" knew in advance that they would have a few more rehearsals than the other kids.

While we were able to learn most of the blocking during specials class, there were a few scenes that involved a majority of the kids (who may have been in different homeroom classes, some in orchestra practice during specials, etc.). So, we held three blocking rehearsals after school, where we basically finished whatever scenes were left and rehearsed extra scenes as time allowed.

All students were required to have their script & pencil to write down their blocking. Let me give a shout-out to MTI for including a page in every script that teaches students how to write blocking in their scripts! Woot!

Tech Transition Night is specifically for the students who were chosen to do tech jobs during the show. While everyone is invited to (and expected to be at!) Tech Day, some students have been asked to do tech roles during the show.

In our show, these tech roles included: Stage Manager, Assistant Stage Managers (ASMs), Lights, Sound, Wardrobe and Makeup.

Stage Manager provides another set of eyes for the directors. They write everything down in their director's script so that if the teacher directors don't see something, they can mention it. (For example: the #1 mistake in rehearsals was entering or exiting from the wrong part of the stage. Almost every time, the stage manager caught it and would whisper to us "upstage left" or "oops - she's supposed to exit downstage.")

As a stage manager, they have the authority to ask the other students to be quiet, to move to a new spot on stage and to take attendance at the beginning of rehearsals. They are also in charge of following the script and calling out lines if an actor forgets a line, or reading the lines if someone is absent. Stage Managers come to every rehearsal.

ASMs are in charge of moving the set pieces around on stage. They are the only students allowed to touch the set pieces, so it's a huge job that must be filled by reliable students. Tech Transition Night is mostly for ASMs - we assign each set piece/prop to an ASM, and they practice moving from one scene to another over and over!

The Light Operator sits in the "pit" with the directors & Stage Manager and runs the lights. In our shows, we have a simple up-down toggle that controls the lights over the chorus. They follow along their script and write in exactly when they are to have lights up and down.

The Sound Operator also sits in the "pit," directly beside the director. In our experience this year, the adult director (drama teacher) is in charge of the sound board, but the Sound Operator follows along in their script, which is marked with sound cues, and helps with each mic change. They also listen for anything unusual, like a mic that has not been muted (but should!) or if a mic isn't loud enough, etc.

I'll talk about wardrobe & makeup in the next part of the series, when we discuss the Costume Parade. They are the only members of the tech crew who don't have to attend the Tech Transition Night, unless there is a complicated costume change that they need to practice.

We had 2 tech rehearsals (one for each cast) that served as last minute runs for each cast, plus a chance to try out our tech equipment without costumes or makeup. This is supposed to be a full run with mics/sound/lights, with the flexibility to stop and rehearse scenes as needed. All students attend the Tech Rehearsals so that we can see what the show looks and sounds like with all cast, crew & chorus!

One thing that I came to learn is that the unexpected will happen at a tech rehearsal!

During our first series of tech rehearsals (with 5th graders), we didn't have any tech equipment! They morphed into extra blocking rehearsals, and we did sectionals with the chorus.

During our 4th grade tech rehearsals, half of our tech equipment arrived an hour into our first rehearsal and the rest was MIA! Due to things beyond our control, our first cast didn't get to practice with their mics/sound/lights until their first dress rehearsal.

For Blocking & Tech Rehearsals, our students stayed after school. They sat in the back of the gym eating their nut-free snack (brought from home) and took bathroom breaks while the drama teacher and I finished our car rider duty. During this time, our wonderful Americorps worker sat with them and managed bathroom breaks and kept shenanigans to a minimum.

After this, they got a 5-10 minute break in which the ASMs set the stage for the first scene, the students got pencils and scripts, threw away their snack trash and got mentally prepped for rehearsal. Because blocking and tech rehearsals are the shortest of our rehearsals, we did minimum warm-ups, and then jumped into the action.

Dress Rehearsals are a monster of their own! These 4 (2 for each cast) rehearsals were held at the same time as the shows, with the call times & agendas the same as the actual show. For our purposes, we had students arrive an hour and a half before show time.

