At Sunrise, the end of each school year is marked by class play announcements that appear in abundance like sprouts in our market garden. But why?
Class plays have been a longstanding tradition in Waldorf schools and each spring is filled with performances. While they provide a fun opportunity for students to dress up in costumes, there are other reasons for this annual practice.
With the help of Sunrise Class 5 teacher Annie McAndrew, we took a look at the many benefits these productions provide.
1. Promoting Teamwork
Putting on a play is a group effort. To carry off a successful production, students must work together and depend on one another. Ms. McAndrew said, “It really unites everyone, all working on a project together.”
In the lower grades, the presentations often take the form of a poem or story spoken in unison. This requires the young students to really listen to one another – not an easy task at this age.
In the upper grades, productions become more complex. Students must collaborate as scene partners, giving and taking focus to successfully tell the story. They also cooperate to change scenery smoothly, and may join forces on other aspects of the production such as costumes, set decoration, or music.
In Ms. McAndrew’s class, the process of reflecting on the performance provides yet another opportunity for strengthening relationships. After a performance, she often asks students to share personal success stories. She explained that when students can’t think of anything they did well, other classmates come to the rescue with positive feedback.
2. Deepening Learning
Performing in a play is a wonderful way for students to internalize the lessons they have explored throughout the year. Waldorf teachers choose (or write) each play based on the year’s curriculum.
For example, last year, Ms. McAndrew chose a Norse myth since those stories make up part of the Class 4 curriculum. This year, Class 5 performed a Greek myth from their Class 5 studies. Teachers may also choose to include plays with different types of poetic devices taught during the year.
As a result, students experience their studies first-hand. They not only read about the trickster Loki in class, but bring him to life. They not only learn to define alliteration, but also discover the sensation of speaking it to an audience.
3. Boosting Self-Confidence
Participating in theatre has been known to increase self-esteem; there is even some research to support this claim.
Ms. McAndrew has found this to be true as well. She said, “It's really helped some of the quiet kids come out of their shell, and you really get to see this deeper side of them – their personality, humour and creativity.”
Waldorf teachers also help build their students’ confidence by carefully considering casting choices. A more reserved child may be given a role with many lines, for example. As a result, children may work outside their comfort zones, giving them the pride of accomplishment when they rise to meet the challenge.
4. Inspiring Creativity
Theatre practice provides students with unique opportunities for creativity. And they love it.
One of Ms. McAndrew’s favourite class play experiences is seeing her students fully engaged in the process. She said, “It was great to see them taking risks and coming up with brand new ideas. Their energy was pretty unique and really alive.”
Since it is live, theatre also teaches creative problem solving. If someone forgets a line, something must be done, and children must improvise quickly to solve the problem. This ultimately teaches a valuable life skill.
5. Building Community
Theatre is a social activity that brings the school community together.
At Sunrise, plays are usually performed for all of the other students at school. This gives students and teachers many opportunities to come together in a unique way.
Class plays also bring friends, parents, and other family members into school life. Naturally, parents and other family members love to watch their children perform. But Ms. McAndrew explained it can also help parents get to know their children’s peers. She said, “I think it was really nice for the parents to be able to see other kids in the class that they don’t know as well.”
And of course, gathering after a production, swapping stories, and sharing compliments can be a lovely bonding experience for everyone.
As a result, the class plays sprouting up in the spring come to offer an abundant crop that includes collaboration, rich learning, self-esteem, creativity, and community building. Not a bad harvest.