Can coding students learn creativity through theatre?

 

Over the past few winter and summer vacations, we have hosted coding camps. In our first year, we introduced our primary students to coding through unplugged and iPad activities.(Blog link) In January 2017 we hosted a Littlebits camp. Both camps were extremely successful, and we managed to get our students excited about coding. 

However, this summer I was hesitant to host a new coding camp. One of the main reasons was that I had started a Saturday coding class with 5 of my students. But the main reason for not starting the camp came from what I learned from the last two camps. Korean children are very dependent and lack creativity and problem-solving skills. 

During the first two camps, students struggled with generating their own unique ideas and constantly asked for assistance while debugging. They were afraid to make mistakes and continued to ask "Is this right" during each activity. This dependence comes from an educational system that is very teacher centered. Also, students are taught that test scores are most important and the process or the journey is not. Therefore, I decided this summer I was going to shake things up and do something that was outside their comfort zone as well as mine. 

Theatre Camp 

The idea to host a theatre camp came from my visits to a local international school. There, drama class was an important part of student learning. Teachers at the school noted that children build confidence, creativity, focus, accountability, teamwork, and many other skills in drama class. While this was exactly what I was looking for I still had one problem. I'm not a drama teacher, and I had very little experience in teaching acting or theatre. 

So, I did what I alway do when learning a new skill, I read and watched everything I could about theatre and how to teach theatre. My research lead me to two books by Denver Casado, Teaching Drama: The Essential Handbook: 16 Ready-to-Go Lesson Plans to Build a Better Actor and Drama Games for Kids: 111 of Today's Best Theatre Games. 

The first book was a step by step guide to 16 complete theatre lessons. Each lesson consisted of a warm-up, skill building activities, and reflection. Each lesson focused on 1 or 2 different theatre skills, like building an ensemble or movement and space. The lessons and warm-up were easy to follow and thankfully there were numerous samples on YouTube to help. 

The camp ran for 4 days from 10am-12pm. We spent the an hour and a half outside and 30 minutes inside. We would have spent the full two hours outside but around 11:30 we lost the shade. 

I followed each lesson from Casado's book pretty closely, making adjustments on the fly. I really enjoyed watching kids be kids. Korean children spend most of their day in a classroom hovering over worksheets. I was happy to offer them a different kind of learning experience. One of the biggest challenges was keeping the boys from getting out of hand. There were only two boys out of eight kids so pairing them with a girl was tough. However, the girls weren't unconformable working with the boys. In fact, they were very encouraging.

At the end of each class, we headed back into the classroom to write our reflection journals. I gave students 2-3 specific questions based on the theme of the activities. I adapted the questions from Casado's book to fit the English level of the students. Also, we spent a few minutes discussing the questions and key vocabulary. 

On the last day of the camp students worked in two groups and wrote their own pantomime movies. They're goal was to tell a story using only pantomime. After filming each movie the students worked in pairs to edit the movies in iMovie. 

Overall I was happy with how the camp turned out. Students enjoyed the outdoor learning and had the chance to express themselves through unique activities. 

PARENT REACTIONS

About month before the camp I held a parent meeting with some of the parents of my English students. The goal of the meeting was to discuss our current coding classes. However, I decided to introduce the theatre camp at this time to this group because these parents more open minded than most Korean parents I have dealt with over the years. 

The parents were pretty receptive to the idea, and all of my coding class students were signed up. However,  I heard that some parents weren't too happy with the camp because they didn't fully understand what their children were learning through the different activities. I'm guessing that this came from the reactions or explanations of their children. For example, when I asked the kids about what they did in the camp they said: "We played a lot of games!" Now that might be ok, but you have to understand that in Korea, many parents don't see the value of learning through games. So, if I want this camp to be a regular event, I will have to host another parent meeting to show them exactly the different skills their children learned as well as explain the benefits of play. 

FUTURE CAMPS 

I am currently planning Season Two (as my wife calls it) of our theatre camp. My original idea was to go more into script writing and filmmaking. My goal was to introduce students to the different aspects of making a short movie. However, from past experience, I learned that students weren't that comfortable in front of the camera. Hence we've made many podcast stories in the past. On the other hand, I do believe they would benefit from learning how to write a script, act, direct, and edit a movie. 
I chose to use something that I know will get all my students excited about movie making! MINECRAFT! The up and coming update for Minecraft Pocket Edition, will make movie making and exciting and fun reality! 

Look for a future post once I have the camp planned.