The student have the first 45 minutes to get into costume & get in line for makeup. It takes almost this entire time, depending on the amount and complexity of makeup.

After getting into wardrobe & makeup, character roles had to report to Mic Check at the front of the stage. Most character roles in our show got wireless mics taped to their faces. Mic Check can get complicated if you have multiple wireless mics - and we had 16!

Side note: The best thing we did was have a trusted "tech guy" come to set up our tech equipment & teach us how to troubleshoot it. Our fabulous volunteer not only set up 16 receivers, taped the mic packs with corresponding numbers and labeled the mic cords - he came back when we were having issues & taught us how to sync different channels when we started having 2 mics come through on one channel! Whew!

It was a beast of a job and, looking back, I will have to think about having someone run our sound for us for the next show!

After Mic Check, all students reported to backstage for warm-up. This helped us to mimic the timeline of a show night, because all students had to be backstage (in our cafeteria, which backs up to the stage) when we open the house to parents 30 minutes prior to the show.

Warm-up gave us a change to get some wiggles out, bond as a team, and of course mentally and vocally prepare for our show!

At "show time" we begin a full run of the show with no stops (ideally). This is very telling of how the show will actually go, and the first time we get a chance to see what it looks like put together.

The directors take notes (with help of the stage manager) during rehearsal and we have a short notes meeting at the end of rehearsal. Everyone should have their script on hand so they can make notes of the things that need fixin'. :-)

After our Notes Meeting we begin a timer - no one leaves until the stage, boys & girls dressing rooms, and both bathrooms are clean & all clothes are hung up correctly. Theoretically, the timer makes the kids move faster & try to beat their time from the night before. When each room is "all clear" then we allow the kids to leave.

Our first dress rehearsal usually takes the longest to clean up before they realize that they need to move faster. Mwahaha. It also depends on how organized the kids are - typically the older 5th graders move faster because they've done it before.

3 Things I've Learned: 

1. Have a plan, stick to the plan, but be flexible for things beyond your control. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

2. Have reliable parents backstage to help things flow! Can I say that again? Have reliable parents backstage to help things flow! We had some FANTASTIC parents helping with our last show. Their kids were both in the tech crew, so it wasn't imperative for them to be front of the house every show. They each took a turn "going" to the show, sitting in the audience, and it was so much fun to have them building relationships with the kids through rehearsals and shows.

3. Hold the kids accountable to a high standard of performance - and they will achieve it! You have to practice like you're going to perform. Young kids especially cannot practice one way and perform a different way. Whatever you do in practice is what you will do in performance.

Stay tuned for Musical Prep #3 - Tech Day!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music: 1

I'm at a new school this year and for the first time ever I have another performing arts teacher on staff with me! Woo! The drama teacher is phenomenal - she and I are doing musicals with 4th & 5th grades this year. We did AristoCats with our 5th graders in February and are just starting 101 Dalmatians with our 4th graders.

There are many things that go into organizing a musical endeavor and I'm going to share a few of the things I've learned this year! This will be a series, so stay tuned for more posts! (Check out part 2 here!)

Before the auditions, there is a ton of work to do! I'm not intending this to be a comprehensive guide, but I do want to hit the highlights of each topic.

Picking a Musical

First, consider the amount of time you are willing to spend in class, plus the amount of time you are allowed to spend outside of class. I didn't want the 16 songs to be the *only* music my students interacted with for the year, so I limited the amount of time to seven weeks.

Because there are two performing arts teachers, we can divide and conquer! First we did several music-only rehearsals in which we combined classes. Then she took the character roles during class time to work on blocking, while I worked with the large group on chorus songs. This allowed us to progress further on the songs while not falling behind on blocking, and ultimately get more done in the seven weeks allotted.

We did not want kids to have to "sit and watch" any longer than absolutely necessary. We had our first "full grade level" rehearsal about ten days before our first performance. After about five weeks of working on songs/blocking separately, we were able to put them together.

