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Engaging Students in Middle School Theater

By Kasey Short, Middle School Director of Studies | Published on MiddleWeb

Middle school theater courses provide students opportunities to practice public speaking, collaborate with peers, develop confidence, and experience creativity. Aaron Mize, the theater instructor at our middle school, provides his students with those opportunities and much more.

When designing curriculum, Aaron consistently includes social and emotional skills, diverse texts, multicultural arts, and interdisciplinary connections in his unit plans.

When I asked him about his motivations, he explained that his hope is to make theater accessible to young people by making connections to their day-to-day lives and studies, giving students a platform to stretch themselves creatively, see the similarities and celebrate the differences of theatrical performance from different regions, countries, and cultures – all while letting the world around them inform their story.

Aaron Mize speaking with group of students outdoors

Shadow Puppetry Folktales

This unit incorporates diverse texts, Asian culture and traditions, history, visual arts, writing, interpreting texts, collaboration, design, performance, and endless opportunities for creative and critical thinking.

Students first learn how Chinese shadow puppetry is used to pass down stories between generations. They then explore how puppets are used for storytelling and the different styles of puppets. After reading various folk tales for Asian cultures, they work in groups to modify a folktale by creating characters and a script that represents their own version of the story.

Students complete character analysis questions to help them organize their ideas and think deeply about their characters. Once groups write their scripts with stage directions and dialogue, they begin creating their own shadow puppets from sheet plastic, cardstock paper and dowel rods. Students then explore various methods for creating puppets and spend time creating the visual art representation of their imagined characters.

They then rehearse using the puppets behind a screen to act out their story and finally perform their folktale for their peers. Throughout the project students practice collaborating with their groups, working together to combine everyone’s ideas into a working script, and providing thoughtful feedback to their peers to create the best possible performance.

Read the full story on MiddleWeb.

We Will Rock You Young@Part®

Don't miss your chance to see the Middle School Spring Musical, April 28-30. Featuring chart-topping Queen songs including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Killer Queen,” “We Will Rock You,” “Somebody To Love,” “We Are the Champions,” and many more, We Will Rock You Young@Part® is a musical for our time: a fist-pumping, foot-stomping anthem to individuality. Appropriate for grades 3 and older.

Student Voices

 “Mr. Mize sees strengths within me, I don’t see myself. He encourages me to step outside my comfort zone by performing skits, singing, and dancing in front of my peers, until I am confident. Everything he has taught me, will help me throughout life and in every aspect of school, from speeches, writing, and even sports. Mr. Mize makes sure that the character inside me comes to life. I am forever grateful for the time he puts in to make sure I have the opportunity to succeed. In life, I hope I inspire as many people as he has.” – Addi

 “Mr. Mize has taught me so much in my 4 years with him. Not just about theater and acting, but also how to work with my classmates, and build confidence. One of my favorite things about him is how he teaches my peers and I to not be afraid to go out of our comfort zones.” – Cassie

 “I know that Mr. Mize has changed my life, and many others, for the better. He sees no flaws in any person, only different, unique, and amazing traits that make them who they are.” – Sarah