In my first few experiences in the classroom as an intern, I was struck by the students’ enthusiasm. They seemed eager to participate in the activities and interact with the Teaching Artists Scott Lilly and Elizabeth Leonard as well as each other.
During the first class I observed, the topic was community poems. The students were instructed to envision what they wanted their future community to be like and then write a line to contribute to their table’s poem. The students then had to work together in groups to construct the poems from each of their lines. They seemed to put a lot of thought into coming up with their lines and were eager to run them by Scott and Elizabeth as well as the classroom teacher. Then, they excitedly debated over which order to put the lines to create a single poem for their group. Once their poems were finished, they got to read them aloud together in front of the class.
The next few sessions were devoted to creating and performing a flash mob. It was clear that the students loved being active and moving around. Scott and Elizabeth created a structure for the flash mob while the students were asked to come up with words and ideas that reflected what they wanted to see in their imagined community. Once the students gave suggestions, the teaching artists would prompt them to come up with a corresponding gesture. It was really touching to see some of the things the students came up with. One of them, for instance, volunteered the idea of helping someone to get up when they fall.
After the sequence of gestures were created and practiced, another student suggested that we add some dancing. Several students were called on to show a dance move to the class. They really got into it and had a lot of fun. I noticed that the students enjoyed the activity because they took part in the creation, giving them ownership. It was also fun to see how much confidence the students had when they suggested an idea.
Once the flash mob had been created, the students practiced it several times. They were energetic, but also took it seriously and were focused on remembering the sequence correctly and doing a good job. After several rehearsals, Scott and Elizabeth took them outside into the courtyard to perform it for passersby. They started out by pretending to be playing in the basketball court, and when Scott gave the signal, they came running into the performance area and formed the flash mob. There happened to be several people walking by as well as a crossing guard, all of whom became the audience.
It’s clear the students love Scott and Elizabeth’s lessons and are learning how to have disciplined fun. I’m excited to be studying how to create this type of classroom environment because I know that once the students’ interests are captured, then great learning can happen.