Second, evaluate the ability level of your students. Do you have a strong lead? enough students to fill out the major roles? enough boys/girls to fill out gender specific roles?  do you have enough chorus members to do a dance number or would standing on the sides be a better fit?

Third, take the climate of the school into account. You don't want to do a super serious musical for their very first musical experience. In my current school, they have a tradition of performing musicals. We wanted to keep that tradition alive and push it forward by adding tech and incorporating more action for the chorus members.

We chose AristoCats and 101 Dalmatians based on what we thought our students could handle in the amount of time allotted.

Parent Communication

We sent home a large packet of information two months before the performances. In this packet, we included all kinds of information.

"The Packet"
   - Cover Letter with contact information
   - Calendar with every rehearsal & performance date
   - Glossary page (description of each rehearsal & who was required to attend)
   - Student/Parent Contract (including permission to stay after school & permission to publish pictures in the school publications)
   - Student Bio form - for the playbill
   - T-shirt order form
   - Personal Ads order form (Parents can purchase a small space in the program to cheer on their student)
   - Character descriptions & audition information
   - Makeup and costume requirements for chorus members
   - Parent check list* (a timeline of sorts for parents to keep them on track)

*We just added this for the latest program - great response!

Even though we sent home tons of information on paper, we also posted this packet on the drama blog and encouraged every parent to subscribe to our Remind Text.

Character Analysis

Before auditions, I did a quick analysis of the singing solos for each character, so that I had a general idea of the number and type of solos they would be required to do. The drama teacher did a quick tally of the number of lines for each character as well.

There are also character descriptions in the director's manual of our chosen shows, so we looked over the range and type of character that was suggested. (We got our shows from MTI.)

Workshop / Parent Meeting

Two days prior to auditions, we held a workshop in the evening. We invited parents of students that wanted to audition for a character role to meet with the drama teacher while I taught them the audition songs. This is a great time to solicit volunteers for things like backstage help during dress rehearsals & performances, help making costumes, donating makeup and other items for props, etc. After explaining the audition process and answering parent questions (and encouraging them to sign up for the Remind Text!) the parents joined the students in the music room.

After distributing the scenes to memorize, we had a brief question and answer session, followed by a "meet and greet" time. This was a great chance for us to meet some parents (it's both of our first years at our school) and answer tons of questions ahead of time.


The auditions themselves were pretty straightforward. I used the students' aural assessment scores from music class as a base line. They earn a score of 3 - match pitch, 2 - almost or 1 - not yet. This gives me a baseline to go back to, in case a student has a case of nerves during an audition, or if there is a tie.

The students had to memorize segments from two of the songs in the show, as well as memorize (and add character to!) one scene. We chose music clips from what was available for them to listen online, for at-home practice.

When they come in for auditions, they stand by themselves in front of the judge table to sing their song (with CD accompaniment track) & perform their scene. Then, we ask them to do a cold read for another character, using the script for a different scene.

And lastly, if we have any questions, we have them do a movement audition. We don't go over this at the workshop, because they have been working on movement and characterization all year in drama specials. We just say, "If you were an army cat, move across the floor like they would," or "Move across the floor like an old country dog." This gives us another level of information about the students' abilities.

Casting / Double Cast

After auditions, we go to a restaurant and spread out all the papers and try to fit all the puzzle pieces together!

We decided to double cast our show for several reasons. We have a large school with around 150 students in each grade level, so we wanted to have plenty of opportunities for students to be involved. We also know (from our specials teammates that have been here many years) that many of the students will be a "no-show" at the performance night. It also was very helpful to have a built-in understudy for each role, in case of illness or other mishap.

We had a few students sign up to perform in "all 4" shows, so those were the only roles that did not get double cast.

This sounds like a ton of work - and it is! But it is worth it in the end when the students put on a spectacular show!

Watch Facebook for the next in the series - rehearsals and Tech Day! <-- Click here for Part 2!